Wednesday, 24 January 2018


My study or library - actually the 'second bedroom' in my house, although it can't be used as such now - is stuffed full of books and maps. There are bookshelves on all four of the walls. There's no room left. Any additions are getting piled up in front of existing books and maps, or placed on top of them, restricting access either way. The situation isn't desperate yet. But I'm still buying new books, and the odd old map, and within a year or two I will certainly have to do something to prevent it all looking a mess.

I can't install taller bookshelves all round, because there are paintings on two of the study walls with nowhere else to hang them. (The study is also something of an art gallery, as well as a library!) There is however the possibility of getting rid of the computer desk sitting in one of the corners, and replacing it with additional waist-high bookshelving. It's old and tatty, and its departure wouldn't grieve me. Now that would ease the pressure somewhat!

But is such a plan feasible? That corner desk is for viewing items stored on my old desktop PC. If I scrapped the desk, there would be nowhere else for the PC to go. And although all my day-to-day computer stuff is done on my laptop (a Microsoft Surface Book bought in 2016) all of my vast Photo and Document Archive is on the PC, which still has bags of storage space left on it. More than 200GB worth. A storage asset, then.

The PC is of 2007 vintage, and won't last forever, but I still fire it up several times a week to add more items, photos mainly. And it still has real work to do, in that my printer and scanner (both of them of the same 2007 vintage) are connected to it, and the three devices work very well together.

They might however work just as smoothly if connected to the 2016 laptop instead. And it seems I could buy a fast 2TB external hard drive, also to plug into my laptop, for less than £150.

So I could get rid of the PC entirely - and if I did, I would have more room for my books. Well, it's something to think about, for 2019 if not for 2018. (I'm definitely not cancelling any of my exciting 2018 caravan holidays so that I can find the cash for an unexciting external hard drive!)

There are other ways too.

I could purge my book collection. There are a number of books that I never actually look at. They could go. Into the recycling bin, probably. They wouldn't be the sort that a charity shop, or a secondhand bookshop, would easily sell. The only thing is, it seems sacrilege to throw away any book. There's a psychological barrier to overcome. And besides, I like to have a comprehensive range of books on my shelves, a proper collection covering the entire range of subjects that interest me. My bulging bookshelves say something about me that a trimmed-down collection would not.

I don't mind giving unwanted books away to appreciative friends who might visit in the future. But that means hanging onto those books for a long time to come - and then passing the storage problem on to those friends.

I could also stop buying new paper books. But e-books have never had much appeal. Rationally, they do make sense. But there's something about being curled up with a paper book that is better. A paper book's physical characteristics make all the difference to the activity of reading. Somehow there's more pleasure, more personal involvement. You can use leather book-markers. You turn real pages with a crisp rustle. And you can measure your progress through the book by eye, in inches, and not just according to an electronic indication.

To cap it all, I keep on discovering new crime writers whose output I want to try. Currently I'm working my way through Ian Rankin and Ann Cleeves. That means lots of paperbacks yet to buy. No trouble at all! I like visiting bookshops. And there's the sport of hunting down copies of hard-to-find books. The next story in a series, say. A book not out of print, but not often seen on shop shelves, so that you might have to visit several shops before you find a copy. (You must never cheat by ordering them from Waterstones' central repository, or buying them online from Amazon!)

No, that PC (and the desk it sits on) will have to go!

1 comment:

  1. recognise a few of these issues... A new computer often causes more heartache than joy especially when software and attached hardware refuse to work as before.

    As you know I have no idea how many books are scattered round the house. No matter how many are passed on to friends or charities, sometimes sold on to make space, there is never enough space. A good book gives pleasure that an ebook never can. Once read you can inspire a friend to read it and hand it on, try doing that with an ebook which cost as much as the physical book! The joy of selecting a book to read can take an enjoyable age as old friends are spotted. They can be skipped through to find information in a way that the internet and ebooks cannot do.

    I do use an ebook reader for bedtime reading because it is possible to make the font easy to read and there is no struggle to hold up a heavy book to the light and exhaust yourself wrenching the pages wide enough to see a full page. There are enough out of copyright classics or 99p offers to see me to the end of my time but in daylight there is nothing to compare with something velum bound and crafted a few hundred years ago...

    Nice selection on that holiday research shelf...


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