Step Away From the Book Store


Hi. My name is Sean, and I’m a mass media addict.

I guess it started with taping movies off of cable. Having secured a film on the permanent archival format of a Beta cassette, I felt that I couldn’t let it slip out of my clutches. After all, now I could watch it again whenever I pleased! Media was finally at my convenience instead of at the whim of broadcasters! The collection of tapes grew quickly, and some I never did get around to watching even once. What mattered was that I could have.

Actually, it may have started before then, with comic books. On my mom’s side, I’m the youngest of my cousins. I don’t recommend being last in a generation, by the way; it’s the nuisance position. Even the kids table doesn’t want you. What I did get was everybody’s cast-offs, which for the purposes of this essay means comic books.

Comics from my kin accumulated at my grandma’s house, and when I tired of exploring the old hay barn and chicken coop I’d curl up with the stack of leftover comics. They were mostly from the Harvey line: Richie Rich, Casper, Little Lotta, and the rare Lil’ Devil which I loved most of all. Few of these had covers, and many were missing pages. I’m sure this helped fuel my desire to possess my own things.

Whatever the cause, the effect is that one room of our house is dedicated to the hoard. Somewhat hopefully, I call this room the library. There’s a pile of boxes in the center of the library, and I no longer recall what they contain. I can’t even get to them to find out; the rest of the floor is adrift in stacks of books that have been catalogued but await shelving. The walls are concealed behind boxes of DVDs. There’s a treacherous path that leads about three feet into the unstable mass of media. The door to this room cannot close.

So, yeah. I have a media addiction. At least I admit it, right? And I’ve already made strides in resolving to pare down the collection. The problem is that my compulsions keep interfering. First they demanded that I write a custom application to track media. Then I could enter everything, discover duplicates (hopefully only due to bundled packages…), track which I’ve read/watched/consumed, and mark which I’ve given away.

For months I picked away at this program. I’d make good progress and then get lost in other projects again. When I’d return to coding the damn thing, I’d inevitably discover that nothing worked anymore because some third-party library had been updated. The next week would be lost to cursing and bug-fixing, I’d add one more feature, and then I’d get lost in something else again.

After nearly a year of this, I realized that this process had gotten in the way of actual progress. I chucked the application and started transferring DVDs into binders. This went well until I finished with all the titles starting with ‘C’, at which point other projects captured my attention.

One of these was the ongoing effort to catalog all my books and make an initial pass at culling some for donations. I’ve already removed several bags of books that have been given away or donated to libraries. There are only a few shelves left to sort through, after which I plan to put up new shelves for the books that remain. Of course there are boxes of DVDs where I’d like to put the new shelves…

The biggest problem I have with the books is that there are a lot I don’t know if I’d read again because I’ve not read them in the first place. Currently there are just under a thousand unread books in the library, according to what I’ve entered at LibraryThing. This is only that low because I decided that I’d never read dozens of the books I’ve already donated.

Actually, that’s merely a big problem. The biggest problem is that I continue to bring new books into the house. I’ve slowed the pace considerably, mind you. On average I’m only buying 3-4 books and 1-2 movies a week. I’d like to turn that into an average for a month, but it’s better than when it was a daily average.

Netflix instant and the availability of ebooks is helping to some extent, as I can enjoy books and movies without bringing new material into the house. Ultimately, what I think will help more is that I’m growing more interested in doing things and creating. I’m writing more, thanks to this blog, and for the first time in years I’m working on a short story. I’ve written another comic and have plans do more. The musical dry spell is over, and I’m working on a holiday EP.

I don’t have time to consume media, because I’m too busy creating it. It’s starting to sink in. All of these things that fired my imagination threaten now to snuff out the expression of it. If it comes to a choice between making and having, I’ll choose making.

Just as soon as I get this room cleared out…

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6 thoughts on “Step Away From the Book Store

  1. A sad tale, but one that is all too common. I, personally, am avoiding looking over my shoulder at the piles of media, like a lone traveler down a dark road, certain there is something terrible behind him.

  2. I’m not sure if it’s my natural cheapness, or the benefit of working in a library (it’s very, very easy for me to borrow most books, mainstream films and some music) but I’ve avoided this fate. I think frequent moves helped up to this point as well, but I’ve enough family members that struggle with this kind of stuff that I’m glad you’re making some kind of progress.

    • Thanks. 🙂

      The irony is that part of the cause was the desire to be able to reread a book whenever I wanted, but now I have trouble reading them even once!

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