When You Move, Will You Take All of Your Print Books With You?

When You Move, Will You Take All of Your Print Books With You? August 3, 2011

New York Times reporter Nick Bilton was faced with a problem. As he prepared to move from New York to San Francisco, he had to decide whether or not to move his library of print books with him. After deciding which of his possession to take with him and which to leave behind, he was in a quandary:

But there was one thing (actually, many of one thing) that I couldn’t decide what to do about —  my print books.

Although I love my print books, e-readers, in one form or another, have become my primary reading device over the last few years. I barely touch my print books, although they are still beautiful and important to me. But they sit on my bookshelf as a decorative and intellectual art form.

I’ve always been a voracious reader, often buying 50 or so books a year, so before I joined the clan of e-reading New Yorkers, I had amassed hundreds of paperback and hardback books.

As I packed for the move, I questioned whether it made financial sense to ship my several hundred books across the country, and more important, if I went through the trouble of doing this, what was the point when they would only sit untouched in a different city, just as they have for so many years in New York?

In “Print Books: Should They Stay or Should They Go?”, Bilton describes what happened when we asked a bunch of his colleagues at the Times what he should do. One of his editors was aghast:

“You have to take your books with you! I mean, they are books. They are so important!”

The book lover in me didn’t disagree, but the practical side of me did. I responded: “What’s the point if I’m not going to use them? I have digital versions now on my Kindle.” I also asked, “If I was talking about throwing away my CD or DVD collection, no one would bat an eyelid.”

What did Bilton decide?  You’ll have to read his article to find out.

When I moved from California to Texas, I donated half of my library to the church where I had served and to the local public library. (The photo includes some of the books I donated to the church.) I did not yet own an e-reader, but simply gave away that which I thought I would not often need in the future. If I were to move again, I’d probably give away another 50% of my library, at least. But I wonder if the time is coming when libraries won’t want to deal with things like this.

It occurs to me that one unhappy result of buying e-books is that you won’t have something to donate to your local library or to give to your grandchildren. I wonder when one of the e-booksellers will come up with a way for you to donate your e-books to a library.

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  • Melissa Fitzpatrick

    Hey Mark, we met briefly at Laity a few weeks ago. I just found out you have a blog & I am happy to keep up with you. I have so many mixed and contradicting feelings about print and e-books. And seriously, did you really give away your Anchor Bible Dictionaries? 

  • TomB

    So far, no e-reader for me.  I have one friend who loves hers, but no one else I know has one.

    Most of my books don’t end up in the kind of condition to donate to the library.  I mark them up a lot, dog-ear pages, spill coffee and pop on them, etc..   Unless I really dislike a book, I read them several times over the years.  I’ve tossed books during moves before, and have often been sorry I’ve done so.  I’ve had to buy a new version of something that’s gone on more than one occasion.


  • Anonymous

    Yes, indeed. I have the Anchor Bible Dictionary in my computer. I use it often. I carry it with me just about everywhere I go. Once I had it in my computer, I never opened the books.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I just have way too many books, I think.

  • TomB

    You must take way better care of them than I do, too, Mark.

    You’re probably pointing the way to the future.  Sometimes the only way I’ll go there is kicking and screaming.  🙂

  • Anonymous

    There is still something wonderful about a print book, especially an old one with lots of character. It will be too bad if we get to the point where there are no more print books. Saves trees, I guess.