Keeping book clutter off the bookshelf

I’m possibly taking my April resolution for a Super Simple Month a bit too seriously. Instead of starting to read new books, I’m re-reading a few of my favorites — they’re books I love, books that entertain, as well as books that cause me to examine my view of the world. They’re also books that are so complex I fear I may have missed some insights the first time I read them.

I’m currently re-reading Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Murakami is a gifted storyteller and I’ve wanted to re-read this mystery since I made it through the first time. However, the book lingered for many years on my bookshelf, and it was starting to become a “look-how-cool-I-am” book (one that sits on your shelf for the sole purpose of impressing other people, not because you’ll actually read it again).

When we were packing up books for our move, I committed to getting rid of all of my books that fell into the “look-how-cool-I-am” category. I thought I had been good at keeping these books off my shelves, but I certainly found a number of them when I was sorting titles. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was one that I initially put in the Donation pile because I hadn’t re-read it like I had thought I would. After a few minutes in the Donation pile, though, I moved it to the Keep pile and gave myself three months to re-read it. I wrote on June 1 in my calendar to donate it if it wasn’t re-read. I did this with three titles, all of which I hope to re-read this month before donating them to our library’s annual book sale.

When packing up our bookshelves, these are the standards I used for deciding what moved and what didn’t:


  1. Current reference books. These are books that are as up-to-date as possible and are more accurate or specific than what you might find online. For example, I kept two dictionaries — one Scrabble dictionary (because it’s nice to have a copy on the table during game play) and one illustrated French dictionary for my son (he’s learning French so he can speak with my husband’s family). I got rid of our other dictionaries since finding words online is easier than retrieving a book off the shelf.
  2. Regularly accessed cookbooks. Technically, these are reference books, but I think they deserve a mention independently. If you use the cookbook at least once a month, I think it’s a good book to keep. If you use it less than that, you might want to consider giving it away.
  3. Books you plan to read. My rule of thumb is that I can only have four months of future reading material in the house. Any more than that, and the books start overwhelming the bookcase. I read four to eight books a month, so for me that means only 20 or 30 to-read books on the bookshelf at a time. I have a Kindle, so I also count my Kindle books in this number, even though they don’t take up physical space.
  4. Books you have scheduled time to re-read. If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not really to going happen. Keep only the books you will actually re-read, and then get rid of them.
  5. Books of great sentimental or financial value. Maybe the book is a first edition and it’s signed by the author? Maybe it was the first book you ever read after you learned to read? Keep only those, however, that would break your heart to lose. A copy of The Scarlet Letter that you bought to read for an English class in high school can go (especially if you hated it). Keep the copy of the book that changed your life.
  6. If you have children, books for children. It’s easy for kids to work on their reading skills when they have many options for reading materials.

Donate, Recycle, or Toss

  1. Damaged books. If a book is damaged and it’s not worth salvaging, get rid of it. Toss it if it’s covered in mold/mildew, and put it in the recycling bin if it’s only structurally damaged.
  2. Books you’ll never read/re-read. Maybe you purchased the book thinking you should read it, but never got around to it. If you know deep down that you’ll never read it (or re-read it), get rid of it.
  3. Look-how-cool-I-am books. Bookshelves are for storing reference books, books of great value to you, and books you plan to read. Bookshelves are not for trying to impress other people. If you want to impress other people, get a trophy case.

We ended up moving 17 boxes of books, and 6 of those boxes were full of my son’s books. For a bibliophile like me, I felt like I did a decent job of getting rid of all (or at least most of) the clutter. Could your bookshelves use a good review? What standards do you use to decide what stays and what goes? If you plan to re-read a book, do you have a due date set on your calendar? Do you have more books on your to-read shelf than you could possibly read this year (or in your lifetime)? Can you stop buying books until you’ve worked through your to-read list?

107 Comments for “Keeping book clutter off the bookshelf”

  1. posted by Dane on is a great way to keep your old books (in good condition) in circulation – and to try out books you haven’t yet read at no cost to you.

  2. posted by Ros on

    I thought I’d done pretty well recently when I got rid of over 100 books. But then I came across our graphic novels…

    For some reason they have more emotional connection plus they can be harder to get hold of in the library if/ when I want to reread.

  3. posted by Kelly on

    I used to have over 2,500 books in my house, and I’ve pared it down to two bookcases of “keepers” (mostly reference and my art-related books) and a bookcase of “to be read/re-read” and books in my recycling library. I’ve got a garage sale next month, so I’ve set myself the goal of going through the TBR/re-read books by the end of the month and culling any that I don’t think I’ll actually read. I’m also planning to get rid of nearly all my cookbooks, as I think I only use two of them.

    I don’t buy too many books anymore… I try to get them from the library or Paperbackswap or Booksfree. I can’t seem to stop getting more books because I never know what I’ll feel like reading on any given day, so I’ve got about 60 books in my TBR pile. There might be 15 or 20 that I probably won’t ever get around to reading.

    It would be nice if I could get my husband to cull his collection, but he’s a packrat and hates to give anything up. But I’ve made a rule that all his “stuff” needs to stay in his man cave, and I just don’t go in there. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. posted by Anne on

    Scan your books – it’s easy (especially with paperbacks). Just slice off the spine with a knife and metal ruler, which takes about two minutes, then feed through your ScanSnap and OCR. They are as clear and easy to read on the iPad as any downloaded ebook, you can take your book collection anywhere, free up all that shelf space, and keep your books backed up offsite. File size is around 20 to 30 mb per book, which in this day and age is hardly a drain on storage space. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I can’t help thinking anyone who prefers a shelf full of books over this can’t be a true unclutterer.

  5. posted by Heather on

    Great article. I love books. I will NEVER EVER use/buy/read an electronic book as long as i live.

    So hold up there anne… your advice to “Just slice off the spine with a knife and metal ruler” is pure blasphemy x infinity. Books are sacred!

    Many of us are NOT obsessed/driven by this worldwide obsession to worship at this “everything must be electronic or nothing” altar (thankfully).

  6. posted by Steve on

    Heather I agree with you on several points. However I too swore I would never read an eBook, but after trying a few…I gotta tell ya..they are not so bad afterall. Not saying I would ever give up my real books, but I do think eBooks do have their place and they are really convenient.

    It has been my experience that scanned books with OCR have a lot of glitches in words that are misread by the computer and appear as gibberish.

  7. posted by Honkytonkfoodie on

    I am so, so guilty of the Look-how-cool-I-am book retainage. Having prided myself on being a diverse reader, coupled with a love for random tidbits, I always get a thrill when someone asks about a book on my shelf. Also, it is rare I actually purchase a book (versus borrowing from the library), so it really is a personality reflection when I own a title. It has gotten better since I realize that is why I was keeping some books but it’s high time for another sweep. Thanks for calling me out!

  8. posted by Linda on

    Very timely article. Our library collects books for their used book sale during May, so I’ve been working on this decluttering project for a few months now.

    My categories of keepers:

    Children’s picture books with beautiful illustrations. Right now we have no grandchildren, but these books were a big investment and I bought them because I love the artwork. They’re on a top shelf of a storage closet out of the way, and in a few years I’ll be glad I saved them.

    Books of short stories or essays (Erma Bombeck, Robert Fulghum, etc.) I don’t have too many of these, and they go on a shelf in out guest room so that overnight guests have some handy nearby reading material, if needed.

    Books that have had an impact on me or that I think I might re-read. Again, not too many. I don’t put a time limit on the re-read, but I look at them and re-assess on a periodic basis.

    My field guides. I keep them where I can grab them if I see an unusual bird in the yard.

    My German language books. I’ve been learning German for about 5 years now, since my daughter moved there. They occupy one small bookshelf in my study area and they’re part of my self-directed, if unstructured, study.

    I buy all my light reading from a different library book sale (better selection than my own library… higher income community) that’s held twice a year. So I have to think 6-month time-frame. I have a very small bookshelf next to my bed where these titles live. I can only buy as many as will fit there. I have recently decided I need to take a list of what I have when I go to the sale, since the last time I bought a title I was already holding to read.

    Cookbooks. I plan to keep “The Joy of Cooking” since it’s a great reference. Most of the others are going to go. I’m taking them off the shelf one at a time, going through them methodically, and scanning the recipes I think I might try. Then they’re gone.

    I will never say never to an e-reader, but I can say I will never slit the spine of an intact book. I might consider scanning one before throwing it away if it’s badly damaged, but books are “sacred” as a reader above noted.

  9. posted by Anne on

    @Heather. Sorry if I seemed harsh but I do think my opinion is equally valid: So in your view my books are better off yellowing, gathering dust, too heavy to travel with, and prone to physical damage than beautifully preserved forever and readable on a gorgeous piece of technology? True book lovers should adore the fact that we are entering the age of the ebook. I’ve never understood this books-are-sacred, I-love-the-smell-of-old-library-books mumbo jumbo. I think some people are just not cut out to be unclutterers (nothing wrong with that but maybe this website isn’t for you) and book hoarders definitely aren’t.

  10. posted by bunny on

    i agree with you heather. books should not be sliced and diced. if you want the book to be digital, buy the e-book. give your unwanted books to a hospital or shelter. don’t cut up a book that many other people can enjoy just because you don’t want the ‘clutter’. a well-organized bookcase can be beautiful and orderly.

    i have a very small house (under 1000 s.f.) but i have the room for a 2’x6 1/2′ tall bookcase. it holds my most favorite books (fiction and reference) that i can’t bear to part with. i have pared down quite a bit over the last few years, but the books that my bookcase holds are truly precious to me. they are like old friends and i could never cut them up!

    i have a nook and i borrow e-books from an online library (overdrive media console) every other week or so. i read these in addition to the ones on my shelf, and the ones i borrow from my local library. digital books have their value, but they will never replace the feeling i have while paging through a great book.

