Pillow Book‘A room with no books is like a life with no soul’

Cicero

This morning I came across an interesting thread on the Get Rich Slowly forums, regarding the topic of reducing the size of a private library. I’ve always been a bit of a bibliophile, and the idea of getting rid of some has never really occurred to me. When one shelf is full, it’s a simple matter of installing another one.

How many books have I got? I’ve never counted, but I’d guess it’s a few thousand. And yes, I’ve read all of them. Several times in many cases.

There are two main reasons for even contemplating a cull. These are :

  • Possessing fewer items simplifies my life to some extent. The fewer things I own, the easier it is to keep travelling (a lifelong passion, rather than running away from something).
  • Financial reward. This one has both a short-term and long-term benefit; but carries with it an element of risk. The risk is that if I enjoy the process of converting second-hand books to cash, I’ll be tempted to repeat the process by buying even more second-hand books. Based on past experience, this is a serious risk indeed.

Alternatives

There are several alternatives here, one of which is simply to do nothing. After all, only half of my mind (the logical half) agrees that there’s some merit to this idea; the other half sees no problem at all in living in a library.

Other options :

  • Alter behaviour : rare is the time that I leave a book shop empty-handed. A trip to Borders is almost a day out; complete with an empty wallet and several trophies. A change in behaviour might be to start thinking of this as a trip to the library – I can look, enjoy, but not buy.
  • Cut down on buying new books : One of the reasons that I like new books is their ‘untouched’ nature. They are clean and crisp, and seem worthy of great care and attention. Buying second-hand books, however, forces me to consider the content far more. Only if the content seems worthy will I buy the book.Switching from New to Second-hand purchases (for most books) would undoubtedly cut down the number of acquisitions.
  • Make more use of local libraries : Many years ago, perhaps 30, my family would regularly drive to a library perhaps 20 minutes away. This was wonderful, as it was an enormous building with a seemingly endless collection. Exploring its shelves was a magical experience.

    One day, we stopped. A new library had been built, much closer to our house, and we were forced to go their instead. Our borrowing privileges had automatically been transferred, and there was no alternative. We either had to use this new library or nothing at all.This new library was tiny. Although it could request books from its larger cousin, it didn’t have many itself. The magic was gone.

    Fast forward a few decades. The libraries are both still there, but I have no desire to use them (as I have an extensive collection of books at home). Perhaps it’s time to pay them a visit.

    Now, time to do some serious thinking.

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