Jake Bittle:

Delight in book collecting, and in showing off one’s book collection, is common, if not universal, among readers and would-be-readers. The biggest reason we spend money on books is because we want to read them (eventually), but that isn’t the only reason: we also like to look at them, and to look at other people looking at them.

…The way I treat my books shows that no matter how important they are to me as things to read, they also exist as decorative objects and status symbols. Luckily for me (and all other similarly afflicted book lovers), recent technological advances have provided something like an alternative to this “literary materialism” in the form of e-books. If collecting physical books distracts me from a humbler and less self-centered reading experience, then eliminating the physical component of the books seems like it would help to eliminate the vanity that comes with them. I could free up a lot of shelf space, make a fair amount of money at used bookstores and clean my environmental conscience, all while getting the same edification that I have always gotten from novels and essays. The only downside is that nobody would be able to tell from visiting my apartment that books are my body and soul.

He goes on like this at length, chastising himself for not being ascetically devoted to the disembodied Platonic essence of study and inquiry. Well, let me suggest that if your book collection is becoming an object of vanity and status, you can always eliminate all the relationships which might entail someone coming over to visit and laying eyes upon it. No audience, no problem. I mean, assuming you’re serious, and not just a poser.