Friday 10 July 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #6 - To Purge Or Not To Purge

Confessions of a Bibliophile #6
To Purge Or Not To Purge
The process of weeding out the library.

Once upon a time I believed that I needed to keep every book I read; I also wanted to own every book that I read. It soon became obvious that this was impracticable, as well as not feasible and practically impossible. This leads to both the need to purge books, and the pain of purging books. I have purged on many occasions, but it is always a bitter sweet situation. I have sold books when I needed space, when I have needed money and sometimes just because of changes in reading habits. Currently for me, purging is a little less painful for a few reasons. First I do receive over 100 free books a year because of the number of reviews I write and publish, here in Imprint and elsewhere. My blog receives about 500 hits a day and I have publishers and authors contacting me regularly asking me to review their products. Second I also now have an e-book collection. I have over 20,000 books in electronic format that I have collected over the last decade or so. These books are sorted by author and genre, and can easily be carried on a jump drive or put on my laptop and read at leisure. I enjoy the e-book format because it is easier to carry multiple books, and because I can reread old favorites anytime I want without having to keep the physical book. But back to the topic at hand - the need to purge physical books and how to go about doing it.

As an example, when I got married I had about 10,000 books in my library; currently I have about 5000 and of that 5000 only about 100 are books I owned when I got married. If I still had every book that I have owned and read, I would need a second or third house just for the books. So not purging is not really an option, but since it is painful, how does one go about parting with his books, his treasures, his friends? Well here in Waterloo I do it a few ways. If I am selling because I need money then I usually pull out all the books I am willing to part with and pile them on my den floor, then I go back through the shelves and pull out the sacrificial books. These books are ones that I have had more than two years in my 'to read' pile but have not read yet, books I intend to read but just have not made a priority, or books I have started but never got around to finishing. Then I pull out the books I know will bring the most cash. If I am just selling to make space, then I skip this final step.

Once I have all the books pulled out, I load them into boxes and hockey duffle bags. Then the travel begins. First I take them to Old Goat Books on King Street. They are a little more picky about what they will take, but pay prime dollar for used books, and are great guys to deal with. Next I hit the Bookworm on University; anything that Old Goat did not take comes here. They tend to take a good percentage of the books, and even some of the Advance Reading Copies I get from publishers. Next I hit A Second Look Books in Kitchener. They take almost anything and in any condition but do not pay nearly as well. By this point I am usually down to about 10% of the books I left the house with, and these go to the Generations Thrift Store in Waterloo. I now have a policy that if I pack up a book to sell, it does not need to come back home. Then I get to go home with some extra cash, empty bags, and get to reorganize my den and have spaces on my shelves again, and room for the new books that I receive almost every week to review and get placed in the 'to read' queue. My office always feels cleaner and fresher after a purge, because by the time I have the need to purged, I usually have every shelf full, some with double rows of books or stacks of books on tables, and the front of shelves. Then after the purge there is space again, usually a full empty shelf, and spaces on the ends of other shelves. So once all the books are sacrificed the space becomes reorganized and is free of clutter at least for a few months.

Hopefully those tips will help you during your time here at UWaterloo, either if you need to purge because you need the money, the space, or it's just time for a change. Then someone else can find what's between the covers.

Note: You can see more pictures of my old den here, and my current den here. These pictures are after a major purge and reorganization, about 300 books were culled. Today the shelves are filled to overflowing again and it has been less than a year since these pictures.

(First published in Imprint 2009-07-10.)
[Graphic courtesy Ian Cutajar - Imprint.]

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