Sunday, April 06, 2014

Reading matters

It is almost two years since I made my 'digital migration' and bought my first Kindle e-book. Now I have accumulated on my little grey feather-light device no less than 190 'items' stored. The convenience of 'one-click' purchasing seems to have resulted in an increase in my reading toan average of two books per week.

But that is not the point I wish to make today.

When the closure of the Munich 'bookshop' specializing in English-language titles was announced I was horrified. My switch to a digital platform wasmade with both trepidation and reluctance. I agonized over ephemerality. 'Booky-books' reliant on dead trees had always been somehow sacrosanct. No book... even one which would certainly never be read a second time... could possible be discarded as garbage, tossed in the paper re-cycling bin.

Hence for the past almost two years there has been a pile of about two hundred paperbacks making the narrow hallway of my flat even narrower. Not that I have failed to look for ways of giving the books a new lease of life, but Munich has no market for second-hand English-language popular fiction. And so they have been gathering dust and... usefully... serving as an improvised piece of occasional furniture, a convenient vide-poche next to the coat rack. 

And now? Well, for the past few days I have indulged in a rather draconian form of spring cleaning. In the course of my travels over the past half-century I have accumulated a massive volume of papers in Leitz ring-binders and Eastlight box-files. These have, of course, weighed heavy each time I have moved home.

When I returned to Europe in 2010 I was happy to be reunited with this substantial archive. Full of digital zeal I was determined that at some point I would winnow out the papers worthy of being retained as originals, digitize others whose content was more than the artifact itself and... finally... bin the rest. I mean, do I really need to keep the lease of a flat I rented in 1969 in London, correspondence from a girl I had long forgotten and whose writing a cannot really decipher?

And so it is that the paper re-cycling container in the courtyard downstairs is these day being regularly filled with significant quantities of my shredded past. With my arms loaded I pass the tower of paperback books in the hallway each time I leave my flat.

I realized yesterday that ultimately those books, too, will have to go.

At least any future move to a new home will involve a greatly reduced physical weight of fading paper. The essentials of my archive will be weightless in 'the cloud' together with the e-books I have enjoyed.. 


No comments: