I have -- thank you, Delicious Library -- 793 books on my shelves. Except that I had to get them out of the hall to get the sofa out, so in fact they're now mostly in boxes or stacked on the lounge floor.
And I'm not sure I want to put them back. Even if I went for shelving with a more slimline profile than the four Billy bookcases where they normally reside, they're still taking up a heck of a lot of space. They make the hall seem narrow. And they were a bit of a pain when they were in the lounge, as they were in the first place, taking up a whole wall, and normally being relatively inaccessible, what with having a sofa in front of them.
And how many of them have I read this year? I'd say it's about six. And most of them were new purchases, rather than re-reading any of my "existing stock".
Much as I think I love, or at least like, most of these books -- I had a clear-out of the dross a couple of years ago, and not much new dross has crept back in -- I have to accept the fact that they're mostly just gathering dust, and quite a lot of dust. And there are many that, at my current rate, I won't have read again before 2179.
I also think that e-books are a definite part of the near future. Rather than it being an either-or decision, I think we'll mostly see a similar pattern as we're starting to see for music, where we'll have our stuff on a mixture of media -- actual real copies for the stuff we truly love and want to hold in our hands or have on our shelves or get signed; virtual copies of the second-stringers, and the library, or perhaps a subscription to a rental service, for the rest (serivces like O'Reilley's Safari, where you sign up to have a couple of "book slots" that you can rotate their techie volumes through, up-to-date with the latest corrections, spring to mind.)
But it's going to be difficult to part with a lot of these, I'm sure. I know the kinds of things I'm keeping: the stuff from my very favourite authors, from Hemingway to Jeff Noon. And I know the kinds of things I'm getting rid of: the Peter F Hamiltons, the Doctor Who novels I bought just after I interviewed Justin Richards, the Lawrence Blocks. And quite why I have two full bibles plus two separate New Testaments is beyond me.
But it's the stuff in the middle that's going to cause me problems. The Ian Rankins, say, or the oddities like Crowley's Moonchild, which I feel a strange connection to but which I'll probably never read again, even some of the Asimov -- yes, okay, so it's Asimov, but will I ever read The Robots of Dawn again? And, let's face it, if I do have a hankering to read any Asimov, or Rankin, or anything by anyone like them again, chances are good I can find it for free a mile away in Bristol Central Library.
When you have an emotional attachment to something you think of as "mine!" it's difficult to go with what your head tells you. But fundamentally, I quite like the idea of having more space in my flat, less dust on my bookshelves, fewer bookshelves in general, and a small but very select collection of books that I really do love.
Anyway. So that's what's on my mind today. I guess I need to get all the books sorted into "yes", "no" and "maybe", and see what sizes the piles are, then try to figure out whether I really want to do this, and if so, how (I guess I'll raise the most money by selling them gradually through Amazon, say.) But that particular job may have to wait for a wet weekend, rather than the sunshine we seem to have lined up, so my unconscious will have a bit longer to dwell on the decision.
And at least I don't have my friend Thom's problems. He's thinking of giving up his lodgings completely and moving onto his (small) boat, Manta. It's not just books for him -- probably the biggest wrench in his letting go will be the grand piano that currently takes up most of his bedroom! Puts my issues with letting go of a few books into perspective...