Here is why: in 4th grade, I scored in the 4th percentile on a standardized spelling test. I think we can all agree that is a very bad score. However, in my defense, I didn’t try--and I’m not just saying that after the fact. I didn’t want to take the spelling portion of the test (I already knew I wasn't a good speller), so instead of taking it, I made little designs with the fill-in bubbles (drawing, something I am good at). Admittedly, I am not the best speller, but I’m not as bad as my 4th grade test results might imply. Unfortunately, this test score concerned my family (rightfully so) and tainted their view of my capabilities in language-related subjects. I guess the logic is, if you can’t spell a word, you are incapable of identifying it on paper, and therefore unable to read. So, I got a bad reading reputation early on, and it only got worse as I got older.
You see, I do read. I just read really, really dry books. They are all very informative, but not exactly page turners. They aren’t the kind of books you’d discuss with your friends, unless of course you don’t actually like your friends and want to bore them to death. I don’t recommend most of the books I’ve read because they simply aren’t enjoyable. So, my reluctance to discuss books I’ve read, coupled with my embarrassing 4th percentile score, has caused some family members to conclude I don’t/can’t read.
So what does this all have to do with living on a boat? Well, my reputation as a non-reader in a family of bookworms made me rather self-conscious. To prove my intellectual equality, I began hoarding books (most of which I have read) and displaying them for all to see. I wanted a bookshelf that said, “See, I am smart.” With the help of Powell’s Books (which was conveniently located just around the corner from my building), I was able to build such a bookshelf at relatively no cost. When I married Eric, his books became joint property, and since he was in law school, this meant I was the owner of some really big, important-looking books. I was in book heaven.
As it turns out, no one in my family actually thinks I’m illiterate, and no one cares about how many books I own, or whether or not I read books at all. So all of this hoarding was for nothing, and I was left with a massive book collection, which deep inside made me feel, well, stupid. When Eric and I moved from Chicago to Kentucky, our books accounted for at least 50% of our boxes. After straining various muscles from hauling our books up and down flights of stairs, we vowed to reduce our collection. Once we started considering living on a boat, getting rid of our books became imperative; they are simply too bulky to consider keeping.
You get a lot of reactions from people when you tell them you are getting rid of all of your books, but the central theme is always: “What?!?! How could you?!” Eric and I are certainly not advocating that people remove all books from their homes; however, for us, it doesn’t make sense to have them. We’ve read all of our books and have no plans to read any of them again. Therefore, keeping them serves no purpose (sort of like our DVD collection). Should the urge to re-read one of our old books arise, we can always go to the library and borrow a copy. So, we boxed up a good portion of our books and donated them to the West End School, a local boarding school funded entirely by donations from the community. The school was looking to expand their library at the same time we were looking to get rid of ours, so it was a perfect match.
Now, just because we are getting rid of our books and moving to a boat doesn’t mean we are going to stop reading. That would be silly. To keep books in our lives, we got Kindles:
Eric’s is black and mine is white. We love them!
Kindles have a lot of benefits. The obvious advantage is they can hold an entire library, yet only take up the space of one thin book. In addition, all of the classics and many recent publications are available for free, which is wonderful. We’ve owned our Kindles for almost a year and have yet to actually pay money for a new book. Kindles also don’t strain your eyes because they use E Ink, which makes the screen look almost identical to a page in a book. Also, unlike a laptop screen, you can read the Kindle's screen in direct sunlight, which is ideal for reading on a boat. Kindles also consume very little electricity, which is also ideal for a boat. Additionally, they have internet access! For surfing the Web, a Kindle doesn't rival an actual computer or smartphone, but for light internet use, they work well.
Eric and I (well, I) still have a stack of books to read before we move:
Will I get through them all by August? Doubtful. But, I’m going to try. I am sure we’ll take a few book with us when we move, but once they've been read, they will be donated.
I know there are some purists out there who will insist a Kindle can’t replace a book, and they are right. Kindles don’t smell like a book, they don’t feel like a book, and the reading experience isn’t quite the same. But, unlike a book, we can look up something we are reading about on wikipedia with a Kindle, and for us, this makes them superior.