A Digital Collection

I will admit it, I am a pack rat. No seriously. I recently cleaned out a filing cabinet for what was apparently the first time in decades. I found the hiring in information packet for a job I left over fifteen years ago as well as the deed to my first car (purchased in 1987).

I also went through the various cords, supplemental devices, and other random pieces of technology I had lying around. This included chargers for devices which I no longer possess. It included chargers for devices I could not even name. If you follow me on the Zuckerber Experiment, you’ve seen the picture of the spectrum of old mobile phones that I found as well.

Like I said, pack rat. I have a hard time getting rid of things.

This most definitely extends to the purchase of books. Part of the decluttering of the computer room included a book by book removal of each tome from the shelves in that room. I managed to whittle the collection from three book shelves to slightly more than two. Don’t be too impressed. Part of this involved moving the fiction titles down to the sixteen shelves which make up the basement library. On the plus side, some of the books did make it into the box of material to be donated (some of which went to a good home before making it to the library, always happy to help out a friend).

What you have to understand is that the remaining, roughly ten shelves of books represent only a portion of the non-fiction collection of the esteemed Dragon’s Roost Library. Specifically, all of the books relating to writing, all of the books relating to Criminology, Statistics, Forensic Science, and True Crime are on those shelves. Granted, many of these are textbooks, some left over from school, others read for fun, so the actual number of books is less than it would be if they were all paperbacks. This portion of the collection also includes the majority of the autographed books which I have collected. In some cases these are large, special edition reprints or omnibus editions which, like text books, are larger than the average bear, I mean book*

Also on these shelves are some of my treasured autographed books, the ones in which my friends and fellow members of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers appear. Finally, there is a copy of every book in which my work appears, along with a few newsletters and other things which I have written for.**

If you are following along with the footnotes*4, you will not that in footnote 3 I stated the “physical books.” I also jokingly refer to them as the analog books. This is to differentiate them from the digital books which I am either reading on one device or another or listening to. I am a big fan of digital media for reading. I used to listen to audiobooks only while driving, but have recently taken to listening to them while working on household projects as well.

I am not going to jump into the digital versus analog debate that I have covered numerous times in a number of different venues. I bought out a ton of books when Borders went out of business. I have a Sony digital reader. I have the Nook, Kindle, Kobe, Stanza, and X Comics apps for both my phone and iPad. I have an Audible account for the purchase of audio books and an Overdrive account to borrow them from the library.*5

Yes, I use all of these methods of reading. In fact, I often use them at the same time. Well, not at the same time. I’m not going to listen to one audio book while I am reading a paperback. You know what I mean. I will be listening to one book while cleaning the kitchen, then go outside with a paperback to read that one. I try to keep them separate by genre. For example, yesterday I listened to a suspense novel via audiobook, read a book on body language on my phone while waiting in line, and finished an urban fantasy novel stretched out on the couch.

I’ve never been one of those people who gets confused by multiple plot lines. In fact, I really don’t understand people who say that they can’t read multiple books at the same time. These same people do not have problems keeping the various story arcs of their favorite television shows straight in their minds.


None of that has anything to do with what I sat down to lament about, namely the pack rat problem.

I have a lot of books. I more than a few books that I have not read. By this I mean that I probably have enough books*6 that I do not need any new material for years and years. Now that I am acquiring things digitally, this is even more of a problem.

Problem? You ask. It seems that digital books would be the solution. You can get more and more and more and never worry about running out of room for them.

To which I would say “Yes, exactly.”

Part of the problem is the whole bargain idea. Authors will offer a book, usually an older title, for a deeply discounted (sometimes free) rate in order to entice people to purchase their newer material. In some cases the material is offered free with the hopes that the reader will then purchase the title in analog form or support the author’s work in some other way. Other times the author will give away books with the hope that people will then review them, recommend them to friends, or promote the book and/or the author in some fashion.

Far be it from me to pass up a free book.*7

This is where the problem kicks in. I do not want to be one of those people who takes advantage of these kind of promotions without earning them. There is an implied reciprocity and I am not living up to my end of the bargain.

This is not always the case. Sometimes a book will be so intriguing that I will move it to the top of the pile, the all important
To Read pile. There are times when a series looks so interesting that I can not help but purchase all of the books in it.*8 Most of the time, however, this does not happen.