  11. posted by Anne on

    And @ Steve, my OCRed books are scanned images, so what you see is the same as on the printed page, but with the OCR “overlaid”. Sometimes there are a few mistakes in the OCR but I’d say 95% is good enough for searching and I don’t worry about the small errors.

  12. posted by Ricardo Tavares on

    That was the hardest thing I ever did… I had 3200 library that I had to unclutter and when I moving to another state was just what I needed to trigger the process.

    For almost a year I scan and got rid of old/outdated computer books, various handbooks, fiction books, bestsellers novels, old magazines that I never read twice and so on.

    In the process I bought 2 ebook readers (Kindle) and an Computer tablet (iPad) and started using for work reference material, magazines and the like.

    After almost 2 years I am down to 200 art books that are my pride colection!

    I still go to the bookstores to select books and I miss greatly the smell of the new books, but there is no going back, soon it will be a memory just like going shopping with a friend for a vynil record with “that” radio song…

  13. posted by Shalin on

    Great, great post! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. posted by Leigh Ann on

    I have thousands of books that are stored and cared for by a team of dedicated people. I’m generous and don’t mind sharing my collection. I keep my store of books offsite so they don’t clutter my home. They’re at this place I call the “Library”.

  15. posted by Susan on

    Books aren’t clutter. When my husband (who hates clutter and has even achieved the elusive paper-free office state) and I got together, I told him that three items were not negotiable — my cat, my plants and my books. I have to be dragged to buy shoes but my several thousand books are an important part of what I consider “home” and a great source of every-day happiness. I like the look of them, the feel of them and the memories they hold.

  16. posted by Allison on

    I would add one category to the keeper list: books that are beautiful. I have a small stack of books with beautiful spines and gold-leafed lettering that are purely decorative. I think books can be art as well as used for reading.

  17. posted by Jen on

    Re: cookbooks – I think that Erin’s rule of thumb is pretty reasonable for when to keep a cookbook. But I think that even if you’re only accessing a book once a month, it’s likely that it’s for the same couple of recipes. At least, that’s how it is for me, I’d have a whole book full of a couple hundred recipes and I’d only ever use 3 of them. So I started photocopying the couple that I used (this works great for cookbooks I get from the library too!). I put the copied pages in sheet protectors in a binder where I keep the miscellaneous recipes that I get from various websites, magazines, etc. I try to go through it once or twice a year to get rid or recipes I’m never going to make again. I do keep some cookbooks, like ones that have several recipes that I think I’ll use, or maybe if they have really great photography. Or some that have a lot of cooking tips or theory along with the recipes. But I don’t have a lot of space for them, so I limit myself to roughly 24″ of linear space on my counter for them. My recipe binder is my most used book by far and allowed me to get rid of many other books.

  18. posted by Tania on


    How does it save with clutter when it would take several months of strewn, ripped apart books everywhere to scan several thousand books? Seems like pairing down, management and resilience. I don’t have the space to rip apart book after book after book. Plus, the books then have no value. Can’t really give them to a donation center or sell them as they’re ripped to pieces. You also can’t duplicate the feel of books with the digital age. If you don’t have an e-reader, you’ve got to sit at a laptop all day to read a book. That’s kinda silly in itself and doesn’t support a healthy computer if you’ve got a few hundred or thousands books to store.

  19. posted by Anna N. on

    There are advantages to both ebooks and physical books. However, an ebook is no more “forever” than a physical book. The file can be lost or deleted or corrupted and one day it will be obsolete and unreadable.

  20. posted by LoriBeth on

    I only keep books that I’ll read more than once. I have three shelves full on my bookcase. Luckily, my sister-in-law has the same taste in books that I do, and we swap out a box of books every few months or so that we’ve got at secondhand book stores, thrift stores, etc. I also use the library quite a bit, but they seem to have more of the romance variety of novels, which is definitely not my cup of tea.

  21. posted by Anne on

    @Anna N. As long as you keep multiple backups of your files, they will be forever. And trust me, PDF files will be readable forever. I would bet a lot of money on that.

    And could I just add: If you can afford to buy the book, please don’t borrow it from the library. You’re hurting the author by denying them the full revenue for their work, and you’re stopping a truly poor person from having access to the book while you borrow it. If you’re worried about clutter, get the ebook. In Japan buying second-hand or borrowing when you have the money to buy is considered bad form, and I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that.

  22. posted by Melanie on

    The ideas in a book may be sacred, but the book itself is not. The book is just a means to convey the ideas and that can be done equally well via paper or electronics (to name just two).

    I like this forum because it is a way to share ideas. If an idea doesn’t work for you, then don’t use it. But do we have to resort to namecalling?

  23. posted by christyb on


    Thank you for your comment (“books aren’t clutter”); you said exactly what I wanted to say. I have an organized home, don’t hoard, love peace of open space, but my books are what make my home my home. We homeschool, and my daughter has probably read 1/3 of our 9 bookshelves of children’s and adult literature and non-fiction, and she loves re-reading. I love wandering in my library area and picking something I love or loved off a shelf and just reading a few pages here and there, or sometimes a whole book. I’d love an e-reader, but for now, my books make me happy and make our home what it is. Great article for those who Want to purge, however!

  24. posted by lafou on

    Prison Book Program in Quincy Mass is a good place to donate. If you ship “Media Rate” via the US Post Office it does not cost too much.

  25. posted by almondwine on

    A well-stocked bookshelf IS a trophy case.

  26. posted by heather on

    I’ve been working on thinning out my shelves for a couple of years now. I’m not there yet, but here’s how I did it:

  27. posted by mugwump on

    Aha, @almondwine,I was just going to say something similar. I have about two shelves of books that are my trophys. They date from a day when I studied two or subjects intensively, an important part of my past that I may or may not get back to. In the meantime, they trigger good memories and look good on my shelf. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  28. posted by Carol on

    @ Anne

    I definitely think some of your comments are a bit harsh. Specifically your reply to Heather when you said, “I think some people are just not cut out to be unclutterers (nothing wrong with that but maybe this website isnโ€™t for you) and book hoarders definitely arenโ€™t.”

    Uncluttering isn’t about getting rid of everything you own, or even getting rid of all your books. It’s about getting of things you don’t use or enjoy. If someone enjoys collecting books it doesn’t mean they can’t be an unclutterer or that this website isn’t for them. Just look at how many boxes of books Erin said she moved.

    That being said, if you or anyone else doesn’t mind slicing up books and scanning them, then go for it. The thought makes me cringe but then again advice isn’t always a “one size fits all” sort of thing.

    I used to save every book I ever read, even the ones I hated. Part of it was being a compulsive hoarder raised by complusive hoarders who taught me that I couldn’t let go of anything. Somewhere along the way I decided I hated dusting and the best way to avoid that chore was simply to have less to dust. So I decided to limit myself to one bookshelf. In theory it sounded great, but it reality it didn’t work because I really need one for ficton and one for non-fiction. Now I’m at a two bookshelf limit with my non-ficton bookshelf being a shorter one. I have books stacked every which way on them too.

    While I still need to pare down my library, this really does help me think about which books I really want to keep. I also worked at a public library and have to frequently remind myself that new books can be checked out and read before I decide to purchase them, if I choose to own them. Old books can be reread too without taking up space in my home and all the old books I just never got around to reading are in the library too should I ever decide to make time for them. What stays on my shelf is stuff I have reread on want to reread or ones I love and can’t bear to part with.

  29. posted by amarie on

    @Anne Most of the books I own came as a result of discovering authors and titles from the library. Thanks to random shelf browsing and helpful librarians several authors that I would not have known about otherwise can count me as a loyal fan eager to buy their next book.

    I really only buy used books if the title is out of print, but many, many people enjoy buying and selling in the secondhand market. This seems to be one of the main issues in fact with ebooks that try to limit this use without a truly good reason. And the argument for full revenue doesn’t really work:

  30. posted by Jen on

    Oh, Anne, your thoughts on library usage literally caused me to facepalm. Viewing libraries as merely a charitable service for the poor is a horribly narrow view that will only damage these institutions further. And who exactly are the “truly poor” who might borrow books without shame? If I feel that the money I save by using the library could be put to better use somewhere else in my life, who are you to judge me for that?
    Also, what’s with the “true unclutterer” talk? We’re not the chosen people here. Decluttering your life doesn’t give you license to look down your nose at others.

  31. posted by Erin Doland on

    A couple of thoughts …

    As an author, I LOVE when libraries buy my book. They buy multiple copies, and they buy replacements when copies get abused or lost. People who check out my book from a library aren’t the same people who would necessarily buy my book, so my publisher and I aren’t losing anything. (It’s not a poor-vs-wealthy thing, either … there are just some people who are library people and some people who aren’t.) And, sometimes, when people check my book out at the library they end up deciding to buy it. Libraries are AWESOME for authors. Libraries get my book into more people’s hands, which means more people can be helped to find some order in their lives if they want it.

    Also, if I tore the spine off my signed first edition of Vonnegut’s CAT’S CRADLE, it would go from being worth a few hundred bucks to being worth zero. I’m in favor of e-books (I have a Kindle), but electronic isn’t always appropriate. I have a pretty massive signed book collection, and I wouldn’t dare destroy these books.

    Pop-up books also can’t be scanned. They’re completely pointless electronically.

