Too many books

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Too many books

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1betterthanchocolate
Jul 8, 2008, 10:32am

I don't know if this is a grad studies problem or a life problem. I'm about to move, have lived in this city for just 2 years, and in a fit of inspired packing tonight I quickly filled 6 cardboard boxes with random books from my shelves. This doesn't include photocopied stuff, course readers and pages and pages of notes and paraphernalia from my first year of grad studies.

I got to talking with my partner, with whom I'll be moving into a significantly smaller apartment (700 sq ft plus rooftop of same)... and we agreed that my book buying habit is a bit excessive given where we live!!! I suddenly panicked at the thought of my books having no space in the new place, but even more, not having space to live once the books move in.

The problem with this city is that apartments are small, rent is steep, the air humid (and thus unkind to books in the long run)... and the problem with me is that I love my books, buy at will, and can't keep a relationship with a library that doesn't involve fines and frantic removal of flags and sticky notes at the return desk...

I do plan to move back home (across the Pacific) in a few years, but renting a container to ship all and sundry back never even crossed my mind until now. Yikes.

In the spirit of metafilter, I ask: What should I do? Do you think I have a problem that needs to be fixed pronto or can I skirt around the problem and find a way to be happy as the books pile up around me?

2Sniv
Jul 8, 2008, 1:25pm

You could always participates in books swaps or sell/donate books you'll not likely refer to again. That way you can continue buying at your current rate, but the books won't just accumulate.

3Ilithyia
Jul 8, 2008, 1:47pm

Is there anyone at home that you could mail them too? Like regular postage (though that wouldn't really be light either. Definitely everytime you might go home to visit, or someone visits you load up your suitcase with books.

I'm all for buying books and figuring out what to do with them later! My apartment is definitely overflowing but that doesn't stop me. You just have to get more and more creative.

4Gwendydd
Jul 8, 2008, 2:52pm

Depending on what you're studying in grad school and what you plan to do afterward, I recommend trying to find a way to keep those books. My first few years of graduate school, I got rid of a bunch of books I had bought for school, and now that I'm teaching, I find myself checking those books out of the library all the time - I really wish I had kept them. (And I ended up needing a bunch of them for my comprehensive exams too.)

The non-school books might be a different situation, if you have a lot of those.... I think the suggestion of sending them to someone at home is a good one.

5ejj1955
Jul 8, 2008, 3:02pm

And as Sniv suggested, swap some of them--let me recommend BookMooch, which I discovered through LT and love. You have the satisfaction of knowing that books you don't care that much about are going to someone who really wants them, and you can ask for books and they just turn up in your mailbox. Really, I find this magical and wonderful!

I also got rid of some of the books I bought for graduate school and regret it to this day. As long as you have someone at home who is willing to hold them for you, find the cheapest (probably slowest) means of shipping them and send them along to wait for you. That way you can do a box at a time as you can afford it (unless you are one of those rich graduate students, unlike all the ones I knew!).

6bjza
Jul 8, 2008, 4:24pm

BookMooch sounds really interesting. I may try that.

I was able to cull some books from my collection. I haven't unloaded them all yet, but I'll get to that someday. :) They mostly fell into two groups: 1) Fiction I had read and didn't think it was likely I'd read it again (a lot of Stephen King, Michael Chrichton type stuff). 2) Books I'd been given as gifts and wasn't about to finish (or in some cases, start) (Al Franken, Laura Schlessinger).

Anything in my subject area I tend to cling to, even some incredibly out of date or non-technical popular stuff.

But don't feel too bad. I'm in my late twenties, and there are still a few hundred books of mine at my parents

7betterthanchocolate
Jul 11, 2008, 9:10pm

Wow, thanks for the great ideas.

When my collection was smaller and still developing I hung on to everything, but I'm definitely willing to part with (some of my) books now. Like bjza unappetising second reads in fiction might be a top category.

I've heard so much about it, but on the recommendation of Sniv and ejj, I've opened a new window to browse BookMooch in earnest. There is something very appealing about sending your unwanted book to someone who wants it.

