Wednesday, November 2, 2011

operation read what i have: the beginning

quite a few people over the past two days have expressed various degrees of disbelief and confusion about why i’m challenging myself to stop buying books for a six-month period.
there are myriad reasons why i’ve accepted this challenge, but before i get to those let me make one thing clear:  i’m not going to stop reading for six months, i’m just going to stop paying money for books for that time.  rest assured, i will read just as much.

reason 1:  space
i don’t have any more room for books.  i’m out of space.  books are becoming furniture already, so i need to curb their takeover for just a little bit so i can sort through what i have and am willing to sell off.  i don’t like shedding books, so it takes me time to embrace the decision.  this challenge is a way to postpone the inevitable and give myself time to make smart decisions about the purge.

reason 2:  practice what you preach
i fuss at my students all the time for not using the amazing resources they have available to them.  i’m guilty of this crime, too.  i have so many literary outlets, and, sadly, most of them go unused because it is so blasted easy to tap “buy” on my nook or “check out” on amazon.  rather than taking the three extra steps to use a free resource, i buy books.  so part of this challenge is to force me to start using these resources, thereby allowing me to practice what i preach.

reason 3: playing with form
since i got my nook, on top of e-book purchases i’ve bought more books—actual paper and glue books.  i’m probably atoning for buying an e-reader, but it is what it is.  i love that we have so many different forms of books available to us, so i want to make better use of all the forms.  currently, i’m really enjoying audiobooks (partly because i have a long commute, and partly because they allow me to multi-task—you mean i can drive and “read” at the same time?!).  this challenge will allow me to continue to play with different forms.

reason 4: lack of inspiration
i have been utterly devoid of inspiration lately.  i have no creative drive whatsoever.  i'm hoping that, by forcing myself to find ways to get the books i'm after, i can overcome this immense creative block.

reason 5: the social experiment factor
underlying all my english and literature nerdiness is an epic love of culture and social sciences. 

this challenge is allowing me to see what it would be like to not have the ability to purchase books—what some might consider to be a luxury or frivolous purchase.  books are such an integral part of who i am, that i’m interested to see what happens when i remove my ability to buy them from the equation (will i stop reading due to the hassle?  will i mourn for amazon and barnes and noble? will i count down the days until i can buy books again?  will i be perfectly fine?).

another part of the experiment side of things deals with knowledge and intellectual property.  do i have to own a book to know it?  do i need to physically hold a book in my hands and have it on my bookshelf to have rights to the knowledge or story it has provided me?  can the two—book and knowledge—exist separately or must they coexist?
so there are some of the reasons i’m doing this.  and here, for the record (and so others can hold me to it), are the rules:

not allowed
books i already own
purchases of new books
library materials
purchases of used books
project gutenberg
purchases of e-books
books borrowed from friends/family
using a gift card to buy books
free e-books (b&n free book fridays)
any exchange of money for books

as i move through this experiment, i will be chronicling the experience here—all its ease, difficulty, and whatever else i encounter along the way.