    I don’t know if it’s productive to declare “if you don’t do X you’re not an unclutterer.” An unclutterer is someone who chooses to get rid of the distractions that get in the way of the life you desire. Only you know what is a distraction for you and what is best for you. The advice I’m giving here is based on what worked for me and is for anyone who might benefit from these viewpoints. I think it’s great to share alternate viewpoints, as these differences speak to other readers. However, I think we should try to refrain from saying there is just one way and only one way. There isn’t. Share your experiences with the intent of helping, not judging others. I forget this from time-to-time, too … I’m certainly FAR from perfect at remembering this … but let’s all try to help each other going forward …

  32. posted by Alix on

    @ Anne: It may be “poor form” in Japan to borrow books that one can afford, but it isn’t in the U.S. As mentioned above, the library is a service for all, not just the poor. And we’d certainly all run out of money quickly if we bought every book we wanted. Some books I know I’ll just want to skim through — why add it to my collection permanently? Also, I’ve borrowed dozens, if not hundreds, of books that were last borrowed *years* before, so I’m hardly swiping the volume from someone else. The beauty of the library is that, eventually, everyone gets a chance to read what’s available. (People who don’t return books — now *that’s* a problem.)

    Also, hoarding is the inability to throw out anything, regardless of that item’s condition or lack of worth. A well-used personal library is NOT hoarding. Neither, for that matter, is a closet filled with 50 pairs of shoes, if they’re all worn and enjoyed. Clutter is anything that gets in the way of you living the life you want to lead; it’s not simply having less than a certain number of possessions.

  33. posted by Alice on

    These standards seem a little rigid to me, if you’re the kind of person who reads a lot and likes books. I combat book clutter but not buying more bookcases. If my books don’t fit on the ones I have, well, then it’s time to get rid of whichever ones I want to keep the least, not based on what purpose they serve or category they fit into.

  34. posted by DawnF on

    I honestly could not imagine slicing up a book for the purpose of scanning – I just could NOT do it. Slicing. Up. A. Book. ~ It just makes me so sad and sick.

    If you don’t cherish the book enough to keep it, read and/or share it, then why do you think you’d ever spend the time staring at a screen reading the scanned version of it?!?!?! Just let the book go to a new home.

    Another place for donation of books is your church library or your school library. My son’s current teacher mentioned that she LOVES to get children’s and young reader’s books for her classroom for the kids to borrow and if they are duplicates or not age appropriate she gives them to other teachers within the school.

    We have a Half-Price Books bookstore in town that buys books, magazines, records, CDs, DVD movies, PC games, video games, etc. and pays cash on the spot.

    Oh, please readers – don’t destroy your books. Please.

  35. posted by TulsaTV on

    Books as objects have the virtue of being fairly uniform in size, easy to display and attractive. But ‘too much of a good thing’ is easily achievable.

    A decade or so ago, I purged books:
    1. I didn’t like or care about rereading.
    2. Were in the Look-how-cool-I-am category, but either not read or not liked by me.
    3. Were outdated reference books.

    I kept books:
    1. That I reread occasionally, including not particularly cool ones.
    2. By favorite authors.
    3. Have some meaning to me as an object.
    4. Are not readily available.

    I did keep my old math textbooks, partly as trophies and partly to remind myself that I knew all that stuff at one time.

    When you purge, you have to accept that you might make a mistake or two. But for the few mistakes I made, I was able to replace the book from a book fair or used book store.

    The internet makes many references totally unnecessary. It’s almost always easier to look something up online. I couldn’t let go of my old unabridged dictionary, though it’s rarely used these days.

    I bought a refurbished Nook e-reader a few months ago. I found it liberating, since I didn’t need to acquire another physical object, or go to the library. For travel, you just can’t beat it. I think the flow can be better than a physical book, since you just push a button to turn the page. Some books are a bit heavy to handle for long periods, too. I don’t share the nostalgia for the smell of books, new or musty.

    By the time DVDs came along, I knew that I didn’t need to acquire many of them. For one thing, a new technology is always coming along. For another, how often do I need to see even my favorite movies?

  36. posted by TulsaTV on

    P.s., I’m WAY too lazy to spend time slicing up books and scanning them. If your time is worth anything to you, just buy the ebook and be done with it.

  37. posted by Carolyn on

    Great post, great guidelines. We’ve been decluttering books for about 3 years. Very slowly boxes of books have been rehomed. I found that a bare spot on the shelf really bothered me — part of my “identity” gone! It took awhile to adjust … and then find more to donate.

  38. posted by TulsaTV on

    P.p.s., Here is a great way to keep track of what you’ve read and have a virtual bookshelf:

  39. posted by Jenny on

    One more category of books that can go: how-to books that were bought for a specific purpose that has been achieved (or abandoned). Diet books after you’ve lost the weight. “A Beginners Guide to Growing Roses” when you now have a garden that rivals Versailles. “1001 Ways to Cook Hamburger” when you’ve gone vegan.

    Re libraries, I’ve sometimes gone out and bought my own copies of books that I originally checked out of the library and fell in love with. If not for the library I might never have known that the book or author existed. Libraries are definitely not just for poor people. They are for information lovers and readers of all types.

  40. posted by chacha1 on

    I keep a small shelf of To Be Read, and no more than a dozen TBR’s on my Kindle. I don’t like having unfinished business. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have a large collection of signed books. Most of them will be with me for life though I have, over the past three years, uncluttered several authors from the collection.

    I have another large collection of art + architecture + design books. I uncluttered about three cartons’ worth last year, by using the high-quality color scanners at my office to save the images that most spoke to me. I then traded in the no-longer-wanted books for two or three that I had been coveting.

    I have a large collection of science fiction (mostly Star Trek), much of which is out of print. I uncluttered a carton full of OS titles last year that are now available on Kindle. I won’t, however, be uncluttering the hardcover “book club editions” of some of the best early titles, because I like reading in hardcover when I can.

    I also have a collection of romance fiction, much of which is out of print. I uncluttered most of my Georgette Heyers last year since they are now available on Kindle.

    From my Y2K high point of over 2000 books I think I am down to close to 1000. I love my books, and I love MANY of them as physical objects, but I don’t want my home overrun by them as it used to be – books can, indeed, be clutter.

    Thanks to the Kindle, I can continue reading at the same pace I do now for the rest of my life and my collection will never outgrow my space.

    I would never cut up a book and scan it. If I love it, I will keep it in its physical form unless and until available on Kindle, or forever if it’s signed or otherwise a rare copy. If I don’t love it, I’ll give it away.

  41. posted by Anne on

    I’ve just read the comments and I apologise if I came across as harsh and judgmental and I do take on board Erin’s comments about not being prescriptive. However, I find it interesting that people object so passionately to the idea of cutting up books and scanning them. I feel a bit like I’m in an alternate reality, where the perfect solution for book-lovers and unclutterers with limited space is condemned as sacrilege. When I look at my book collection, all beautifully scanned on my computer, I am filled with pride. It’s a sight to behold: I have lots of rare and out of print books that were yellowing and falling apart that are now fully searchable and I can now take anywhere and will never disintegrate. What’s not to like about that? I keep a few special hardback books but that’s it. So people, please don’t let the naysayers discourage you from scanning like me.

    As for my comments about libraries, an author friend of mine checked the online library catalogues and saw that an awful lot of people were borrowing her books, yet hardly anyone was buying them. If only some of those people had thought about the grander scheme of things and not about saving a little bit of money, she would have made a much better living. But of course there are lots of circumstances where libraries are a great solution.

  42. posted by Carol on

    I just another thought on this subject that I’d like to share.

    One of my favorite authors is Harlan Ellison. He’s one of the authors I’d love to keep on my bookshelf. Sadly however, many of his books are out of print. If it wasn’t for used book sellers and the kind readers who sell or trade their unwanted books I wouldn’t be able to read, much less own, his works. I’ve found that because he isn’t the most current or popular science fiction author around these days, many libraries do not have a good selection of his books if they have any at all. Not to mention that with his books being out of print, if the library copies are damaged or stolen they can’t be replaced. The thought of someone slicing copies of his books to scan and then toss seems a bit selfish in that case.

  43. posted by Leslie on

    I love my books. I have definitely cut back on how many I actually buy – I rarely buy a book now unless I’ve already read it and know it’s one I will read again. To me, it’s a waste of money to buy a book I know I’ll only read once and then give it away, but I know many people do consume books that way and that’s certainly their choice.

    I don’t like e-books. My parents bought me an e-reader for Christmas one year, and I have tried to use it but I just don’t like it. I suspect the only thing that will get me to actually buy e-books is if there’s a book I really, really want that’s only published that way. So actually, in my uncluttered world, I should probably get rid of the e-reader that’s gathering dust in a drawer. ๐Ÿ™‚

  44. posted by Leslie on

    Ooh, and another recommendation for keeping track of your reading – I love it because of the visual representation of books on the shelf. (It has other great features as well, but the visual component is what made me choose it over some other online tools.)

  45. posted by Gal @ Equally Happy on

    I used to have three large bookselves of books. Most of them I would never read. I downsized to about 3 shelves of books I absolutely love and want to show my kids one day. The rest I sold, gave away or replaced with a digital version.

    By the way, getting the Kindle app for my iPhone was the best decision ever. I now have my books with me at all times which has dramatically increased my reading.

  46. posted by TulsaTV on

    Another angle on the book-slicing topic:

    I have a lot of LP records. Like books, they are easy to store and attractive. As with my books, I purged some of them, but not really a large percentage.

    Favorite records, I went through a “hot” period with: I played it a lot, sometimes for years. Eventually, it went into a relatively dormant status. I might pull it out and play it every year or less frequently. I wouldn’t want to get rid of it.

    But I also wouldn’t want to re-buy it as a CD or go to the trouble of digitizing it. The very act of listening to the record to digitize it would satisfy my need to hear it for possibly years.