Slow postage back home is something I've considered too & might instigate once I'm moved into the new space and settled. Stacking suitcases--it's kind of nice to hear that I'm not the only one!

Of course I like the idea of keeping books in the subject I'm studying--saving trips to the library, useful for future reference, etc. Collections management--like Ilithyia says you have to be really creative!

8Fullmoonblue
Jul 13, 2008, 2:26am

Betterthanchocolate -- first, great name. You wouldn't be talking about BOOKS, would you...?

Wanted to add that I use BookMooch too, and have grown to completely love it. If you ever want to weed out some less pricy or easy to find books from your shelves, that site is a great way to do it... One strategy is to let others mooch those basics from you where you're living now and then, later, once you've moved to your next destination, you can simply *mooch those same titles again* if/when you need them!

When I make an overseas move down the road, I plan to do that with most of my 'classic' novels and such... the ones that aren't filled with important marginalia, anyway! :)

PS, Here's an example of my own Bio Page and mooching history -- you'll see I've found it to be a VERY useful site.

http://bookmooch.com/m/bio/fullmoonblue

9medievalmama
Jul 14, 2008, 9:43pm

I got up to over 9000 before I decided I needed to cull my collection. I started by taking 10-15 boxes to festivals and setting up as a vendor of used books. Which books I took depended on which festival I was going to. Last time we moved 2 1/2 years ago -- we were down to 282 boxes of which 228 were boxes of books. We move ourselves and I vowed "never again" (echo Scarlett). However, I've found it harder and harder to get rid of what is left because they are so mixed. Saturday, I loaded the truck with 32 boxes - donated 15 boxes to the church jumble sale (it will send 15 and 16 year olds to Rome on pilgrimage); delivered two boxes to the local house for abused women which is starting a self-help library; delivered 4 more boxes of hardback to my local library (which actually ACCEPTED them -- so many libraries won't these days; swapped a box for things I really wanted; sold a box or two; and made it back home after 6 hours with 3 boxes still to deliver to a children's shelter and 5 boxes no one would take. I can't bear to throw them away, so I guess they are going to Goodwill unless I can find a shelter that offers business advice -- most of them are business books.
My stash is down about 1200 books and a lot of people benefited.
On the other hand, I still have far too many books that you cannot pry my fingers off of!! -- especially that academic stuff.

10christychesnet
Jul 22, 2008, 10:07pm

I have a suggestion that worked for me as far as storage goes. Add shelves all around the top of your walls up by the ceiling (over doors and windows too). This is mostly unused space, so it is perfect for books you want to keep but don't want to trip over. And I have never had a book fall on my head yet!

11betterthanchocolate
Out 12, 2008, 2:04am

Thanks for yet more ideas for all those books: out-mooching, donating, and finding more space for them at home.

Since my post here a couple months ago I have signed up for a Bookmooch account, but haven't actually traded anything yet.

I've half-heartedly picked a few titles to donate to charity, books which are still sitting in a box under the stairs.

I admit I was bemused by your suggestion, christychesnet, which cheerfully encourages acquisition... and then I went out and bought a new set of bookshelves to accommodate my away-from-home library anyway. Those round the room bookshelves are my next step. :)

So here I am resigned to my habit... until I reach 9.000 books maybe!?

12KevinCK
Jul 9, 2009, 2:25pm

My experience moving twice (with too many books) is this:

First, one reason I was keeping all of my books is for fear that at some point I would need them as reference. My rule now is that if I keep a book for two years and do not need to refer to it during that time, I figure out a way to 'get rid of' it (I recently donated a few hundred to a local community college).

After my wife and I moved the first time, we both decided to get ebook readers (amazon kindle) so that from here forth, we buy most of our books digitally, so that they don't take up any room.

Yes, it is hard, but I am a firm believer that keeping too many books can be more trouble than its worth. You pay to move them (boxes, movers, or with your back) and have to store them. Most of the books I have kept, I have found that I didn't use. It is like keeping an extra set of dishes on the chance that you will someday use them, only to find out that you did not need them.

