One is starting to see the light at the end of the big decluttering project I set for myself.
Among the targets were six cupboard shelves full of assorted books, magazines, DVDs, paper files and computer-related items, including hardware and game manuals and space-filling game boxes of a venerable age.
The biggest motivating factor in countering the hoarder tendency has been a revelation that Paper Doesn’t Last.
This sobering fact was driven home by the discovery of small flecks of white and yellow mold sneaking their way onto the sides and surfaces of book pages and a few Magic: The Gathering cards.
I could deal with aging yellowed paper and patiently cleaning off accumulated dirt and dust from tomes undisturbed for a decade. Fungus, I can’t handle.
I suspect it’s an allergy to mold spores. My face turns red, sinuses overload and start running uncontrollably, I end up walking around indoors looking like someone suffering from hay fever and an experimental test of dosing myself with off-the-counter antihistamines kept the symptoms at bay for 24 hours. Pretty much all the confirmation I need without an official patch test or what not.
The solution, of course, has been to go digital.
This two-birds-one-stone strategy neatly circumvents the hoarder part of me that protests throwing away things based on sentimental value (I can still browse through all the things to revive warm fuzzy memories), frees up physical space and reduces surfaces available for nasty things to collect on.
Yeah, I lose a little something in not being able to -touch- my objects, but I’m willing to trade it off since it means those allergens can’t touch me in return.
Tangibility is a two-edged sword, after all.
And the progress of technology and culture has finally moved to a point where this has become more reality than science fiction.
First, the digital camera. Oddly shaped, bulky items need remembering? Point and shoot. Check there and then that everything is in focus and satisfactory, else shoot again. Plug into a computer, copy and upload. The days of slowly taking film to a photo studio to develop are over.
Now, ebooks are in. You can cart around a library in an iPad or a smart phone while you’d probably need a wheelbarrow to do the same with paper tomes.
All the conversion process requires is a really good scanner. That technology has been moving in leaps and bounds, improving in speed, sophistication and ease-of-use. With the right machine and an automatic document feeder, an inch thick stack of paper can be preserved electronically in under five minutes.
I own a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500, which has served me well over the last few years. (By now, it seems there’s a newer model iX500 and an even newer SV600 with a different angle on things, but you know me, hoarders own fossils and toasters, not the latest stuff.)
The biggest hurdle to get over with ADF scanners is the sacrilegious act of book vandalism.
There’s the physical de-spining, which I have to do by hand, since I don’t live in a country with a nice neighborhood Kinko’s that can guillotine off the spines for a pittance.
But mostly it’s a mental thing. BOOKS, like bodies, are not meant to be cut open.
“But… but…” the brain says… “What if someone else could have used and treasured the volume?”
As time wears on though, observed cultural changes suggest that it is not so much of a concern any longer. Once ubiquitous secondhand book store chains in shopping malls have been closing and going out of business. I see more people staring at screens on the subway commute than paper. The younger generation watches videos, they do not *gasp* -read-.
Newer published books often come with a cheaper digital alternative. The last few shopowners I found still trading in old books offer to buy a pile off you for 5 bucks. That’s the whole pile. In Singapore dollars, so $3.92 USD. You can’t even buy a Starbucks coffee or a movie ticket for that trade. That’s how unwanted these poor things are.
In a way, it is now an act of preservation to digitize.
The possibility of hard disk failure can be circumvented by multiple redundant copies living in separate external hard disk drives. (Which perhaps makes for slightly dodgy skirting of copyright rules, but they’re all for personal use and I’m not sharing the copies with anybody.)
And the honest truth of the matter is, I’m more likely these days to read a book thusly:
While halfway through the process of clearing out computer game manuals, I realized something: They really don’t make ‘em like they used to.
A good majority of the newer manuals were thin, greyscale, stapled items that mostly screamed we’re saving packaging costs and who reads these things anyway?
A quick Google and a replacementdocs website visit later, I had digital copies that saved me the effort of scanning them. Some of them even came in color, where presumably more care was taken when selling to a US consumer than some poor bastard in the Asia-Pacific region.
But there were the rare tomes.
Yes, tomes. Mostly from old RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights. Or strategy games like Warcraft III or Civilization III.
Nearly three quarters of an inch thick, spiral bound or with a glued spine.
I remember the times when one purchase of these games was all you got, and equally loving amounts of time was spent poring over these explanations rather than actually playing the game.
These were the guides of old, in the days before there really was the Internet to consult.
MMOs of a certain era were also represented. World of Warcraft, City of Villains, Guild Wars.
IN COLOR. Glossy pages to be thumbed through.
I ended up keeping the GW manuals. Art is hard to discard.
Then there were the game boxes.
Those terrible space filling packaging items begging to be used as coffee table and mantlepiece displays because they’re so well built and pretty, it’s a shame to throw ‘em away.
I suspect I’m still going to hang on to the Age of Conan and Warhammer Online collector edition boxes. They -are- ridiculously sturdy.
I’m still trying to decide either way on the City of Villains one. On one hand, it’s one of a kind, especially now that the MMO is defunct.
On the other hand, the MMO doesn’t exist any more. Moreover, it’s a dust trap. So probably not.
Then there’s the terrible irony of owning game boxes to stuff that is now found periodically for 5 bucks on Steam.
Note the price tag of this one:
Yep, once upon a time, it was a bargain to buy this at SGD$65, not $80! (About 50USD, give or take.)
How times have changed, indeed.
I haven’t bought a game that comes in a box for quite a long time now (with the exception of GW2′s collector’s edition box – the outer packaging quickly photographed then discarded, due to its monstrous size.)
And I find that I don’t miss it either.
Goodbye, paper. Hello, digital.