    Those records are pretty much burned into my brain. I simply wouldn’t listen to it often enough in digital form to make the trouble worth my while. OK, I did re-buy a few, but not many.

    Can books be looked at the same way?

  47. posted by Christine on

    @Anne – “…I have lots of rare and out of print books that were yellowing and falling apart that are now fully searchable and I can now take anywhere and will never disintegrate.”

    ^I love that. I understand where you are coming from because I am a huge music fanatic and thought I would never want an iPod. Then I got one, and the fact that I can bring all of my music with me everywhere I go is something I love. I still buy CDs of my favorite artists, but the iPod makes things convenient. I like when technology is used as a tool, not a replacement, for media.

    As far as books go… I love to read. However, I only have a very small collection of books that I will read again and again so my book shelf consists of about 25 books. I have an eReader because my uncle decided he didn’t want his and gave it to me. I wonder if, for someone like me, it is a valuable tool considering I only reread a small selection of books.

  48. posted by ael on

    Among other aspects of my job, I maintain a digital documentation archive; electronic media is far from permanent, and anyone entrusting their media libraries purely to digital while destroying or getting rid of their physical originals should look into several methods of backup, not just redundant backup in the house, but also offsite backup.

    I don’t have a strong passion for books themselves over digital copies, it’s more a series of practical matters. The books I already own are free, and eBooks are expensive (there’s -NO- way that I would waste my time dismantling and scanning a book when I could just pull it off the shelf and enjoy). I also haven’t yet found a reader that supports my reading style, when I read with a reader, I always read slower, generally to the point where I am frustrated by the awkwardness of it. In general, I find the physical layout of books to be better for absorbing the text, whether I’m reading fast or slow. Books don’t require batteries, and are pretty durable which is good since I am not a particularly careful person. If I lose one on the bus, it’s generally not a big deal to replace it. I also love to loan my books, it’s one of my joys, sharing things I enjoy with my friends.

    So while I’m a person that is fairly prone to being messy and cluttered, my book collection is not something that I consider as contributing to the clutter, and I take great joy in having my own personal library (as well as frequently visiting the local public libraries). Between my mom, me, and my husband, we had somewhere between 30 and 50 boxes of books when we moved into our duplex. The first major renovation project was to have custom bookcases built in our shared music room/library. Shelves for random fiction and reference, drawers for paperbacks. We now have a reasonably hard limit on the number of books we’ll keep. There are a few other places in both units where we’ll be installing more bookshelves, for specialized book and media collections. But for the most part, we can fill the shelves and drawers, and then we’ll have to periodically sort through them, and prune, before buying new. We planned the cases based on the amount of space we could afford to devote to books, and made sure that it was more than the space needed for our current collections, because my husband and I are only half-way through our lives, and intend to continue to collect, though probably at a slower pace.

    For me, I keep everything that I want to read, might read again, or might want to loan out. No time limits. I even keep extra copies of my very very favorite books, so that I can loan them out and not mind if they never come back, or even give them away.

    Since I read a lot of series fiction, the paperback drawers are filling fast. I can go through binges of books where I will read a book a day, so having large stacks of books that I like reading is very handy. As a teenager, I would sometimes read three or four books a day on the weekend, and I hope my child will be similarly voracious, and therefore be able to appreciate our extensive library.

    My husband keeps anything he might want to reference, since he’s a writer and a lot of his books are rare, specialized, out-of-print, or all of the above, and so impossible to get from a library.

    My mom has a mixture of books she keeps to impress just a little (classics), books that are lovely (sometimes the same books), and books she enjoyed and might read again, or want to loan. I love her books mixed in among ours, it makes the library look classier. ๐Ÿ™‚

    We also have a lot of paperbacks inherited from my voraciously reading grandmother, and those will probably be the first to go when we hit the limits of our bookcases, and have to start pruning.

  49. posted by Zac Hunter on

    I have a few โ€œlook-how-cool-I-amโ€ books on my shelf that are also rare, semi-sentimental and valuable. All my philosophy texts from college. For some reason I have a very difficult time culling these books. I recently tried my best to whittle down the few I know I am less interested in but I just can’t seem to let them all go.

    I had no problem getting rid of the books I knew I could repurchase if I ever really wanted them again, the damaged books and the less than cool. I suppose I just need to detach and make the hard choices.

    Re: Anne – I have taken to scanning just about anything I can lately. Sentimental cards, old fliers from past art/music projects, college notebooks. Etc. I love it, but the idea of cutting up a valuable book (destroying its resale value) just to scan it seems somehow wasteful.

  50. posted by Zac Hunter on

    Then again, cutting off the spine and scanning less valuable but interesting books is a great idea. I might reduce other portions of my library this way. Too bad I gave so many unsellable books to goodwill!

  51. posted by Aimee on

    Thank you @almondwine! Books are my trophies. I don’t play sports or instruments well, my career is unremarkable, but I’ve read a lot of the world’s best literature, why shouldn’t I show it off if I loved it? Books are the only things I collect and I care for my collection, dusting it frequently, storing it away from direct sunlight, and laying anything with a compromised spine on it’s side. Books are also part of my decor. I arrange my collection along with photos, small sentimental items, and pretty storage boxes to show off my things. Frankly, homes with empty (or no) bookcases just seem sad and soul-less.

    I do limit myself to the bookshelf space I already own. I give away everything that I don’t enjoy. I review my collection every year before the holidays and take anything I no longer cherish to my hometown’s used bookstore, then I give the credit I get to my mom as part of her Christmas present. I read primarily on my Kindle, but some of the books I’m interested in aren’t available in that format. Any book, I’m on the fence about, say a book club book or reference for a hobby I’m investigating, I check out of the library, instead.

  52. posted by KateNonymous on

    My overall philosophy is that I want to keep books that have meaning to me. For the most part, that means books that I will re-read. But I’m not ruling out the possibility that I won’t re-read all of them.

    And now that I have a child, I want her to grow up around books (I also have an e-reader–I want her to know both). My parents didn’t sit around reading classic novels, but they were there on the shelf–and that’s why I started reading them. If my mom hadn’t kept that copy of Jane Eyre, I might have found the book eventually, but probably not until college, which was the first time I studied it. I certainly wouldn’t have fallen in love with it in the fourth grade, as I did because I had such easy access to it.

    But that’s how I plan to approach my books. I don’t feel the need to get up-in-arms about how other people handle theirs, or declare that my way proves I love books (or uncluttering) more or less than some other commenter. The point of this website is to help you determine what enhances your life, not to say that there is one sure answer for each of us.

  53. posted by Anna on

    @Anne: What exactly are you keeping the shelf space free for? In my opinion, being a “true unclutterer” means more that one will realize the sense in having a place for everything and keeping everything in its intended place — which means it’s entirely possible to have a bookshelf FOR BOOKS and to keep them there. My shelves are neatly organized and there are many “unclutterer”-type rules related – if I bring in a new book, I use the “one in, one out” policy.

    Are you getting rid of the shelves, too? If there’s nothing to keep on them, surely the furniture is clutter as well.

  54. posted by Leah on

    My brother’s metric, which I now use, concerns the library. With each book, even ones I reread, I ask myself “could I easily get this at any library?” My favorite author is James Herriot, and I own only one of his books because it’s so easy to check out collections when I feel a hankering. Same with My Antonia, Wuthering Heights, etc.

    There are a few easy-to-get books that I have kept, but those are limited and for sentimental reasons. Or, they’re books that are such a quick read for me that I don’t want to bother to get them from the library (for example, I can read “A Wrinkle in Time” while taking an evening soak in the tub).

    I move a lot, so I try to keep my book collection limited. That said, I still have . . . 10 boxes worth or so, if you include the two boxes still left at my parents’ (again, full of hard-to-find books from my childhood or things I reference really frequently).

    Erin, I’m glad to see that you still think it’s okay to have some books. I love to read, and the paper book gives me lots of pleasure. I’ve purged so many books over the years, but I don’t know if I would be happy not having a shelf or two somewhere. And when I have kids . . . well, it’s all over then. I agree that having lots of easily accessible books really helps kids develop reading skills.

  55. posted by Lucinda M. Long on

    Books are not sacred. The ideas they contain are.

  56. posted by JustGail on

    I need to cull the herds – the sewing/craft room is overloaded and thereby oppressive with the shelves stuffed like they are. The shelves in the kitchen are overloaded and finding recipes to try is so daunting, I don’t try any more. I have no fiction books, other than a few favored children’s books as mementos from my son’s early days when he like to be read to. However, I HAVE slowed way down in adding to the collection. And there are so few (no?) ebooks for needlework or sewing, an ereader does me no good.

    Not so fast with the scanning Anne – are these books still under copyright? Can you assure that those files will never be passed on to anyone? Because once you “loan” one of those out, you have no control over how many times they are sent on. With books, there is always the one copy, no matter how many times it changes hands. If they are no longer under copyright, have at it. If they are – the your comments about libraries or buying second-hand and the authors not being compensated is so…so…. two-faced it’s not even funny. How does your author friend feel about scanning books that are still under copyright? If I’m sounding harsh, I’m curious and baffled, and can’t quite come up with the right wording for my questions.

  57. posted by Karen on

    The thought of cutting open books and destroying them sends a shiver down my spine.

    And Anne, you are an advocate of people buying the book if they can afford it….why not buy a digital copy of the book, then, if you can afford it, instead of tearing apart a book that could be read by somebody who can’t afford an e-reader? Or donate it to a library. I use a library that is on a military base, and they do not take fines. They are run on government money and cannot take money from patrons. So one way I pay them back is to donate books, even paperbacks, that I am done with so their federal money stretches a little farther. It’s the least I can do, considering that they offer free services to myself and the military families who live here.