13Sniv
Jul 9, 2009, 9:26pm

Kevin: I definitely see your point, but as I start approaching my quals, I'm glad I kept a lot of those books I haven't looked at in 2 years. I'm finding I need to reread a lot of material.

But then, I don't think my book collection is so out of hand. I'm still under 1k.

14KevinCK
Jul 10, 2009, 12:24pm

Well, it is also cost/benefit analysis. As you are attached to a university, you may want to check whether some of those books are available in their library. If they are, you may well be able to go without having a copy at home.

Also, sometimes one does have to ask oneself whether it is worth holding onto a book for x years so that one can refer to it a few times. That, of course, is an individual judgment call that different people will answer differently.

15ejj1955
Editado: Jul 10, 2009, 2:07pm

The thing is that I own a lot of books for reasons that have nothing to do with utility or how often I might look at them. I just like the warm, comforting feeling of being surrounded by books. (Though I do shudder at the thought of having to move.)

16Booksloth
Jul 10, 2009, 4:47pm

Sorry? Too many books? Could you explain what that means exactly? DOES NOT COMPUTE.

17dancingstarfish
Jul 10, 2009, 6:09pm

I feel your pain!

I am packing up to move in a couple weeks to a diff apartment here in Boston, I live in a studio apartment and I have filled 10 moving boxes with books.. basically more than I have of anything else. I started to think I needed to start trading or donating some books again (if I can find the willpower to let go) and then I found a borders gift card with $50 on it.

I think its god's way of saying, "hey! you can never have too many books!"

so I'm leaving it at that.

18KevinCK
Jul 10, 2009, 6:21pm

I'm telling you: get an amazon kindle. It has been the solution to many of my book-storing problems!

19chellerystick
Jul 10, 2009, 7:05pm

Seems like a lot of the books I am looking for aren't available on the Kindle. Ironic, given that my specialty is human-computer interaction....

We are doing that packing up to move process right now. Probably around 2-3k books between the two of us. We've ordered 80 of the "book boxes" from UHaul and we've also sent off hundreds of books to the used book shops and thrift stores. *sigh*

20KevinCK
Jul 10, 2009, 7:24pm

Just make sure not to pack book boxes with more than 30 or so books. My wife - who was quite new to packing - did that with quite a few of the book boxes last time we moved. No wonder I wanted to give many away after that!

21dancingstarfish
Jul 10, 2009, 8:24pm

Yea I always do 1/2 books 1/2 clothing, so that no one dies when they try to pick up my boxes. If only books were as light as feathers.

22Booksloth
Jul 11, 2009, 5:57am

#18 I can see how a Kindle can save you buying new books (leaving aside my many problems with the things) but you surely can't throw out the books you already have? Can you?

23KevinCK
Jul 11, 2009, 8:07am

I gave many of mine away to a local community college. I simply wasn't referring back to them; I had them only because I couldn't bare to part with them. It wasn't practical.

I have had absolutely zero problem with my kindle. I love the device. What problems are you referring to?

24Booksloth
Jul 11, 2009, 9:20am

#23 I didn't mean technical problems with the machine itself - I meant the kind of problems I have getting my head around reading books from a screen. Just a personal thing.

25KevinCK
Jul 11, 2009, 11:26am

Actually, I have let several people with that reservation use my kindle and within about 10 minutes, each of them says that they basically forget that they are reading from a screen. I can relate: after a few days with my kindle, I felt awkward reading from a 'regular' book.

You really should try it.

26Booksloth
Editado: Jul 11, 2009, 1:24pm

I'm sure I'd get used to it in the end, as with most things. I can certainly see advantages for when I go on holiday or my forthcoming visit to hospital - anything to save me hauling dozens of books around. It's just that every time I think about it, I also think of all the real books I could buy with that £200.

Another advantage I've just thought of, though. No need for my husband to know how many books I buy. Hmmmm - starting to look quite handy.

