I realized that in re-reading my last post I did not tell the whole story, and wanted to add a quick follow up to say where I am still struggling.
I still have two collections/addictions that I am trying to come to terms with (1) books, and (2) board games (I’ll post on this soon). My “book problem” started 30 years ago when I found that some books were really, really good – ones I wanted to read over again, or that impacted me in some way. Then I became a student – got more great books (you are required to buy books as a student). Then I became a teacher – collected and hoarded even more books with the “I’ll use them in my job” excuse. Then I wrote a couple books for teachers and students using technology – need to do research and build up a library. Then I went to grad school and became a school district technology administrator – say no more. Then came Amazon.com in 1995 which really didn’t help – and yes I was one of their first and best customers.
My wife has routinely tried to help me fight my habit, but then she went to school and became a teacher and developed her own habit (though it pales in comparison). You know you have a problem when you help all your friends move into their new place, and realize what a paltry collection of books they own – do these people read? People who are smarter and wiser than you have only a small fraction of the books have only a fraction of the books you have accumulated? Sure you can find an occasional addict who has more books (mostly cheap paperbacks), but you know something is amiss.
It’s been 10 years now since I started cutting back – first making sure it was a “zero-sum game” – then trying to reduce. My books were never inventoried, though I know there were hundreds and hundreds (maybe more). In one summer I purged >1/3 of them with relative ease and since have probably removed another 1/3 of the orignal stock. Used bookstores will only buy so many – and then want to give you “trade credit” (to keep you hooked), many were "gifted", some people "hit the jackpot" at several garage sales, and our local library is now well stocked in education and technology titles (and mysteries, and fiction, inspirational books, science fiction, non-fiction, action, cooking, etc.)
I went to the “if I can easily get it from the local library it shouldn’t be in my library” rule (with limited “veto” authority). Then on to the “if I can’t see (and plan) to read or use this book in the foreseeable future it should not be in my library” rule which has been even more helpful. I am down to my last 15-20 U-Haul book boxes and am getting close to the end of the tunnel. Though this is the really hard part. These are books that have “survived” many previous cullings and therefore have built-in excuses – ones I’ve boxed up and physically moved several times without discarding them.
One of my main problems here is three of the boxes are old “Astounding/Analog” magazines from the 1940s-50s with some of the classic “pulp” serials from people like E.E. “Doc” Smith, Van Vogt, Heinlein, Asimov and del Rey. This is kind of a “collection within a collection” which breaks all my new rules for simplifying and reducing – but it is so hard to let go. It is classic sci-fi, and even history, all in one. So many of their ideas have become realities, many more have not. I am leaving these boxes for last, as these are not replaceable once I decide to give them up. I wonder when the magazines are out of copyright? Maybe they will show up in digital form.
My other problem is two full boxes of "old books" – mostly pre 1900 – mostly science or math related. These I have collected over the years and include science that has been disproven or become out-of-date (the "ether" between the planets, planets in the solar system, number of elements, nature of the atom, electricity and magnetism etc.). Much of the science and math hasn't changed – Newtonian Mechanics, Euclidean Geometry, etc. But old books, to me, are so cool – history and science. I have old maps that don't even have all the states, don't have Israel (just Palestine), and so many other changes through the last century. But, I haven't opened these books in many years (if at all for more than a few minutes), so why am I keeping them?
What I have now is a defined book storage space where all my books need to fit. It includes a generous amount of space in a whole-wall entertainment center in the basement, one long shelf over my computer, and some limited space in the workshop/laundry room. But once this space is occupied the rest of the books need to go. I have about a month to complete the task, but fall comes quickly and gets busy fast. I may have a “fire sale” soon if you are interested – I’ll post on it here.