    Another commenter made a good point about out of print books: if you slice and dice your hard copies of books, eventually they’ll go out of print, and you’ve taken a book out of circulation that a collector may want to acquire later on. That’s selfish. If you don’t want the clutter of the book on your shelves, donate it to your library (oops, sorry, i forgot, only “poor” people use libraries) and you can check it out when you wish to read it. Or, since you can afford it, buy a digital copy.

    Bottom line, Anne: you approach your book collection (or lack thereof) your way, don’t dictate to anybody else how they should handle their books.

  58. posted by Karen on

    And as to how I handle my own book collection: I keep it mostly to nonfiction, and some favorite authors (Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson, to name a couple). Sometimes when I review my shelves I see that I have authors I feel I’ve outgrown. I used to own the entire Diana Gabaldon collection–however, her writing no longer appeals to me (it is possible to outgrow a genre or author, I think). So those got donated.

    Most other fiction that I want to read I get from the library. The kids and I go once a week, and generally fill a wheeled box (you’ve seen them at homeschooling conventions, I bet) with books. So i get my fiction fix there. Or I review nonfiction books to decide if they belong in our permanent collection. All the library books stay in the “library box” and so are easily corralled and found when it’s library day. This way they don’t get mixed up in our own shelves.

  59. posted by the other Tammy on

    I wholeheartedly agree about saving children’s books. You just can’t snuggle up with your five year old to read a book on the Kindle. Plus, the beautiful artwork in children’s picture books just doesn’t always translate well to an E-reader.

    That said…I love my Kindle. I like that it is light and portable. I really didn’t think I would like reading on it, but it is surprising easy on the eyes. It isn’t going to replace the books I already own, but I will definitely consider buying an E-book first now. The Kindle is just a tool to enjoy books, like the IPod. Our library has an E-book lending program, which is cool…when the book is due, it just disappears off your Kindle!

  60. posted by Anne on

    I use a recipe binder, too, as described by @Jen. Before that, I had piles of cooking magazines with dogeared pages. It’s a brilliant solution that’s worked really well for me.

    One of my finest decluttering moments was coming to terms with the fact that my bookshelves did not need to be a museum of Books I Have Read. I parted with books that I’d already read and would likely never read again (most of these were novels), and now someone else can enjoy them.

    My rules for what to keep are a little less stringent than Erin’s (I can’t imagine scheduling time to read a book four months from now — I can’t possibly predict what I’m going to be in the mood to read!). Mostly, I go by this rule: Am I ever going to want to refer to this book again? If yes: Keep. If no: Library thrift store donation or “take this” counter at work.

    I’ve pared my collection down considerably with few regrets. Which means that I’ve freed up space for the endless amounts of children’s books that I buy for my son. We may need an extra wing of the house for those alone…!

  61. posted by Mletta on

    I’ve lost count of how many books are in my home “library.” All I know is that I wouldn’t want to live without them around me (although if I had the money, I could live in a larger space where they were only in one room, a true, dedicated library. I see homes with those and I lust after them.) To me, they are what makes my home, MY home.

    I access those books daily for reference, inspiration, fact checking, etc. (I’m in a field where immediate access is often necessary.)

    Even if they were all available for free on some sort of ereader, I wouldn’t want to get rid of a lot of them. I like holding them in my hands and it’s far easier for me to read physical books than any ereader. It’s also more satisfying. Plus, much, much easier to access my annotations (via Post its), etc.

    Also, many books I’m interested in reading/keeping are NOT available in our library system, one of the largest in the country, but by no means as diversified as others. (And they do not take requests as many smaller libraries across the country do.)

    In the end, if it IS about reading, then to each his own, physical book or ereader version. I’m not going to judge. But I do have a strong visceral negative reaction to tearing apart a book you love enough to read/keep so you can scan it. Really makes me nauseous, but again, if it is YOUR book, that is your perogative.

    I shudder to think of a future where physical books are gone and only electronic versions exist.

    As for authors making money. I use paperbackswap, the library and I also buy a lot of new and used books. I often read a book first from the library and THEN purchase the book, so all that library reading does not necessarily mean that people won’t be buying books. And as for categorizing people who use libraries as poor, that’s just inaccurate. You don’t have to be poor to not be able to afford to buy all / some of the books you want.

    The library is, in theory, a sacred place to me (the physical spaces here in NYC, not so much) because it holds, truly, the wisdom of centuries and for the most part makes it available to the general public, rich, not rich, educated, etc. This access can, truly, change lives, for the better.

    My love of books did not come from a family where people read or even school. It came from the library, where I felt and still do, that a whole world is available to me. I can still remember the day I was given my first adult library card, several years before I was legally qualified because the librarian knew I had read thru the kids’ library several times over!

    It was only natural that as I could, I began to acquire certain types of books in areas of interest. I’m constantly reviewing and assessing what I keep, but as I age, more is kept (some of these books are irreplaceable in terms of subject matter and NOT available electronically)within certain categories, especially the works of certain authors.

    As I’ve told my friends, when I’m gone, I don’t care what you do with my stuff. But those books get donated or given ONLY to folks who want the books. Do not toss them. (Honestly, their disposal is all I do worry about after I’m gone. I do have quite a library in some fields. It may not be worth big $$ but there is a value for those interested in various categories.)

    Yes, I am a collector and my own librarian. And it brings me great pleasure. (I do loan books out and I do give them away, on occasion.)

    It’s interesting that people have tons of DVDs, CDs and video games yet they don’t get the same scrutiny (or criticism) as book lovers. Yet all of that stuff is mostly online for access too!

  62. posted by Anne on

    @ JustGail and Karen and others, is there a book shortage I don’t know about? Since clearly (after reading the comments) very few people are going to cut up and scan their books, my doing so is hardly going to bring about a huge book shortage. A lot of the books I scanned were hardbacks bought when first published and I actually bought paperback copies of the same books later for a pittance especially to slice up and scan (since paperbacks are easier to cut up) and donated the hardbacks. The sliced paperbacks then went into the recycling bin and were probably turned into some kind of environmentally friendly packaging. So everyone’s a winner. As for copyright issues, a lot of the books are out of copyright but too obscure to be available as free ebooks, and I don’t live in the United States but where I live I believe it’s ok to scan as long as you don’t copy or distribute the scan, which I would never do.

    And @ Anna, my bookshelves were two deep, so after scanning most of them about 50% of my shelving is filled with “special” books and the other half is either free (potential storage space is invaluable) or holds other stuff that needs to be in physical form.

  63. posted by Christine on

    Can I ask those of you who use eReaders where the best free eBooks are available for download? I am trying out the eReader my uncle gave me but can’t find good places to download free eBook and would appreciate some suggestions! :o)

  64. posted by henave on

    Audio books are a great uncluttering strategy too. I have print books, books on kindle and many, many books on my ipod. I listen while I jog and do housework- I have greatly increased the amount of books I read this way. I even listen to books I’ve already read in print as it is a different experience to listen to a book than read it.

    I also keep print books that are hard to find such as my complete Nero Wolfe collection and partial Perry Mason collection. Perry Mason is not at our local library and only a very small portion of the Nero Wolfe books. Hard to find on kindle or audio as well.

  65. posted by Leonie on

    I love my local library. Not only has it saved me tons of money and space…it has also exposed me to authors I would not have come across in my local bookstore. We do have an extensive library of books for a variety of reasons on a wide range of topics. (The library is a separate room in this house) And we have two kindles in the household. Reading is very important in this family ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve cut down on purchasing books/storing books thanks to the library but I do have a few favourite authors whose works I’m happy to buy if it is discounted.

    I’m not going to go to the effort of cutting up books and scanning them. Truly, to each their own. I am, however, surprised at how strongly some people feel about this either way.

    May I suggest that you google Brian Dettmer (I’m not related to him in anyway, I get no monetary compensation for mentioning this). He is an artist who cuts up books and produces the most amazing sculpture.

  66. posted by Pat on

    I also would NEVER slice the spine off a book just to scan. I purchased a scan wand at Christmas last year and have been busy scanning (without cutting) my cookbooks! Have you ever noticed that you usually only use 2 or 3 recipes out of each recipe book? Well I have a binder that I keep my most frequently used recipes in and I keep that in my kitchen. I try new recipes frequently and if it turns out to be something that my family enjoys I scan the recipe and print it out and put in the binder. This really saves on shelf space in the kitchen and keeps my favorites right at my fingertips!

  67. posted by Dawn on

    My first step for uncluttering my book collection was to get an eReader. What a great invention! I have tons of harddrive space and memory cards so I don’t count ebooks towards my book count. Books that I love and reread often are slowly getting converted over to digital so I can free up shelf space.

    Last summer I gave a friend about 200 books that I don’t think I’d read more than 10 of. Obviously I wasn’t very interested in them or they wouldn’t have been sitting on a shelf for the last four years. That was the start of my book purging.

    As I come across books that I haven’t read ever or in a long time I either read it right away to make a decision on if it’s worth keeping or I get rid of it right away. If I gave myself a timeline to read it in it would never happen.

    Slowly but surely I’m culling down my collection on my shelves. Eventually I’d like to have my whole collection digitally, except for some sentimental value and collection worthy books. That’s a goal that’s going to be a long time in realizing but I am working towards it.

    Other than books purchased using gift cards I have received, I have not bought a hard or soft cover book in almost two years. In the last year I’ve also only purchased a few digital books and most of those were to replace hard copies that I was getting rid of.

