on stuff

August 5, 2007
Still in Rockport, perhaps.

Essay and Response of the Moment
Mr. Ibis forwarded on a good Paul Graham Essay on "stuff"

Here's what I wrote on his comment board, though it got pretty buried:

Hmm. I wonder if books are that different.
Though they stack neatly on a shelf, unlike "random objects"
(Which ties in well with the "builds a mental model" theory, that if it's neatly on a shelf, you're more able to "chunk" it and consider it as a "full bookshelf" instead of "book a, book b, book c" etc. That said, I'm still skeptical about that theory, I think human attention tends to be more focused than that, that even cluttered surroundings can "fade out"... but a cluttered environment is more likely to throw random distractions at you.)

Do other media count get a pass as well? Video Games? DVDs?
(personally, I think at least one factor in the success of DVDs is how nice they look on a bookshelf)

Having just bought yet more bookshelves, I'm wondering. My (loosely applied) criteria is that a book must be at least one of the following:
  1. be something I'd actively recommend to someone else
  2. have a reasonable expectation of reading again, or at least refer to a specific bit of
  3. is by a favorite author, so it gets a pass
It's definitely harder to get rid of a just-read book... even after thinking that it needs a bit of head time to ripen. If you were to quickly discard books, you'd start to wonder why you weren't just getting them from the library... though a satisfactory answer to that might be "buying books is voting with my dollars".