If you get value out of this newsletter consider supporting it by becoming a member. You can either get my weekly thoughts or all my courses and my weekly thoughts. You could also purchase a course if that fits your needs better.

You can get this in your inbox by signing up.

We’re a bit shorter this week as I took half the week off to attend a wedding.

Own Physical Books

One thing that’s always hard when I travel is choosing which books to bring. I never get to read as much as I think I will, and I don’t really love the idea of tramping around with 5 unread hardcover books in my luggage. While some people just grab their Kindle, and I have one I used for many years, I have more and more come to the realisation that you should try to own physical copies of your books.

With all the book banning going on now it feels like it’s only a matter of time before “concerned adults” try to start cornering technology companies like Apple and Amazon to try and push their ideas of “appropriate” reading material on the rest of the citizens around them. That is the achilles heal of the convenience of carrying around 500 books in your pocket, if anyone can put enough pressure on your ebook supplier to remove a book[1], they can remove it from all devices and then…no one has access to the book.

Unfortunately the library isn’t even safe from government overreach in tracking who reads what[2]. Since 2001 the USA PATRIOT act has given the US government excessive powers to gather information on American citizens which librarians have had to stand up to. But now we see states[3] pass laws allowing parents to view each book taken out by their children.

On the surface this seems fine, because parents are responsible for children, but it’s a slipper slope of rights removal. Start with the kids for their “safety” but then move on to others because they’re reading stuff that a small but vocal minority doesn’t like. They’re starting to boil the proverbial frog.

This is where owning physical books comes in to play. If MAUS becomes a banned book because it shows some of the horrors that Nazi Germany committed someone will have to come to my house and find the book to remove it. They’ll have to go to every household that owns a copy and remove it from each home to fully ban the book. This is a sisyphean task making the banning of specific books all but impossible. Some copy somewhere will survive and the very act of banning the books incurs the streisand effect on the book making sure more people know about it than would have known without the publicity.

Given all this, I think that owning physical copies of books is subversive and I encourage ownership of this thing that can’t be easily taken away from you. I encourage sharing banned books specifically because their banned.

I know owning physical books is hard for some. They can be expensive. You have to have the room to store them. You must move them if you own them.

But with all their trade offs, owning physical copies of books is a great way to make sure knowledge is available without someone looking over your shoulder to approve what you’re learning.

Yup I use affiliate links sometimes to support the newsletter. If it’s on Amazon, it’s an affiliate link for sure.

  • [1] Don’t forget about the ironic removal of 1984 by Amazon. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106989048
  • [2] The Spy Who Shushed Me: https://lithub.com/the-spy-who-shushed-me-how-the-government-is-removing-our-right-to-read-in-private
  • [3] And let’s not fool ourselves in Canada, this type of stuff is coming if we’re not vigilant

3 responses to “PKM Weekly Sept 24 2023 – Issue 089”

  1. Dan Barnett Avatar
    Dan Barnett

    Curtis, I read your piece, nodding in approval, until, at the end, it struck me that if you substituted “AK-47” for “physical book,” that turns your essay into a Second Amendment absolutist argument. So if your original argument elicits cheers, and the “revised” argument produces fears (at least among those who advocate for sensible gun controls), how then do we distinguish those arguments?

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      That’s a decent question.
      At this moment I’d say that books do more than deliver metal at speed, they provide a playground for imagination. They provide avenues to question who you are and what you believe (if you’re willing to read stuff you might not agree with).
      The only purpose of guns is to deliver metal at speed. Yes this can be used for good, I have no problem with hunting for food, I wonder (and strongly doubt) that most uses of guns are for food purposes. Most uses are for bringing violence to someone else.
      I’m not sure that’s a complete argument to differentiate the two ideas though. How do you pull the two ideas apart?