  68. posted by Suzy on

    First point: I have a lot of books. I have always had a lot of books, but I do know that I need to cut back on how many books I have. Erin’s method is one worth considering… so are other methods. I am considering many ways & using parts of most of them.

    Second point: I am a member at and I’ve cataloged my books there. I use it not only to keep track of my books, but to keep track of books that I no longer own or have or want. There are some books that I’ve had that I didn’t like & have “released” to someone else. BUT I keep track of that book so I don’t buy it again because it sounds good or familiar. (duplicate purchases are frustrating) Since I can keep track of books I no longer have, I feel more comfortable passing them on to someone else or to a charity, used bookstore or even or (yes, I belong to both…. resulting in way too many more books)

    It is much easier to get rid of a book knowing that I still have a record of it & WHY I let it go.

    Last (?) point: When I read this blog (yes, I have the book, too), I take what Erin & PJ say as their opinion, not their dictates. They have very good advice (& humor) about how they try to keep clutter from their lives. (still trying to figure out why the have the biggest clutterer possible…. a baby/small child!!!)


    I get many good ideas to implement, but I also look at some of their ideas & realize that they would not work for me, now, at this time in my life. The ideas that I don’t use right now, I may use later.

    The ideas that Erin shares here are a good starting point for me, but only a starting point. I also have ideas from other sources about what I need to keep & what I don’t need to keep.

    Thanks, Erin!

  69. posted by Just Breathe on

    OK, Kindle readers, I need some advice, and I may have something to offer to this discussion. I haven’t seen this aspect of books mentioned in any of the other comments, but I think it is quite pertinent. Books and magazines are listed as some of the worst allergy culprits in the home.

    I am very allergic to house dust and mold spores. I get 2 allergy shots every 2 weeks. Unless a book has been stored in a closed cabinet, the dust that settles on it causes me to itch and have allergy symptoms. Even when they are kept closed up, the mold and dustmites that collect in books bother me.

    Unless it is very new and โ€œhot off the pressโ€ when I buy and read it, reading a book in bed feels as though I am dumping zillions of allergens onto my face and bedding. Even when sitting in a chair to read, as soon as I reach up and touch my face, the symptoms begin. Keep this in mind if you have allergy sufferers in your family! Your decision to keep lots of books in your home might have a far larger issue to consider.

    Now, that said, I need some assistance from Kindle users.

    I want to buy one, because I miss reading myself to sleep. I do not like reading teeny tiny font in books, and I do not wear my progressive-correction glasses while Iโ€™m reading in bed. I am most comfortable with an Ariel 12 font on my computer. I have drawn and cut out the dimensions of the 2 sizes of Kindle, and I canโ€™t figure out if the smaller, lighter, easier-to-hold-in-bed version would be large enough to display a 12 font without having to turn the page every few sentences. It weighs considerably less than the larger Kindle, so I am sure it would be more comfortable, but donโ€™t know if the font size would be a problem for me.

    Any assistance will be very appreciated!

  70. posted by karin on

    Like Suzy, I have found it much easier to get rid of books that realistically I am unlikely to reread if I have some kind of record of them and have been better at keeping the bookshelves vaguely under control since I joined LibraryThing. I guess it is a bit like taking photos of other things before they are thinned out – they are gone, but not forgotten.

    PS Suzy and anyone else on LibraryThing – do come and say hello (my username is fancett) – maybe we could start an ‘unclutters’ group in LibraryThing talk.

  71. posted by Melanie on

    lol @ book shortage. I was beginning to think the same thing.

    In the distance past books were a rare commodity. But now many titles are printed by the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. They are now a disposable commodity. Most are printed on cheap paper that is not meant for archival purposes.

    Buy it, loan it out, donate it for re-selling, whatever…but it is outrageous to consider the majority of the books printed today to be a trophy or a keepsake.

  72. posted by Leonie on

    @ just breath

    You’re asking about the 6″ and the 9.7″ kindles?
    I am sorry I can’t answer the question about font size as we only have the 6″ kindle and I don’t have a problem reading small print. However re: reading in bed, I’ve found that I prefer to read on the ipad2 with the kindle ap because of the backlight.

    I think I use a font 10 on my kindle and it gets me a decent page. I don’t imagine that upping the font to 12 would shorten the page that much though.

  73. posted by K on

    This is so timely for me right now, you can’t believe. Thank you for all the thoughtful notes, Erin.

    I’m moving many boxes of books this week and will need to cull further once I get into the new space (just couldn’t do it beforehand). I tend to impulsively buy books whenever I read a great review, and so have MANY books I still haven’t read, but want to. “The life I desire” includes time for reading, one of my favorite pasttimes. But somehow I never get to that point!

  74. posted by Zen friend on

    May I add one more “keepers” category: significant books worth sharing? I’m not a huge fan of the “Mitford” books, but several of my friends (or their mothers) have really enjoyed my copy. I like reading Annie Dillard’s work but LOVE turning others on to her. Then there is Three Cups of Tea for folks who wonder how one person can make a difference… “The Year of Magical Thinking to those working through the loss of a significant other. ..Gift from the Sea for women making sense of the changes in life…

    Sharing my favorite picture and kid’s books (Good Night Moon, Where the Red Fern Grows, Soul Looks Back in Wonder, the Narnia books) with a young friend is a particular treat which sometimes become a magical impromptu gift.

    A library/e-book recommendation isn’t the same as passing on the real item.

  75. posted by Laura on

    Ah, books. In my new, cookie-cutter subdivision home I had custom bookshelves built along one entire living room wall to house my collection. I can’t imagine living without them. I’ve still got books from when I was a teenager (40 years ago) that have been moved over 10 times and through 8 states!

    For me, a Kindle or Nook won’t do, because I like to write notes in the margins. I can look back on a Shakespeare class I took in college and see my notations (and doodles). To me, books are alive, and I’d rather give up furniture than my beloved books. And with the custom shelves, clutter is not a problem. The bottom half of the middle section (there are 3 sections) has a bench seat with a big, cushy feather cushion and storage underneath. There is beautiful lighting above.

    And I am a happy reader.

  76. posted by Tiffany on

    I use a combination of several strategies to keep it under control (and understand that “under control” is NOT AT ALL the same as “completely uncluttered to a minimalist standard).

    We have always been people with crammed bookshelves (and my husband is an avid re-reader of books), but we’ve had to pare down the collection in stages over the years, at first due to living in a small place where books were starting to overwhelm us, and then because we were moving and needed to take a hard look at our possessions.

    First, when we moved in together, we both had to let go of the “impress people” shelves. My then-fiancee remarked that he had kept the whole shelf of Ibsen from college because he figured it would impress girls. I replied that I always knew he didn’t read Ibsen, but I was impressed anyway. We pitched old textbooks this way too.

    The second culling was easy: When we got our Kindles, I went through our bookshelves and removed any crummy mass-market paperbacks that could be replaced for $5 or less. I mean, I really did like reading “Great Expectations” in 9th grade, but I looked at my yellowing, dog-eared paperback with all the notes my 14 year old self had scribbled in it for English class, and looked at and noticed I could have it on my Kindle for 80 cents. GONE! We gave away books in good condition, recycled books in poor condition, and exempted any books that were part of a series we were reading or had sentimental value.

    When we moved, it was harder because we had trimmed a lot of the fat from our collections already, and my husband’s grad school program had added yet more books to our shelves. Now we do most of our reading electronically, so we’re down to a lot of signed books, series fiction (which we frequently lend out to hook our friends on them), and some special volumes we’re just attached to, either because we loved them at a particular time in our lives, or because they were especially thoughtful gifts, or for any number of other reasons.

    Which brings me to the last part of the strategy- we’re both children of parents who taught us to love reading, who learned early on about the transformative power of a really great book, and who hope to instill the same in our own hypothetical children. So while we accept that the physical space taken up by books must be managed carefully, we also accept that we developed our attachments to these particular books for a REASON, and that these are things we affirmatively choose to keep in our lives. Since we’re the grownups paying on the mortgage on the house we keep them in, we get to make that decision. ๐Ÿ™‚

  77. posted by Cortney on

    I’m so tired of the “you’re not a true book lover if you have an e-book” line. It’s precisely BECAUSE I love books that I purchased my e-reader. It’s the Kobo, which means I can download free books from the library, and from Google Books (over a million titles).

    I’m an avid book reader (about 2 a week) and I always have so many books on my “I want to read that!!” list that I almost never re-read a book. I used to have tons of books, but as a frequent mover/traveler, and again, as someone who reads a LOT and therefore rarely re-reads, it occurred to me one day that it would make a lot more sense to stop buying books, give away the ones I had, and move to only checking out library books.

    I go to the library once a week and leave with armfuls of books, so I’m still surrounded by books. And when I travel, I have an entire library at my fingertips thanks to the Kobo.

    It literally wasn’t until the last 6 months that I made this change. In fact, my partner and I are moving in two weeks and just an hour or so ago we finished paring down our collection to maybe 50 books (including cookbooks), between both of us, that we want to keep for sentimental/reference reasons. I used to have about 1,000 books.

    You can say “I don’t like e-readers” but to get on a high horse about how true book lovers would never use them is frankly quite condescending. And I’m not a technophile either- my partner and I don’t own a TV, neither of us have smart phones, no random gadgets, no iPad, etc. I was told recently that reading an e-book wasn’t “really reading”. What? Is sending an e-mail to my friend not “really writing them a letter” just because it’s in electronic form? To each his own. To my mind, the library+ e-book is a de-clutterer’s/frugal person’s dream. Especially now that I can get e-books from my library!

