Emptying the Shelves; Filling Up the Hard Drive

In a short piece at silicon.com “futurist” Peter Cochrane talks about a potential business idea that I’m surprised doesn’t already exist: digitizing personal book collections. As I’ve said in the past, I support the various book digitization efforts from Google and others for these projects’ potential to make the sharing of knowledge easier, not because I want to read all my books (for free or otherwise) from my computer. However, I am intrigued by the option of digitizing at least some of the books I own – perhaps books I’ve read and don’t intend to read in full again. It would be nice to have searchable, digital copies of these books to refer back to, but there are some books that I could never trade in for digital doppelgangers.

created and edits The Millions. He is co-editor of the collection of essays The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books, called "funny, poignant, relentlessly thought-provoking" by The Atlantic. He and his family live in New Jersey. If you'd like to correspond, please don't hesitate to email.

2 comments:

  1. I agree! I'd love to have some of my old college text books in a digital, searchable format for reference. Other books are best left to the paper copies. It's just no fun to lay under a shade tree in the park and read Hemingway on your laptop. And what about curling up with a good book and a warm blanket on a chilly night? It's just not the same when it's on the computer screen.

  2. Max! I can see it now… we start unpacking in our new place, and you (as always) happily take the task of shelving the books. I'd go unpack the kitchen boxes, return to check on your progress, only to find you on page 16 of your plan to digitize our entire book collection with nary a book on a shelf. Millions readers, you may think I'm exaggerating here, as I am known to do. However, friends who visited our Chicago apartment might recall that Max stuck a library-style card with a Library of Congress number on it in the front cover of each book prior to shelving anything. This ensured that the books would be sitting next to their appropriate neighbors and any books I borrowed from my own shelves would be returned to their proper place. Max, I'm going to have to say no to this plan – and I thought I was a serious cataloger!

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