Comedian and writer Chris Neill gives us another reason to buy books in a column for the UK’s Daily Express:
“Imagine getting to the end of your days with a lifetime of reading behind you and there being nothing to show for all those experiences save a slab of plastic, the contents of which are only licensed to you and could be cut off on a whim at any moment.”
Books are more than the sum of their parts - they help store memories as well. Building a personal library is a good way to keep track where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished, and who you were.
Imagine no one caring about your personal dead-tree collection. Imagine, post-you, your loved ones hauling boxes to the local public library, heedless of your underlining and margin notes. Imagine browsers at the library book sale ignoring the volumes you so cherished, or picking them up, leafing through the pages, putting them back down again, and moving on. Or, imagine mildewed pages in the basement of some great-nephew. Upstairs, his family is reading books you never heard of because they were published after you died.
If you want memories of reading for yourself, keep a list of what you’ve read! Or read and collect printed books because you enjoy the sensory experience of printed books. But have no illusions as to legacy. If your self is made up of reading experiences, those experiences are not contained within the books themselves: they vanish when you do. And your glossy art history books will end up in the landfill sooner than you think.