  78. posted by Cortney on

    I also keep a virtual bookshelf on Good Reads, with a widget on my blog. It helps me keep track of book recommendations, what I’ve read, and it gives me immense pleasure when someone reads a book I loved by virtue of a review I wrote on it. It’s like FB for book lovers and it has, if anything, enhanced my reading, not detracted from it.

  79. posted by Megan on

    When my grandmother died 4 years ago, we had to go through her extremely cluttered house. She loved books (we all do) and among the boxes and boxes of books were probably half a dozen boxes labeled “2B Read”. Seeing the 150 or so books she never got to really inspired me to work on getting through my shelf of “2B” books.

  80. posted by Nicky at Not My Mother on

    A couple have things have put me off eReaders, including the inability to borrow and lend books with others. Then a girlfriend fell asleep while reading hers, forgot it was amongst the covers, knelt on it, and cracked the screen. Now she needs to buy a new one for $$$, or she can’t read any of her books. When I do that with a real book, the worst that happens is it gets bent and I need to sandwich it between heavier books to straighten it out.

    I’m in the “books are not clutter camp”. I have four Billy bookcases in our playroom that house our collection. Even that seems small for the amount of books we read. There are some books in there that I’m not in love with and could cull, but why do it? I have the space and I love a full bookshelf. When we run out of room, or if we move overseas again I can cull them then, but otherwise they’re happy where they are.

    Oh, and as for slicing up perfectly good books to scan – no no no and NO. If you want the digital version, buy it and donate the book. BTW, was that comment made by the same Anne who later said if you borrow a book you are cheating the author of income and a poorer person of reading the book at the library? (Utter rubbish, btw, as library funding is partly based on number of users so you’re actually helping them out.) If so, I guess it must be different when it’s your money you’re talking about.

  81. posted by KT on

    Reminds me of the rings of the Elois in Time Machine.

    Scan your books and they may be lost forever.

    My computer is too old for a SanSnap first of all.

    Secondly remember the 78’s, 45’s, Lp’s, 8 tracks, quadraphenies (anyone?), 8 tracks, Cd’s, DVD’sm, BluRays and hundreds of other scams (improvements) to sink out hard earned cash into.

    The way I understand it is that ebooks are not even transferable! What are you getting? Am i missing something ?) And yes Gitenberg is sensational.

    I have a old Mac Performa 6200 and last time I checked it was working. Certainly it needs a battery and maybe the hard drive won’t be accessible what of all the data there? That machine I always fixed myself .

    But what of all the data there? The photos? The documents?

    There is something about a hard copy that lasts.

  82. posted by bluechiptechnosys on

    Thanks for mentioning that site.

    Very inspiring post. You did it very well.

  83. posted by Julie on

    Can you highlight and make notes in ebooks? I developed the habit of highlighting anything that is especially interesting/important and writing notes in the margins. I’ve found this extremely helpful when re-reading reference materials. Being a nursing student I’ve found I prefer the actual textbook to the etexts now available for the reasons mentioned.

  84. posted by Anna N. on

    No, Anne, PDFs will not be readable forever. If you made that bet, you would lose. Just look at how much computing has changed in the past few years. Can your computer today read the files from a computer ten or twenty years old? Extrapolate that forward and things are going to keep changing at the same rate, if not faster.

    I also agree with the other commenters who are slightly horrified about you destroying books. It wouldn’t have bothered me if you hadn’t said that they were rare and out-of-print books, though. Deliberately destroying rare and out-of-print books is selfish. There are lots of places online where you can download ebooks. Did you look for preexisting copies before slicing up (rare and out-of-print) books that someone else could have enjoyed?

  85. posted by Leonie on

    @ Julie
    Yes, you can highlight and make notes in the kindle. I don’t know about nook. (I’d assume yes). I mainly use my kindle for classics that I haven’t read and want to and e-books that are free. Some of the reading I do for work means that these books are not available in e-format or easily available from the library. So I buy them. E-books have their place for book readers and I have enjoyed mine. But for reference or for work, especially as I work with data and numbers and ideas, I still find it easier and more comfortable to have the books in front of me as I’m preparing research. but in terms of highlighting and making notes, you can certainly to that with the kindle.

  86. posted by Leonie on

    @ KT

    Yeah, when I buy an e-book, I am just buying the right to read it electronically, I don’t own it and I’m sure I can’t print it (even if I figured out how). That was a major reason I waited as long as I did to get one. However, after getting one for my son who is already a voracious reader and then seeing him double his reading because he could buy the next installment in whatever series he was reading immediately, I felt it was a good purchase for us.

    Then I got myself one because I wanted to read while traveling (think 35 hour door to door flights from USA to Asia, or Europe to USA, and all the waiting around etc).

    But as many people here have commented, physical books are still of value, and I love having my library of books to refer to, look at, hold and read.

    What I get from my e-book is portability and ease, and access to more free books that I realised.

    I think whatever helps individuals lead the lives they want to lead to the fullest without the stress of clutter is something that each of us figures out on our own and one person’s solution certainly won’t be another’s.

  87. posted by Karen on

    Anna N makes a very good point about how technology speeds ahead and makes older files obsolete. My husband works with computers and technology a lot. He really likes the idea of an e-book (specifically, i think he likes the idea that Kindle versions of books are often cheaper than the hard copies, since he’s married to a book addict). But he hasn’t bought one yet. Why? He’s waiting for the price to go down, as usually happens with technology. Remember VCRs? How expensive they were when they first came out? Now you can get one for 20 bucks some places.

    A hardcover or paperback book will never be obsolete. Do they yellow and get fragile over time? Sure, but I have books from the early 1900s that are still readable with some care. And I can take a book with me to the doctor’s office and not worry about dropping it, getting it wet, or losing battery power. And if I finish the book, gee, darn, I guess I have to wait till I get home to read something else. I think e-books feed into our current culture’s need for instant gratification. “I’m bored sitting here waiting…I know, I’ll download a new book or magazine!” No wonder we’re so impatient as a people.

  88. posted by Anne on

    @ Anna N. With respect, I think you’re totally wrong about PDFs. I got my first computer in 1995 and ALL my files from that time – video clips, text document, images, music etc. – are still easily readable on my Mac. There’s always going to be software that will read older formats – it’s no strain on modern computers. And PDFs were specifically designed with longevity in mind. I think you’re confusing file format obsolescence (which is never a problem for popular file formats like PDF) with obsolescence of physical storage media like floppy discs and zip drives. Now *that* can be a problem, but as long as you transfer all your files to a new medium as soon as you ditch the old one, there’s no problem. I remember an earlier discussion on Unclutterer where an archivist expressed similar concerns, but archivists generally have to be very cautious as part of their job, and I can’t see any reason to transfer that doom-mongering mentality to private individuals and their personal book collections.

    As for cutting up rare and out-of-print books, I only do that if a free out-of-copyright digital version is unavailable. I had a set of three volumes from around 1910 and found two of them available on Project Gutenberg. Those two volumes I downloaded and then donated the hard copies to a specialist charity book shop, but the other one got sliced up, scanned and put in the recycling bin. It was so yellow it was almost orange, and it was falling apart, so I don’t see why that’s such a big tragedy. And anyway, the reason I scan books is because I really want to keep them, so I’m not depriving anyone else of the books I cut up because if I didn’t cut them up, I would keep them for myself. I just prefer them in digital form rather than cluttering up my bookshelves. By the way, doesn’t anyone else agree that reading old books is not a very pleasurable experience – you are constantly on edge because it feels like the book could fall apart at any moment, and the yellowing is not very easy on the eyes, and old books really smell bad, don’t they?

  89. posted by Anne_D on

    We’re a book family. My daughters are readers, my husband’s a reader, I’m a reader, and so were my parents before me. Books are an essential part of our lives.

    That being said, we cull the hoard at intervals and give away books that someone’s outgrown, or several craft books that can be replaced with one better volume covering the same subject, or books on things we’re just not interested in any more, or that can easily be got from the library.

    I use the public library for research (interlibrary loan is your friend), to see if something is worth buying or not, and to find new authors I might like. I’ll xerox specific articles if there’s just one thing I want from the book, and file them in binders, as we don’t have a working scanner right now, and my eyes aren’t up to extensive computer screen reading anyway. Besides, if I’m doing a messy craft project, I’d rather get glue and paint on a printed page than on my computer.

    Cut a book apart just to scan it? That’s a horrible waste of a good book, in my opinion, when it could be given to your local friends of the library to resell, passed on to a friend, or given to someone else who might enjoy it.

    It’s interesting to see how people feel about books. Judging from the comments here, some of us would rather have electronic versions, and some of us are happy with the real thing. I say, if you can find that book when you need it, and your personal library isn’t all over the floor getting in the way, that’s your business.

  90. posted by lafou on

    I have a set of World Book Encylopedias from the 1960s. Talk about holding onto something for sentimental value! I don’t have the heart to throw them out but they take up so much space.

  91. posted by Vanessa H. on

    Erin, this line really hit me:

    “Books you have scheduled time to re-read. If itโ€™s not on the calendar, itโ€™s not really to going happen.”

    I had not thought about actually scheduling the time to read. I also realized that since I moved, I really don’t have a place to read anymore. I’m going to work on both! Thank you!

  92. posted by Anna on

    I read through a bunch of the comments and decided to respond, even though most people may not even get down this far to read. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I recently bought a Kindle. For the moment, I am planning on using it as a way to “own” classics that I can get for free. I have a few favorite classics that I love and would love to have a copy of it for my shelf. But the rest I just don’t see a reason for owning. Yes, I could go to the library and borrow it, but I like convenience.

    My reason for buying a Kindle was because I was given birthday money from family and decided that I really didn’t need anything right now and didn’t want to clutter up my house (since I’m on a mission to get rid of more stuff). I’m interested in e-books and had the money, so I bought it.

