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Too many books; trying to put order to them

Monday, May 23, 2005 at 05:56AM
Posted by Registered CommenterPolitical Mammal in Personal

We have way too many books in our house. I have many plastic containers in the basement full of them, plenty of bookshelves, and piles of them everywhere. My wife and I both have years of being students; too many years of reading. Sitting in the living room right now I can see at least forty books piled around. Books on manhole covers, Roman history, product strategy for high tech companies, a collection of poems, on political targeting, on movies, on how to play go, a mystery, on Gauguin, on clay figures, and a stack of kids' books. 

I have resolved to reduce the ranks. In my mind, only the most loved should remain. At least half have to go. I am not sure whether to give the others to a library, donate them to a non-profit, share them with co-workers, or what. And I am sure that my wife has at least twice as many books as I do. I will have to leave them to her. 

You might think that the proper strategy would be to simply box up the books that can go. Not so. Too easy.

Instead, I decided to make a database of all my books, sort them into categories, rank them, and then act with full information about which to keep and which to hold.

I found a cool (and free) program this weekend to manage the process. It is called eLibPro at you can find it here. The nice thing about the program is that you can enter only the ten-digit ISBN number of the book and it pulls in the full record, often including a picture of the cover, over the Internet from Amazon.com. For older books, the program can search online by author or title, or you just have to enter some old ones manually. I was able to put in about 180 books pretty quickly on Saturday, but I have a lot more to go. Tip for users of that program—use Microsoft Access directly on the data for database operations.

For the skeptics, having anything in a database provides value. Once the books are all in a computerized list, they can be quickly searched. And you can track who borrows them.

So I have not yet parted with a single book, or finished cataloging, but soon.

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Reader Comments (4)

I'm a big fan of Readerware for the task of cataloging not just books, but also my CDs & Movies (http://www.readerware.com/). Be sure to get a bar code scanner and you'll find yourself banging out your whole house full of entertainment in no time. It can also help you keep track of where you've stored something, or who you've loaned it to.

For purging books, there's something in me that just won't let me throw a book in the trash. A great option is to find a used bookstore that might take some of your old books in trade. You can diminish your stack of old books but preserve their chance of reaching future readers, and still come home with a few new-secondhand books yourself. Two steps forward, one step back on diminishing your book stacks, but still a win-win all around.
May 23, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterChris Casey
You now have given at away at least one book -- George Lakoff's Moral Politics which I chose for E. And I saw somewhere in your partial book list that you have a book by Steven J. Gould. I would read that one, or anything else you have by Gould, in a flash. We have 3 boxes of books on our porch looking for people to read them as we are confronted with the same problem with books that you are. We are trying so hard to declutter environs. I do like Chris' organizational scheme for tracking your books. A.
May 24, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterA
Before you know it, you'll be arranging your books by height...Willy would be so proud!
June 16, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterHFB
Well, have not made much more progress on this project yet.
June 17, 2005 | Registered CommenterPolitical Mammal

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