Jeff at Yellow Dog is thinking about his books.

Thanks to TiVo and the flexibility of running my own business I’ve actually had more time to read these past several months. It has been a joy I have missed since, oh, college.

Which brings me to the collecting meme put forth by Jeff.

In college, I collected texts I thought were meaningful and would be of use for the rest of my life. I think I own a half dozen now and donated the rest. But I loved Strozier Library, Bill’s Bookstore and the Paperback Rack. Then a trip to NYC in 1997 brought me to The Strand, the best bookstore in the world. That’s when I realized maybe I loved centers of book exchange rather than the mite infested tomes themselves.

Post-college, pre-career, I took a job at Cosmic Cat Books — Tallahassee’s premier comic book and games shop. I was hired because I wasn’t a fanboy (a zealous collector of sorts). The fanboys who applied for the job were envious. What little I did know about comics dated back to the Secret Wars of the 80s. But I knew how a business was run.

I was amazed by the passion comics brought out in people and the amount of money they were willing to hand over for this emotional exchange. I licked my chops when a customer would stare over the counter at that alternate chromium cover of Generation X No. 1. Why? Because something worthless to me could be so valuable to someone else. Then again, the typical fanboy mocked my love affairs with Peter Bagge, Evan Dorkin, Neil Gaiman and other cape-less, alt-comic writers. After three years of underemployment, I managed to collect a whopping 3/4 of a long box of comics that I considered pretty darn valueless. It got lost during one of my many moves. I don’t care what those comics would have been worth today.

At the same time I was DJing at various clubs and music was valuable to me, especially if it came on a 12″. Milk crate after milk crate. CD organizer after CD organizer. The sheer weight of the collection was impressive. Then clubbing became passe and mp3s were it. Another couple of moves and I unburdened myself from the weight. mp3s were portable AND steal-able. Soon they too lost their value. Now instead of stealing the intellectual property of others I purchase my music through iTunes or Amazon but on very rare occasion. One value gained, another lost.

My computer career started in 1998. I started collecting 500 page manuals about software that would be obsolete every six months. A new edition of the manual is printed. I’m forced to buy and collect again. Remember, this was before the sharing of web 2.0. So no blogs, wikis, etc. Just messageboards that were clunky and support knowledgebases that were barely indexed and thus searchable. Luckily, the Net evolved rendering print, dead. The manuals were donated to Goodwill. It always made me feel guilty not because I was parting ways with these books but because so poor soul might buy one of these useless door stops for a buck.

I also collected more and more computer junk. Random hard drives, sticks of RAM, enough cables to hang a regiment. Stacks of CD-ROMs filled with various pieces of software and distros of Linux. Then in 2001, Mac OS X. Bought a used Mac and stuck with it. Then an iBook I still have (though I may be finally selling). And now a new iMac. Three computers in 8 years is actually a lowly number for a computer geek. The parts are fewer now. The cables…well, they’re still around for some reason. But the clutter isn’t what it used to be.

The fetish du jour? I don’t know if I trully have one. Maybe what I value is the intangible and everything else is junk.

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