    We had a fire a couple years ago (not a complete loss, but some damage). It was that day that I decided it’s just stuff. The most important thing to me is my family. If I lost everything in my home, I would be okay. I’d still have my family and my memories. So for me, it isn’t a big deal to get rid of books or have them digitized. But while I have my home and my stuff, I’m only keeping what I love and use and want. And it’s different for everyone.

  93. posted by JustGail on

    @ Anne – what got my attention is that you have a friend who’s disappointed by her book sales while the library loans of her books are doing well, and then made comments disparaging the use of libraries or buying 2nd hand books. Yet you wrote that you bought second-hand books purposely to scan. I have no issue with scanning a book that’s literally falling apart and out of copyright. I love Project Guttenberg and some other sites that do exactly that. The out-of-print vs out-of-copyright part of scanning seems like it’s being glossed over by those who say “just scan them”. Just because a book is not in print doesn’t make it OK to scan it. At least I’ve never seen a “OK to make a copy for personal use only” declaration as there is on some needlework patterns.

    You love your ereader – that’s great. It works for you. I’ve looked – the books I’m interested in at this time are very rarely available as ebooks, and I’m not going to scan the ones I have. It’s not the “oh the horror – destroying a book!”, it’s the time to scan issue, the copyright issue, the loaning to others issue, the file format (not just the media) issue, the writing in the margins issue, etc.

    My guess is that, at some point, PDFs will be replaced, or the software used to create/read them will change. It might not be for another 20 years, but there’s no guarantee it will never happen. I have opened PDFs and gotten a warning that “the file was created under a different version of Adobe (or was that “created under another program”?) and may not display correctly”. Some files were fine, others not.

    This is one of those subjects that is going to have a polarizing effect. I hope we can agree that no matter what form, it’s most important that the books actually get read, not just acquired and let set. If there was a magic wand to wave and all my books could be digitized with all those issues I mentioned earlier resolved, I *think* I’d be waving it like crazy. Then I’d have room to display a few art/inspiration pieces or just have the visual “breathing room”, or maybe even remove some shelves.

    This may be a future subject for Unclutterer if it hasn’t been covered already – Does an ereader make it even easier to gather hundreds of books that remain unread (electronic clutter)? Just asking, since I’ve gotten some books from Project Guttenberg and then never looked at them. but I don’t see them sitting on the shelf, and “disk space remaining” seems such an abstract idea……Huh, maybe I *do* have a reason for buying an ereader – I haven’t read those because I don’t want to sit in front of the computer to read them, and my PDA is getting a bit small for my aging eyes to look at for very long.

  94. posted by Just Breathe on

    Leonie, thank you for answering my question. Much appreciated.

  95. posted by Sooz on

    Do people actually buy & display books just to impress other people and not because they actually want to read them??? I cannot imagine doing this. Every book in my house is here because I am interested in it.

    The concept of trying to “impress” people with what is on my bookshelves is both astonishing & incomprehensible to me.

  96. posted by ninakk on

    @Christine: I warmly recommend It’s a bit like project gutenberg, but the latter is a lot messier in my opinion. I have a Bookeen Cybook Orizon and couldn’t be happier about my e-reader. It really takes my reading to another level and opens doors instead of closing them. I still love books and reading them, but now only the best ones are allowed in. The library is great and I can borrow e-books from their site. All in all, my collection is slowly going smaller as I’ve started to let go of the ones I don’t plan on reading ever again.

    Interesting thread. Only books that I don’t refer to or read again are considered clutter in my home.

  97. posted by Kristy on

    I have a Kindle and LOVE it, but I still buy some things – mainly stuff for my career, cookbooks and crochet books. I love my Kindle, but the e-reader format doesn’t do much for me when trying to be crafty. ๐Ÿ˜›

  98. posted by ecuadoriana on


    Haven’t you read Fahrenheit 451 ?????? (Maybe you can get it on you electronic reader??)

    Destroying perfectly good books. BLASPHEMY!!!

    And if one does have a book that is beyond repair then at least recycle it into a piece of art work! Post damaged books on Freecycle: to go to collage artists (like ME) who need old damaged books for collage and journal work.

    But to just outright DESTROY them for your CONVENIENCE??? AAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!

    Nuff said. Needed to wait a few days to cool down before responding to Anne’s “suggestion”….

  99. posted by Anne on

    @ecuadoriana I see my suggestion is still causing people to reach for the smelling salts. While I respect your opinion, I wonder, would there be a similar horrified reaction if I suggested converting all VHS tapes to computer video files (as I have done)? I doubt it. It just shows how silly it is to get het up about a book being in electronic rather than paper form.

  100. posted by Karin on

    Following on from my comment earlier in this thread I have just set up a discussion group on LibraryThing so that those of us who are both Unclutterers and LibraryThing members can continue these interesting discussions. The group is called Unclutter Things and is at

    For anyone who isn’t already a LibraryThing member it is very easy to set up an account and you can catalogue up to 200 books for free. As I said earlier, I find that it is much easier to get rid of a book I no longer really need if I have kept notes on it, and in addition there are lots of other features of LibraryThing that would probably be of interest to people who have posted here.

  101. posted by ecuadoriana on

    @ Anne: You said “…I wonder, would there be a similar horrified reaction if I suggested converting all VHS tapes to computer video files…”

    Not a good comparison. VHS tapes need to be viewed in a machine and often that machine eats them and degrades them beyond playability. DVDs (and other media formats, like your e-readers) eventually will be under similar corruption from continued usage as well. The reason that you have to “convert[ing] all VHS tapes to computer video files…” is because the technology of VHS tapes won’t last a hundred or more years! Heck, some don’t last a year!

    Books, on the other hand, if kept out of moisture/heat/rodent environments can last virtually forever. Even while being read over and over. My grandson is reading books that were given to me by MY grandmother! One does not NEED to convert a book into another format to view it or preserve it, as the makers of “modern technology” have done. Everything that is manufactured today is made to become obsolete and will need to be “upgraded”, thereby perpetuating the problem of landfills overflowing with technology that “expired” or were designed to be unrepairable. Books will never expire, lose their warranty, or need to be upgraded to the latest “point whatever version”!

    I do in fact collect books- specifically old medical journals, children’s school primers, cookbooks- and some are 150 years old and still in excellent condition! No NEED to convert them to another disposable format!)

    Your suggestion to take a perfectly good object, and destroy it for convenience, is what has readers up in arms!

    By the way, I belong to an artist group that “upcycles” old cassette/VHS/reel to reel tapes into art pieces. We just don’t believe in destroying things for the sake of destroying them AND our goal is to keep YOUR destroyed items out of the landfills (which is just a fancy word for “human created poisonous hole polluting the earth”).

    Destroying perfectly good books (or anything!) and throwing them away for convenience- ARRRGGGHH!!

  102. posted by Kitty on

    Could I recommend This site is free to use. You list books you are willing to share via the ISBN number. People request your books and you mail them out via media mail. In this way you earn points, which you can then use to request books from others OR you can donate your points to charities. I’ve been doing this for several years now. I also have a kindle but from time to time I take a break from it strictly for financial reasons.

  103. posted by Susan on

    With 100+ comments I doubt that I can add anything but since I am this far; I question the no dictionary…. some people just read the dictionary… my grandmother read it each summer. Too, I went to a school that had speaking penances and we copied the dictionary for a given length of time…. didn’t hurt any….

    What I keep: If it is garden I keep it, if it is Roses (this IS different than garden) I keep it. If it is quilt I look to see if it is “pattern” or historical or cool designer…. pattern pretty much get rid of these days —- have plenty of quilts I want to make and there are always new ideas EVERYWHERE. Dog…. keep three training and the ONE about Bolognese. Took the time to do this as most would say I have too many books…. and the only books I can see to get rid of would be the computer books…. they become dated by the time they come home from the store…. Good exercise… But I am NEVER moving…. way too many books….

  104. posted by M.E. on

    Murakami’s books are of great value to me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  105. posted by JustGail on

    The comment about tapes degrading just reminded me – books made since wood-pulp paper got cheap will NOT last forever, due to the acid content in the paper. How many of us have opened a vintage book kept dry and in the dark, and it still has yellowing and brittle paper? They are essentially eating themselves away, especially in paperback books. Only books printed on archival-grade or rag-based paper will last. That’s why books that are 100+ years old often are in better condition that a 1950’s paperback. I *think* there’s a spray intended for things like newspaper clippings that will neutralize the acid, but unless it’s a special book, I can’t imagine spraying every page of every book I wanted to keep. And that doesn’t fix the issue of glued bindings cracking and pages coming loose.

    Anne – this may be a point in your favor on this discussion. Although I’m not quite ready to agree with the destroying of books in good condition yet.

  106. posted by Sandra on

    I came across this discussion while researching how to put books on an iPad. I just bought a snapscan scanner that automatically OCRs to pdf so that I can put my books and textbooks on an iPad. Yes, I will be removing the binding from the books in order to do this and I see nothing wrong with that. I also do not feel that the paper and binding that books are printed on is sacred…it is the words and ideas in the book that count. However, if I had any signed books or collector’s items, that is a different story and would not take them apart since it is the actual signature on the paper that makes them worth money. Also, non-bound books are selling on ebay…people like the idea of not having to take it apart in order for them to scan to ebook. It is much easier for me to carry around one iPad with 7 books than 7 textbooks and searching the books with goodreader app is easy too.

  107. posted by jodi on

    I don have an unreasonable number of books by homeschooling standards, but I will never likely be able to read ebooks, as I get migraines if I spend too much time looking at screens, and read too much for that to work for me.

Comments are closed.