Books—digital or otherwise

The only time I regret owning many books is when I move out of a place. Books and other reading materials—but mostly books—constitute majority of my material possessions, a humbling testament to my current net worth.

I still get the childlike wonder of leafing through physical pages; of going to bookstores to while away time; of wandering inside cold, dark, and damp libraries. The physical presence of tangible books reassures me that I won’t go idle for many days. A stack of books sits beside my call room table, as if to remind me that I have friends who can take my mind off death and dying and clinical dilemmas. Another stack of books lies on my bedside desk, so I can pull out a story to keep me entertained for the night just before I sleep.

But I’ve cut back on my book spending, a moratorium I intermittently violate whenever I find rare titles, as if leaving them un-bought were a crime. This weekend I shipped my books to the province, a tedious task that entailed a lot of carrying and packing and sweating. I’m glad to have my brother Ralph, who owns ten times as much reading material as I do, accommodate my collection in the cargo that’s on its way to my aunt’s Court Library in General Santos. My brother Sean will get them and drive them back to our house in Marbel in a pick up truck.

“What will we do with them at home?” my mother asked—she who used to be a rabid book collector herself but who had lost track of her Ayn Rands (yes, she recommended “Atlas Shrugged” to me when I was in elementary) because she didn’t make a list of people who borrowed them from her.

I said she may need to have new book shelves constructed, maybe inside the empty room that now serves as a storage facility.



For the past three years I’ve mostly done my reading through my iPad’s Kindle and iBook apps. Since this year I’ve only read Tim Keller’s “Walking With God Through Pain And Suffering,” portions of Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries,” and the first third of Adam Johnson’s “The Orphan Master’s Son” as physically printed books. I’ve transitioned—slowly and painfully—into the electronic. I’ve gotten over the longing (well, most times) of smelling ink on paper. Owning a tablet has effectively reduced my material properties to a bare minimum.

I was encouraged by Tim Challies’s powerful arguments for owning a digital library. He even went as far as writing, “I am selling my library. At least, I think I am. I’ve made the decision. Almost. It feels just a little too final to actually say it like that. But I’ve got a big library and a small house and something has got to give.”

Professor Jeff Straub has a helpful series on building a (digital and physical) theological library, but mostly for the digital—something we can all learn from, whether we’re pastors or not.

As for me, I’ll probably get a hardbound copy of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology when I see one, but I won't mind reading it in a tablet. I’ll keep on reading using an electronic device. I’m also super excited to get a new Kindle Paperwhite this month. The Amazon website says, “Lose yourself in a book. By design, Kindle is purpose-built for reading and creates a sanctuary so you can lose yourself in a book. Unlike tablets and phones, Kindle doesn’t distract you with social media, emails, and text messages.”

I can’t wait.

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