Sobre la nueva ecología del libro, Bodó Balázs

por Juan Pablo Anaya

“I started to buy books again, usually books that I’d already read from a stolen copy on-screen. I know what I want to buy, I know what is worth preserving. I know what I want to show to my son, what I want to pass on, what I would like to take care of over time. Before, book buying for me was an investment into a stranger. Now that thrill is gone forever. I measure up the merchandise well beforehand, I build an intimate relationship, we make love again and again, before moving in together.

It is certainly a new kind of relationship with the books I bought since I got my e-reader. I still have to come to terms with the fact that the books I bought this way are rarely opened, as I already know them, and their role is not to be read, but to be together. What do I buy, and what do I get? Temporal, existential security? The chance of serendipity, if not for me, then for the people around me? The reassuring materiality of the intimacy I built with these texts through another medium?

All of these and maybe more. But in any case, I sense that this library, the physical embodiment of a physical-electronic hybrid collection with its unopened books and overflowing e-reader memory cards, is very different from the library I had, and the library I’m getting rid of at this very moment. The library that I inherited, the library that grew organically from the detritus of the everyday, the library that accumulated books similar to how the books accumulated dust, as is the natural way of things, this library was full of unknowns, it was a library of potentiality, of opportunities, of trips waiting to happen. This new, hybrid library is a collection of things that I’m familiar with.

I intimately know every piece, they hold little surprise, they offer few discoveries — at least for me. The exploration, the discovery, the serendipity, the pre-screening takes place on the e-reader, among the ephemeral, disposable PDFs and epubs.

Have everything, and own a few.


This new hybrid model is based on the cheap availability of digital books. In my case, the free availability of pirated copies available through shadow libraries. These libraries don’t have everything on offer, but they have books in an order of magnitude larger than I’ll ever have the time and chance to read, so they offer enough, enough for me to fill up hard drives with books I want to read, or at least skim, to try, to taste. As if I moved into an infinite bookstore or library, where I can be as promiscuous, explorative, nomadic as I always wanted to be. I can flirt with books, I can have a quickie, or I can leave them behind without shedding a single tear.

I don’t know how this hybrid library, and this analogue-digital hybrid practice of reading and collecting would work without the shadow libraries which make everything freely accessible. I rely on their supply to test texts, and feed and grow my print library. E-books are cheaper than their print versions, but they still cost money, carry a risk, a cost of experimentation. Book-streaming, the flat-rate, the all-you-can-eat format of accessing books is at the moment only available to audiobooks, but rarely for e-books. I wonder why.”

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