books1I moved to a Kindle a few years back for a variety of reasons.  The first was travel.  I started using a Kindle instead of shlepping a bunch of books to save my shoulder.  I found that I read quicker on a Kindle.  I also discovered that I bought more books because it was so simple and would happily stop reading one quicker if it did not draw me in.  I do that with physical books too but more with the Kindle.

When we moved apartments I gave away about 13 boxes of gifts to a school.  I kept the ones that I cherished or the ones where I had a collection because I just did not have the physical space to keep all those books.  Instead of (essentially) collecting books,  I now collect books of exhibits that we have gone to.  I read a lot of books so the exhibit/art books don’t accumulate as quickly.

What I love about bookshelves is that they give anyone walking into that room an insight into the people who live there.  People will come in and see a book and then comment about it because they read it and a conversation will begin.  I love those conversations. You also get to visit your books daily.  That is the beauty of a bookshelves.  Memories of the book, of where you were when you read that book, or the exhibit you saw that you can now go back to by paging through the book.  With a Kindle nobody knows what you are reading or what you have read to strike up that conversation.

I look at the bookshelves in our den and I get to visit them everyday that I am there.  They are a part of my past.  Bookshelves full of read books are becoming a thing of the past.  I have not put a read book on those shelves for years.  I have only added books from exhibits or large books from an artist or fashion designer or architect.  I read my parents bookshelves at one point in my life.  Our kids have read plenty of books from our shelves but the rest are now shared through our Kindle account.  It is a very different experience from tilting your head sideways, touching the bindings of the book, thinking about that story or wondering what is inside that book.

My bookshelves are memories from the past, almost stuck in time.  Technology has changed the world in mysterious ways.



Comments (Archived):

  1. kirklove

    To me they are art. I just love the look of them. The myriad of colors, sizes, shapes are mini works of art.Related – a thought I can’t shake (since trying to get software from just 10 years ago to run on my current machine which was PAINFUL) is a book is a book now. It’s been a book for thousands of years and will be book thousands of years from now. I doubt the Kindle will last 10 years tops before all your books on it will be unreadable on that device. That’s wrong.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Definitely mini works of art

    2. Erin

      Yes, personalized art!

      1. Gotham Gal

        there is not.

    3. Susan Rubinsky

      I feel your pain. I have old CD’s from the early days that were in a digital format no longer recognized. I had to buy conversion software to rip the music. Even then, I had to manually tag each tune.I have run into the software issue as well.

    4. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I have this same anxiety about the movies we now ‘own’ in pure digital format, in the cloud. What happens to them if the service shuts down? I really really hope that the blockchain ends up solving this, making digital media purchases portable, something we really do own.Every digital book we buy should be available in simple markdown format.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        I am concerned about that too. I still buy DVDs and CDs because I feel like I can always go back to the original if all is lost (though we still would need CD and DVD players. Fortunately my 14 year old and still running Prius has a CD player. I intend to drive her until she dies and it looks like she’s intent on having a lovely and long old age).

  2. awaldstein

    I was just thinking of bringing my art books out of storage.Art books and catalogs are something that can’t be captured electronically.And its nice to have shelves to have a place to put things that is missing in my very sparse design sense.I’m missing this a bit and need to recreate the shelf but in a new way.

    1. pointsnfigures

      most of my books are in storage right now. miss some of them, but most of the stuff I can find online if I really need it. Old books that were craft made are pretty valuable. I don’t have any of those.

      1. awaldstein

        i’m about to go through all of my storage places and we shall see what makes the cut. the art books will even if I don’t find a place for them in the apartment.

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      I love art books, especially catalogs from shows. I have been collecting for years. If you have enough large format ones, you can stack them up next to a chair or sofa and use it as an end table.

      1. awaldstein

        Ping me if you are ever in TriBeCa when the wine bars open at 5!

  3. Jenna Abdou

    Definitely miss this.

