Friday, 20 February 2015

Is there such a thing as too many books?

When you've run out of shelf space and the books are starting to perilously overload existing shelves, or are forming mountains in your bedroom, you've got two choices. Do some book pruning or get some more book shelves. It has to be the former here - we've no room for extra book cases.


I've been chipping away at the books off and on for a while. The ups and downs of book de-cluttering have been mentioned here on the blog. More than once. Recently our books seem to have been multiplying again, so the chipping away's more on than off at the moment. That's a good thing because Daughter is still raising funds for her World Challenge trip in July. Every penny counts, even if it's only a few quid made by selling old books. 

Some time ago I tried selling a few online at Green Metropolis but with short-lived success - three sold in nine months was not a 'get rich quick' recipe. I'd forgotten that I still had some listed on their website until I received an email a couple of weeks ago to say that sadly, they can't compete with e-books, and are shutting up shop. 

Another online outlet is WeBuyBooks.co.uk, recommended by Angela at Tracing Rainbows. They do what it says on the tin and Ang found that they made reasonable offers for her books. They didn't seem to like mine as much but Ziffit did. They liked some of our audio visual items too, and before Christmas a very quick and easy £30 came our way for about the same amount of books, CDs and DVDs.

If you just want to empty the house speedily then you can't beat taking a bag of books to the charity shop - fortunately there are more than enough books to go round in our house - I've done plenty of book donating as well as book selling; Oxfam seems to be the least picky about what they'll take. Even more fun was taking some books to the recent community Give and Take day - it's very satisfying to see someone going home with one of your old books tucked under their arm.

I love books and don't always find it easy to part with them. After several rounds of thinning out in recent years I think I'm getting better at letting go. Here are some questions I ask myself:
  • Would this book prefer to be in circulation and to have the chance of being read than to be sitting on my book shelf doing nothing?
  • Could I borrow this book from the library if I wanted to read it again?
  • Am I really going to re-read this book (especially if it's a novel) or refer to it ever again?
  • Have I looked at this book in the last 10 years? If I haven't the chances are that I won't look at it in the next 10 years...
  • Does this book relate to an interest that I still have? (For instance I enjoy listening to The Archers occasionally but do I really need an entire shelf of reference books about a fictional village? Or reference books written by fictional characters about fictional villages - wave goodbye to Linda Snell's Heritage of Ambridge!)
  • Could I find the information contained in this book more easily on the internet?
  • Is the information in this book up-to-date or has it been superceded by something more current?
  • Does this book belong to somebody else? (Then return it to them!)
I have a particularly hard time with books that were gifts but I think it's safe to assume that most book givers would not expect you to keep their books for eternity.

This half term the book mountains in my bedroom have been tamed. For now, I'm winning.


20 comments:

  1. I used to buy and own far too many books until I decided to cull them and took them all to a car boot sale. Now I mainly use the library or buy ebooks on my Kindle. The only physical books I add to my collection now are the odd charity shop find if it's something I've had my eye on, and the books sent to me by publishers for review. Luckily this is more than enough to keep me going so I don't have to buy more. I haven't got any space at all really in my new flat so it's a good job I've decreased my collection!

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    1. That's amazing - I can't imagine taking all my books to a car boot sale! INeither can I bring myself to convert to a kindle yet - I still like the kinaesthetic pleasure of a real book, so I guess I'm still going have to accept that I will be accumulating a few more book mountains...Using the library is a really good tip and I always ask myself whether I could borrow a book from the library instead of having a copy on my bookshelf, so I have added that to my list of questions...thanks for the reminder!

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  2. What a helpful post. Just after Christmas, I tried to flog more stuff through WeBuyBooks and they seemed less keen this time round. I shall try Ziffit instead. In Leicester, the local Hospice had a Charity Shop just for books, close to the Uni, and they were well sorted and I felt stuff going there was benefiting both the buyers and the charity. I have yet to source a good charity bookshop here [I am sure there is one in Bournemouth somewhere] I like your set of questions. And yes, books which were gifts are harder to part with. I finally let go of Pride and Prejudice [school prize 1971] because I already had a Penguin copy which matched my other Austens. And I discovered my two Archers of Ambridge cookbooks [published 10 years apart] were virtually identical apart from the titles, and the new one had a few more recipes - the older one has gone! I think there comes a point when you DO have too many books!!

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    1. You must be at the advanced stage of book clearing - I certainly couldn't let go of school prize books! However I am good at decluttering cookbooks and Archers books so it's possible that both of those would have gone if I happened to have two!

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    2. Thanks for pointing me to Ziffit. Just got rid of £6.50 worth - for 8 books. Not much - but better than nothing. Totally baffled as to why some books worth so much more than others though.

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    3. Well done! I was interested in the pricing too. When I sold a load of DVDs I noticed that those that were not best sellers seemed to yield more - maybe there are less of them in circulation. Maybe it works that way for books. And I do wonder where Ziffit resell all this stuff.

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  3. We have cut way back on our book acquisitions over the years, but we still have full bookcases in every room of the house. The rest of the family is not as interested in freeing up space by getting rid of books as I am, so I have to be very careful when dealing with their books. You have a very good list of questions, but I usually just say one thing, "Make a pile of the books you can't live without." This seems to work better than, "What books do you want to keep?"

    Currently, I can't live without, "Milly, Molly, Mandy". A very nice book for reading aloud. I was even reading it aloud to my husband last night. I don't know if he really liked it, but he said all of the right things about it. Thanks for introducing it to me. :)

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    1. I made sure in my recent cull to check with Husband before getting rid of some of his books. Some of them were so old he claimed that they weren't his, but they definitely were. Glad you're enjoying MMM!

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  4. We probably have 500 books scattered around the house and I've found it really difficult to cull (my
    solution for a long time was just to buy more bookshelves!). I think a lot of it is because I had to get
    rid of almost all my books to move to Australia 25 years (along with practically everything else I
    owned) and there are still a lot I wish I'd kept. I am getting better though - now that you can order books
    from any library in the state I'm doing that and almost never buying books anymore. But the 500 books
    (including a lot of my husband's) are still there. I have culled some (chick lit and stuff I'll never look at
    again) but it seems that, here at least, charity shops aren't accepting them as much as they used to.

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    1. I try to order books from the library too. I agree, charity shops are getting more choosy. I took some non-fiction to one near us and was told that they didn't take 'that kind of stuff' any more! I guess there are just too many books everywhere...

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  5. I just had another look and it's more like a 1000! Definitely more culling is required!

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    1. The kids counted all ours on a rainy day one summer a couple of years ago...I was amazed that it came to more than 1500...I've got rid of several bagfuls since then so I don't know what the current count would be!

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  6. Thank God for my Kindle! I recognise what you say about the feel of a real book, and I worry that in a post-apocalyptic future all my books will be gone in lost data, but for now I need the space more than I need the touchy feely book. Well done for culling any. I gave a big bag to charitythis weekend and it took me weeks to get them out of the house!

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    1. The gained space is such a good argument FOR a kindle!

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  7. No - couldn't imagine my home without books, whether I'll never read them again or not, they're part of me.

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    1. Me neither...just need less books here, not NO books!

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  8. there can never be enough books in a house. Though will say I do donate fiction books on a regular basis to a friend, who then passes them onto other people, so I know they are going to good homes.

    Gill in Canada, your newest follower

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    1. I like to know books are going to good homes too! Thanks for the follow Gill!

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  9. Just had to read this one! We have a lot of books. AND magazines. I wrote a blog post about my magazine addiction (and what I'm doing about it) last month.

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