Most of the time I shuffle them into the list of things that I plan on reading and there they sit. Often times they get pushed further and further down because of new, more intriguing books which I found on-line or which were recommended to me.

Sometimes they shuffle back up to the top in unexpected ways. A few months ago I was wondering what to read next. I mentioned a couple of the potential titles on Facebook and received an enthusiastic recommendation for one of the choices. I started reading it and found out it very enjoyable. In fact, I found it so enjoyable that I went out and purchased the titles in the series which I was missing (I had bought a number of them when the various Borders went out of business).*9

The reason behind this whole rant is that I usually concentrate only on horror novels during the month of October. I remembered that I had a number of books which I had downloaded to my Sony e-Reader of a horrific flavor. When I went to charge it I remembered that I had purchased a special code from a horror only publisher which allowed me to download any of the e-books they published in 2012 for free. I hadn’t used it yet.

Within a matter of minutes I had 25 new titles waiting for me, added to my
To Read pile.



Maybe I will get around to reviewing some of these.

*Because you were bound to ask, the collection includes but is not limited to Stephen King, Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, Ray Bradbury, Cherie Priest, and a second edition of
The Big Sleep autographed by Raymond Chandler and inscribed Ray Chandler, October 1943.

**Remember, this is only the Upstairs portion. The bulk of one of the basement walls contains the fiction books. The top shelf on the opposite walls contains some of my favorite books of all time including all of the non-signed Stephen King books (the majority of them in hardcover), my collections of J R R Tolkien and Arthur Conan Doyle, leather bound collections of Shakespeare, and a hardcover of
Emma Who Saved My Life by Wilton Barnhardt (which if you have not read, I encourage you to do so).***

***Sadly, this is not the complete list of my physical book collection. There is also a small set of shelves next to the bed including the five or so books I am actively reading at any given time, anything The Mrs might be reading on her side of the bed, and five or six coffee table sized books in the living room with topics ranging from wolves, to horror movies, to roller derby.

*4 And you really should be.

*5 Yes, I borrow books from the library. Granted, it’s not that often, as you will determine from the remainder of this little rant.

*6 Enough books. As if there is such a thing.

*7 I feel the need to add a comment about digital publishing and those who use it as a method of circumventing the standard publishing method. While I am all for helping new authors (since I am one myself), in general, I do not support using Amazon publishing, vanity presses, or other Print On Demand services as a way of getting published. Often those who are doing this are doing so because they fear rejection by actual publishers. The material which they then offer for low prices, or even for free, is often material which is substandard. Part of going the “old fashioned” publishing route is making sure the book that is getting to the readers is something that is worth reading. This means that it has be
edited, is free of mistakes, reads well, is entertaining, etc. Yes, some of this is subjective, but if you were to spend any great amount of time reading the stuff which is available through these sources your eyes would bleed.

The comparison I like to make is between network television, cable, and YouTube. I, personally, don’t watch a lot of network television. Most of the shows seem exactly the same to me. Those that are original tend to have their edges filed off until they are just like everything else. I find the material offered by basic cable to be more interesting. If you look at what was recently recorded on our TiVo you will find things like Copper, the new BBC-A offering. Yes, sometimes I will find something amazing on-line like Angel of Death or The Guild.

Similarly, I read some things put out by the major publishing houses. Yes, I am going to keep buying my Stephen King hardcovers. I do find myself leaning towards specialty houses the focus on horror, mystery, and speculative fiction when looking for something new to read. I very rarely delve into the worlds of the self-published. I’m sure there are some gems waiting to be found there, just like there are occasionally really funny videos on YouTube.

However, when I am looking for something to sink my teeth into, something with good production value, quality acting and directing, something that will entertain me for more than a few moments, that is not where I am going to turn first.
Especially not when I have that giant stack of things ready to be read.

*8 The onus of OCD.

*9 I also discovered that I had to visit the optometrist. I had been reading so many books on my iPad that I had not realized that my eyesight had deteriorated. Nothing serious, mind you. It is only a problem if I am reading actual physical books which do not allow me to change the font size. Now I have reading glasses which do that for me.