ETA - I see from your profile that your reading preferences include a lot of academic and non-fiction stuff. Do you ever have trouble getting these in e-format?

27KevinCK
Jul 11, 2009, 1:46pm

Actually and suprisingly, no. I would say that 13 out of every 15 books I look into buying are available for the kindle, and generally at a lesser price than I'd pay buying a (new) hardcopy. Kilndle has tried to jack prices of books for the kindle a little (most started out as 9.999 and have gone to around 13 or so), but the kindle price always stays below the price of retail.

The great thing is convenience: I can access amazon.com from my device, order a book, and have it downloaded in about 1 minute. Also, if I am unsure of a book, I can download a sample (generally the introduction) for free.

I cannot reccomend the device strongly enough. My recco would be to go to amazon, do a few searches, and see how many of the books you would buy are available for kindle format. I'm sure that most will be.

I have just started a thread for the "graduate students" group about ereaders. I want to see what others' experience with them has been. I love mine.

28dancingstarfish
Jul 11, 2009, 4:45pm

I actually don't have a kindle, but I have the kindle application for my ipod touch and I had a lot of reservations at first especially since my ipod is pretty tiny in comparison to the kindle or a real book.

In the end though, after a few pages you forget what you're reading from and just enjoy the book. AND they can be downloaded anywhere anytime instantly, which is a huge perk. I still buy books (went on a borders spree and bought 6 today!) but I also buy books on the kindle app. I don't see why you can't do both :)

29KevinCK
Jul 11, 2009, 4:49pm

#28: How do you find the screen to "read" on the ipod touch? One of the things I love about the kindle is that it isn't backlit like a computer screen, and thus, is much like reading a regular book? So, how is the ipod in terms of reading?

BTW: I started a new thread in the "graduate students" group about "eReaders". We might want to bring the discussion over there so as not to sidetrack this one.

30dancingstarfish
Jul 11, 2009, 4:55pm

switched over :)

31medievalmama
Jul 13, 2009, 5:33pm

I am really sick of hauling around bags and boxes of books for my dissertation, but have not been able to find most of what I need on kindle -- I only wish!

32Sniv
Jul 13, 2009, 9:23pm

So, a lot of conversation has happened since my last response, but to answer you, Kevin, yeah. I check out books quite frequently from the library. However, I'm in the habit of making margin notations while I read, so I prefer to read copies I own. It's also helpful to have books already on hand when I'm writing up my research. Inevitably, when I'm piecing the research puzzle together, something I read a few years ago as side reading will becomes a central example in the present project.

But like you said, it's a cost-benefits issue. For me, the benefit of having what I need on hand in my home library outweighs the inconvenience of moving boxes of books. I also do a fair amount of rereading.

And of course, there are those hard to find pieces that I always snatch up and keep (i.e. accompanying exhibition books), even if I'm not sure I'll need it anytime soon.

33KevinCK
Jul 16, 2009, 7:19pm

Well, the inevitable has happened! I gave away quite a few of my books before my wife and I moved, and lo and behold: there are about 4 of them that I think would have been good resources for a perspective paper coming up in the fall!

I remind myself that on cost/benefit analysis, I could not have known which books would be useful in advance, and that keeping them all "just in case" was not a realistic option. But I really do wish that I had such forethought. It would make things a lot easier.

Now, I have to get the books from the U of Delaware library, and try to remember where the relevant sections are (as I don't have my highlights.)

UGGH!

34VivalaErin
Nov 2, 2009, 11:20am

My roommates are always giving me grief about the amount of books in my bedroom. I have built-in shelves that are full and another bookshelf that was overflowing as soon as it was put together.

Yes, it was a pain to move all the books, and next time it will be even worse because I've at least doubled my collection! But I can't imagine not having my books! I like not knowing what to read because I have so many options, and as an English major I feel like it is completely acceptable to have books for every possible situation!

The only reason I haven't added to my piles lately is because I'm broke -- it has nothing to do with this ridiculous notion that there is such a thing as "too many books!"