Thursday, May 22, 2008

On owning books

On owning books:

My father will mail me a copy of Willie Morris' North Toward Home and a few Durrells; I will mail him the hilarious and poignant A Thousand Shall Fall, and an old edition of Grimble's We Chose the Islands. And we argue over whom first heard about Andy Adam's The Log of a Cowboy; then we realize we both have editions in our homes.

Here is the thing: it's hard to say who owns these books. They are ours, collectively; they fling back and forth between Texas and California, and either household is only a temporary resting place. These books are shared, because they are appreciated; loved, because they are enjoyed with others.


Whatever digital (ebook) books look like in the future, if they do not embody the right to share, in an unrestricted and platform independent manner, they will be poorer things.

This is called the first sale doctrine. It's part of why people love books -- a love built from sharing. It's what makes libraries possible. A world where content is licensed, and sold with restrictions on use, is a world less full of enthusiastic readers; less full of love.

(Via The Patry Copyright Blog.)

I have this theory that much of what we consider “higher intelligence” could not operate without external memory — books, notes, letters, drawings, {black|white}boards — much like a Turing machine needs its tape to go beyond finite state. When we exchange books, we build each other's minds.

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