Years ago, I spent months slowly selling the several hundred physical books I owned. It was 2011. For any book lovers out there, this wasn't the crazy sacrifice it first seems. I made sure that each book I parted with (that I cared anything about) was replaced with a digital version.
Have you moved 500+ physical books every year your apartment lease expires? That shit is heavy.
There were some books that I couldn't find digital copies of anywhere, for any price. I held on to those and bought (or was gifted) a couple more over the years. My physical collection, as of a week ago, was around 15 books and 15 magazines.
And then my cat peed on some of them. They weren't all ruined. Well, the magazines all went in the trash, but some of the books were spared.
I'm keeping three textbooks with only minor staining. Of the books I tossed, three hurt my heart to let go of. Of those, I finally found a digital PDF of one thanks to a Chinese physics enthusiast's WordPress site. Of the other two, I will be buying a replacement for one. All in all, it amounted to a cleaner bookshelf and the need to buy only one $12 replacement. So even though I cried a little when I discovered what my cat had done, I'm not even mad now.
Truthfully, there's still something I have to deal with. The cookbooks. I do NOT want to be using cat piss stained, smelly, wrinkly cookbooks in the kitchen. But I don't have copies of the recipes I frequently use or would like to try from them.
My solution is making my own digital recipe collection. I should have done it forever ago. I'm always forgetting my favorite dishes of the past. I tend to settle into a routine of making the same 5 dinners every week until I get sick of them and rack my brain for stuff that I used to like and make. Or I find a new recipe, try it, love it, and forget to ever make it again.
In the future, recipes for all my favorite meals will be typed up in markdown and committed to source control. I'll even post them on this website so I can look them up from any browser. =)
My digital book collection is thousands strong now, and like my future recipe collection, I can access my books from anywhere in the world while carrying not even a paperback with me.
I love the smell and feel of real books as much as any bookworm. I dreamed of turning my house into a library when I was a kid. But for the sheer practicality and accessibility of knowledge, I've given up that sentimental cruft to carry a frickin' library on a thumbdrive. Oh yeah, and I don't have to worry about anything, cat pee or fire, destroying what I've spent my life collecting.
As I said back in 2011:
"The multiplicity of this hunk of data that is my digital life gives me a sense of relief and security. Books can burn, be ruined in a flood, left behind in a disaster, stolen, or any number of things. Digital data can be backed up ad infinitum and recovered from multiple locations."