Books do furnish a room

January 7, 2012

_img684_3171_tumblrl0p1vgxds81qzhljs.jpgThe title of this post is drawn from the tenth novel, and the first of the fourth movement of Anthony Powell masterpiece A Dance to the Music of Time. Its the one with Erridge’s funeral and Pamela Widerpool’s disposal of Trapnel’s manuscript in the canal. It’s use by Powell references a quote from Lindsay Bagshaw and was a satire on various journalists of the time.

I was reminded of it when this wonderful collection of bookshelf porn popped up on a idle stroll through Facebook. Hat tip to Paulette Paterson via Alex Tewes for that. My children have oft mocked my inability to pass my a bookshop without emerging with a purchase, a sin or virtue that I shared with my mother while she was alive. I have only ever thrown away one book in my life, although several have been “borrowed” and may not return to the fold. Such losses have not stemmed the flow and just over a year ago I resorted to building book corridors to accommodate the volume.

Now I still have to complete the re-organisation of books that this move has enabled, and a year has passed. Sometime soon I will move everything bar the science fiction (which is organised) out and then reinstall it my subject area. However I also realised during the year that the limits would soon be reached again so reluctantly I decided to experiment with a Kindle. I started with the Kindle App on the iPad and that was useful, but not so easy to read in bed at nights. The Kindle is a specialist devise and coupled with a wallet with an integral light works in multiple locations, fits into the pocket of my coat and is generally useful.   

I am by bent, a user of specialist tools. I contrasted this with Euan’s approach to using the iPhone for everything in a previous post. So I have a sat nav, and an iPhone, and an iPad, and two cameras (portable, serious) and now a Kindle. The net carrying capacity is less despite such multiple devices and it allows more flexibility and, critically better management of battery life!

That said a Kindle changes habits, and there are some things it does not do well. So I have over the last few months evolved a policy for book purchases and have the following taxonomy:

  • Serious non-fiction books that I may need to read more than once I buy in hardback and mark up with a fountain pen as I read them, both paragraphs and my own notes in the margins. I know I could do that in the iPad or Kindle but it does not work as well on recovery. I can pick up a book I have read, flick through and find things quickly. I can’t do that with a keyword search or bookmark tagging.   
  • Some critical non-fiction books I have now bought for the Kindle as well as having the hard copy – these are the ones I might want to reference while travelling. Its a small but élite collection.
  • Less serious non-fiction, such as popular management books that I need to read to be aware, or incensed I now buy for the kindle and skim them as necessary. I am marking those up with highlighters as necessary but I am not especially worried about finding the material.
  • My collection of history books has also migrated to the Kindle as they tend to be read once without markup.   
  • Important fiction, especially science fiction from major authors I will now buy in Hardback as I want the physical feel of the book. That may change but for the moment that is where I am.
  • All other fiction which I will probably read once is now on the Kindle, with much reduced luggage loads in consequence. My ability to survive on carry on only is now extended to three weeks from two in consequence.
  • Maps, guidebooks etc need to be thrown in a rucksack and examined in hailstorms so they remain physical. Mind you the ViewRanger app which I reported here (thanks to Euan again for that recommendation) means that I no longer carry maps for routes in which there is always a safe exit. The Thames Walk for example is just fine with the app alone. In the mountains I would still have a real map and a compass.
  • Finally there are books for reading in the bath, these are ones where the damage from falling asleep is acceptable. I have a few books that are twice their published slides due to frequent full immersion. Fortunately I have a large volume of fiction awaiting reading so that need is satisfied without additional purchases. These days I collect whole series of science fiction and fantasy before I start reading volume one. Its easier that way.

So that is the current strategy, rather like Cynefin its about bounded applicability. However, if I had a larger house with more capacity for books, well I just might revert. Books call to you from bookshelves, you merely access then electronically.

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