  4. Erin

    I love books!!! I just moved and I’d say a little over half my boxes were books. Was worth it to spend all that time and effort carrying them up three flights of stairs to my new place? Absolutely. They’re a visual reminder to yourself of the journey your soul has been on- how it was saved in those early years when you didn’t know what you were doing and someone noticed you floundering and recommended such-and-such a book (those books have a certain energy), and what material you’re currently integrating to get you to the next level. Again, another energy there. Is there any other visual documentation of our soul’s unfolding process as vibrant, alive– and accurate– as a bookshelf?

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Me too! I just moved as well. I could not bear to get rid of my son’s Encylopedia Set, even though it’s from 1998. My son, also, will rarely let go of a book. He has quite a collection and he’s only 19.

      1. Erin

        Your grandchildren will be fascinated by life before 1998. “Look grandma! This is what telephones used to look like!”

        1. Gotham Gal


  5. AMT Editorial Staff

    Haven’t converted to Kindle reading YET. but feeling the urge, since I would really like to take A Thousand Splendid Suns on a trip … leaving today! Last minute book change decision because I learned about a “book club” meeting for parents that takes place early May. Heading to Tokyo. I read all your posts from 2012. Helpful. We’ll be looking for the sushi place at the Fish Market.

    1. Gotham Gal


  6. Susan Rubinsky

    The same used to be for LPs and CDs as well. You’d visit someone and get an instant glimpse. I find it disconcerting if a house does not haven books.I haven’t given up my bookshelves yet. Though on my last move I did give away about 10 boxes of books. I think books will be come collectors items, like art.I still read physical books because I like to take notes in the margins as I read. I haven’t found the same pleasure on a device, although I do read on a device if travelling, etc.One thing I do carry around when I travel is bird and nature books. I almost always bring my bike or rent a bike when I travel. Oftentimes I end up in places without a signal so having a hardcopy is nice. Also, despite how wonderful the internet is, I have yet to find an online field guide that is as easy to use in the field as an actual physical book. If you are overlooking a salt pond trying to determine what kind of bird you are seeing, it is much easier to compare physical pages than toggle back an forth on a device.

    1. Gotham Gal

      We have about 400 records that we have displaced with a turntable. In the last few years we have bought a few new ones but basically it is a life of our past musical listens. We listen to new music but once in awhile it is fun to return to the old stuff.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        That’s awesome. My Mom has about 1,000 LPs she refuses to part with. We still play Alice’s Restaurant every Thanksgiving on the turntable.

        1. Gotham Gal

          We actually have more around that number. It’s fun

        2. awaldstein

          First truly challenging song I learned to play on a guitar after of course John Hurt. Been two decades since I played. Should fix that.

    2. awaldstein

      I remember distinctly being very broke and living in Vancouver having to sell my my poetry broadsides and pamphlets–Charles Olsen, Jack Spicer, Ed Dorn, Bukofski and others.To this day it pains me. None are available online or at all.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        Oh, that is the saddest of news. Never let the poetry go!!! Ever. If at all possible.

        1. awaldstein

          Was a lifetime ago. I’ve never let the importance of poetry leave my life but damn, i want those broadsides back combo of poems and art posters.You’ve just convinced me to track them down. Obscure beautiful stuff that makes craft and inspiration magic.Black Mountain college really changed a lot of the world in very subtle and important waysGeek here then and now.

          1. Susan Rubinsky

            It would be an interesting journey to document, don’t you think? Recovering what was lost, the circumstances in which you let it go, the void that was left that you did not imagine, and the process of rediscovery. Could be quite enlightening. I hope you document it if you decide to go on a quest.

          2. awaldstein

            Yup, I’m on it.

          3. Susan Rubinsky


          4. Gotham Gal

            I am obsessed with Black Mountain College.

          5. awaldstein

            Wrote my MA thesis on Charles Olson (obscure/crazy/wonderful New England poet) who was there and led me to Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham and many others I would never have understood so early in my career.Changed my life honestly as it opened up my thinking to connect poetry to architecture, dance to art. This is where the idea of true aggregated thinking started.Today it would have software makers BUT that would not be the top focus, one of them. That was it’s core learning.

