Charles 8 Comments

Posted by Vale

Once in a while, looking around, it dawns on you that getting to the kitchen has become an obstacle course; setting off for the bedroom an orienteering event. It’s the moment you realise that your books have stopped furnishing your rooms and begun – like a literary occupy movement – to take them over. Bitter as it is, it’s the moment you realise that a clear out is needed.

We were tackling a pile or two recently (on the scree slopes in the dining room) when our son came in and cried out ‘but those are my heirlooms!’ It’s a comfort to know that my collection of Mazo de La Roche and Marks and Spencer Cookbooks will be in good hands after I am gone but, I thought, what will he do with the electronic books?

It’s a good question. Libraries (and record collections) can be read and loaned, treasured, split up and shared out – unless they are electronic. The problem is that you never wholly own a Kindle book – you simply purchase a right to read that is at present non-transferable. Equally a music collection bought from Apple cannot be passed on as digital content (legally at least). Nowadays the day you die is the day the music dies too. It’s a queer reversal.  In the past it was you that exited while your possessions lived on in other hands. In the digital world you will live on in a thousand guises, while it is your digital assets that fade away.

It looks as though you might as well be buried with your Nook or  your Kindle, iPods or iPad – new grave goods for the virtual afterlife. After all your books and music will already be safe, stowed away again in their own clouds.

Read more about it here.


  1. Charles

    Ah, Vale, nobody does it better. What a good point you make (ie, I’d never thought of this). We’ve all fallen for this buy-now-own-never scam. Perhaps now that Apple has lost its hippy-chic and revealed itself red in tooth and claw there will be a consumer reaction against this egregious con.

    Thank you for pointing up this anomaly.

  2. Charles

    I am reliably informed by those less law-abiding than me, ahem, that people are burning CDs off their iTunes libraries and passing them on like mad. Tut tut, is all I can say. Heaven forfend, etc.

    And of course the people who suffer are not Apple, it is the artists. And whilst there may be less sympathy for huge earners like Coldplay or Lady Gaga, people shouldn’t do it for up-and-comings or specialists.

    So I don’t think we need bury anyone with their iPod, at least, not because the music “belongs” to Apple. (Hunh!)

    Kindles are a different matter. Though you could surely leave your Kindle with all content and passwords etc in your will. It doesn’t smell like a book, but the inheritors would at least have the pleasure of knowing that you too had read down these pages.

    However, the sheer volume of books that marathon readers leave behind must sometimes be daunting. A friend of mine has a barn full. Perhaps the answer is to leave a selection of favourites we’d like to pass on, just checking if there are particular books the young’uns would like, and get rid of the rest before a family member has to do it after we’ve gone – a melancholy task?

    I think I’m nit-picking at what is a thoughtful and interesting post, thanks Vale.

  3. Charles

    Ah, there’ll always be ways round the rules, GM, but somehow the fact that I can only lease my music and books still grates. Very 20th century of me no doubt.

  4. Charles

    Thanks Phoebe, I wonder if you are right about the photographs. If you don’t hand on the passwords, presumably they would be lost too.

    I’m just old enough to remember the old Boots commercial circulating libraries where for a fee you could borrow books for a time. It struck me after writing this post that Kindles et al are just a new version of the old model. The loan period is a long one, but the book you are reading is only ever borrowed.

  5. Charles

    Best place for passwords is Deathswitch: http://www.deathswitch.com/ I love this website. It’s the sound effects that make it. But it’s such a cool and simple idea.

    So long as the ‘creatives’ don’t lose out I can accept your Boots analogy, Vale. I suspect there’s a lot predating going on. Very brave of you to say something so age-revealing. Ah, those days of paraffin and candlewick!

  6. Charles

    Well Vale, judging from my generation (myself included) digital cameras means that the images get onto the computer but rarely get printed off. This is generalising of course but there is something in that me thinks.

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