Wednesday, June 6, 2012
I won't live long enough to read all of my books
I'm typing this in a room filled with books, in a house filled with books. A quick estimate indicates that I have about 400 linear feet of books (100 feet more than the length of a football field, with the books standing up, not lying in the grass).
With an average thickness of one inch, and 12 books per foot, those 400 feet mean that I have a frightening total of about 4,800 books. That can't compare with the Library of Congress's collection of several million books, but it's pretty good for an amateur bibliophile.
And that 4,800 doesn't include hundreds of other books on my iPad, Kindle Fire, desktop, laptop and smart phone, and on the UPS truck coming from Amazon. Or what I might pick up at Book Expo America today or at Barnes & Noble tomorrow. Or the books in my car or loaned to other people.
When I was in college, I was still building bookshelves a week before I was due to move out of my apartment. Even now, with those 400 feet of shelving, I still have books in cartons and on tables and desks. And on the pool table and on and in my night table. There are some in drawers, too.
I'm what is called an avid reader. I'm also a collector. That can be fun -- or a dangerous combination.
I read everything. I read labels, cereal boxes, signs and even magazines that I should have no interest in (including one for tow truck operators, one for poultry farmers, one for appliance dealers and another one about air compressors).
When I was a young teenager I subscribed to about two dozen magazines -- everything there was about science, cars, cameras and electronics. They took up a lot of space. One summer I decided that instead of going to the beach club every day, I would devote three days each week to going through my collection. I'd cut out the interesting articles and file them for future reeference.
This was actually a problem, not a solution.
At the age of 14 I could not afford to buy a photocopier and therefore could not resolve the dilemma caused by pages with important articles on both sides -- but about different subjects that should go into separate folders.
But even worse was the depressing realization that the magazines were coming in faster than I could read, cut and file them. I stopped being a librarian and swam more.
And that brings me back to 2012.
I assume that I've read about half of my books. To make it simple, I'll assume I have about 2,500 p-books and e-books to go. According to my theory, I have about 23 years left. I acquire about 80 books a year. I read about 100 books a year. I'll assume that as I age my acquisition rate may diminish, and my reading speed may also diminish, However I'll probably have more time to read.
Although my College Board scores in "verbal" were much better than in math, my quick computation makes me think I'll die with about 2,400 unread books.
What should I do?
Should I read faster, live longer, stop buying, or get rid of a lot of books.
Sadly, none of the options seem likely.
(Top photo is from Fotolia.com)