  7. Jeff Jones

    I always envisioned having a room with a fireplace and a bookshelf with rolling ladder

    1. Gotham Gal


  8. Emil Sotirov

    All true… except, may be… and perhaps for not too long… for children books. There are studies that still support the case for physical books for children as better in many ways.And here comes my plug for a nonprofit I care much about (I’m on the team that created the site): thing about BookMentors (as different from DonorsChoose, for example) is that you can post an offer to teachers (not just respond to teacher requests) for a book title you consider special in some way – either personally or because you believe students should be reading that book.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I can absolutely see that. Tactile does work

  9. daryn

    I’m almost all digital too, the exception being cookbooks. Love my cookbooks, and miss the wall of bookshelves full of them we had in our old kitchen.

    1. Gotham Gal

      love my cookbooks too but rarely open them up. always end up going to the web instead. customer behavior change.

  10. Laura Yecies

    Timely post – we are unpacking our garage from our “non-move” (long story) and must have about 30 or 40 boxes of books and can’t decide if we’re going to display them. I do enjoy having my physical books around the house but from a practical point of view we mostly read electronically – like you mostly due to travel so about 90% of new book purchases are on kindle. I suspect there will be a compromise where we keep the hardbacks, classics, children’s books etc. Even if I happen to want a physical book they are so cheap to buy used on Amazon these days that it’s not a great loss if i’ve given it away.

    1. Gotham Gal

      have fun going through them. it was not an easy thing to do.

  11. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Love the new blog design!I’m just now in the process of getting rid of stacks of paperback technology books that are completely out of date. I’m so glad that I don’t have to buy those books any more. All that is available online. Getting rid of all the maternity and early childhood books, too. I feel really wasteful having ever bought them (should have borrowed.)For a few years I subscribed to “New American Paintings” — a sort of book/magazine. I’ve kept every one of those and still love looking through them.Like many here, I now look at physical books almost like I would art. I buy thoughtfully with the idea that it is something I will keep and revisit often. I buy only things that have a lot of meaning for me. Everything else is consumed digitally.

  12. jason wright

    something looks different, and 42 comments. did i hit my head? (EDIT).

    1. Gotham Gal

      you were not. new site!

  13. irisheyes

    Bookshelves were such a symbol of my upbringing. My grandparents and parents had walls and walls of books and I spent a lot of time perusing the shelves, often when I was bored and looking for a distraction. So naturally, I had a very large collection of books but space constraints in NYC and a cross-country move forced me to pare down to a small shelf of the greats.But my bookshelf fetish lives on digitally. Even though I do much of my reading on my Kindle, I still collect my books on a virtual shelf on Goodreads. It’s not quite the same experience as a physical shelf but it’s honestly one of the draws of the Goodreads service. I once explained this to a product guy during an interview, and he didn’t get it. Weren’t the reviews and recommendations the biggest draw for using Goodreads? Perhaps for some, but for me, the ability to collect my books in a visual way was up there, if not the top of the list. And the virtual shelf is not really about identity or self-expression for me, but more about the memories and conversations it sparks.

  14. Laura Dierks

    Funny to read your experience and feel the same. I remember vividly those moments of exploring what my parents had read and picking through dusty shelves as I got older. I, too, wonder how it translates now. My kids can’t see what we read now – our shelves stopped filling up with new books a few years back. I do still “collect” specific authors in paper, adding new books next to my favorites by Vonnegut, McPhee and Hornby. It feels sometimes a sort of tribute to the authors, but perhaps it’s to remember who I am when I look at those shelves or maybe so my kids might know me better …

  15. Geoff

    I think it would be cool on the Kindle if you could print out the book jacket with maybe any notes made whilst reading. You could then put them on a shelf 🙂

  16. candice…My husband and I rescued this glass front beauty from his mother’s house a few months ago. We spent several nights debating the contents of the shelves. I always wanted a houseful of books growing up and didn’t ever have enough of them. I find I relax better with paper books still.My toddler is a miniature book fiend too. Not sure how she’d read a tablet to a stuffed dragon.

    1. Gotham Gal

      physical books for kids are still important!