We cleared out our books in about 2008. We were getting swamped by them, piles stacked here and there unable to fit on the over-crowded shelves. About the same time, Amazon.com came into our awareness. They offer the Kindle, I think, at first for about $450. I read with disbelief that the little book-like object could get books WITHOUT being connected to a computer or other connection. The best explanation seemed to be an analogy to a cellphone call, except getting a book file, instead of a conversation. Not only that but the price of a book was about half of a paper book. Not only that but the print could be enlarged if needed.
So, we got rid of about 500 books.
At the same time, though, Amazon was developing its algorithms and practices aimed at being sure I learned about books that might interest me. Over time, they get to know me very well and sometimes, I don't resist. The Secret Life of Fat and The 10,000 Year Explosion are current examples of books that have genuinely increased my awareness and knowledge.
These days, I can run into a title of interest that is too old and specialized to be in Kindle form yet. I check Google Books and Barnes and Noble for electronic files of older books of interest but usually if Amazon doesn't have it in e-form, nobody does. A good book may cost $50 in special eform and 1 cent in a used copy. Plus, the university and the local library are very good at finding a copy of anything, getting it here and loaning it.
In preparing for today's talk about teaching teachers, I needed to find my dissertation. I have a copy online but I thought I would look up the one paper copy I still have from 1968. Seeing it and looking through the list of references again showed me an effect of having books from one's earlier years around. The books, their covers are souvenirs, objects that stir remembrance. In my mind's eye, I can see books that I used over and over. I know some of their content but that is not the point. The physical book, like the face of a friend, recalls scenes from the time of its acquisition, its use, my steady dependence on it.