Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Linear verbiage

Roaring with pain sorry, pouring with rain; abject crossword débâcle; ironing (almost) done; batch of fridge soup made; not sleepy, ain’t no place I’m going to …  So I decided to measure my books.

The methodology was quite simple.  Most of them are arranged like this on shelves, so ‘Σ shelf length times number of shelves’ gives total yardage of books, by spine. 
Approximations had to be made for this kind of situation:

And after some deliberation I decided to include the antiquarian department, out of respect:

The final outcome is that I possess approximately 28 yards of books.  I have no idea what this means.  I probably need to calculate the corresponding weight and word count for the data to become in any way meaningful.  Plus, I suppose, some form of quality weighting: maybe I can estimate how many times each book has been read, or the probability of it being read again.  But that will have to wait for another wet day, or month.

I left out certain reference volumes, including cookery books.  I have also omitted the new Kindle, for two obvious reasons.  One being the difficulty of assigning a spine thickness to an e-book; the other that there aren’t actually any books in there yet.  This is because I don’t really know what to do with the thing.  I doubt if I’ll let it supplant ‘real’ books entirely, or even in large part, so I have to find a selective rôle for it.  I don’t often go on extended holidays any more, at least not the kind that contain wide open reading spaces.  (I get too much of that at home.)  I daresay it will come in useful once my arms become too weak to hold up a weighty tome, or my eyes demand magnification of 8-point text; but neither of these has happened yet (as at 3.50 p.m. today), and I’ll probably have lost the ability to work technology by the time they do.


  1. It's a shellfish attitude. The kindle would take 1500 which is most of yours but there would be the small matter of paying Amazon about £5,000 for the doubtful privilege.

  2. Having just measured the books in this room alone, I admit I've got too many books. I can't bear to check the whole house, but I suspect the total is at least 100 yards. I also have 14 book apps downloaded on my iPad - that's apps, there are hundreds of books there. My life is out of control and I'm going to spend the rest of the morning rocking quietly in a corner.

    (This room - 5'6"x7, 6'x7, 3'6"x4. 2'6"x3, not counting two shelves of reference books, nor the small pile of library books).

  3. Rog - yes, and also I can't normally read a book in less than three days, even working fulltime (Wars and Peaces take a bit longer). So I'd need at least 12 years, doing nothing else, to empty my Kindle just once. Not convinced I can spare the time.

    Eliz - they certainly used to be. Haven't been to a public one for years (well, I obviously don't need to, do I?)

    Z - They do furnish a room, though.

  4. One thing done well here;I'm reading the brand new Peter Carey, pub.2012, ordered online.

  5. I think I'll join Z in the corner. I'm sure there are miles of books in the house but finding them all would take weeks and furniture removal.

  6. I'm not going to be drawn into all this measuring malarky (although I have a vague recollection of old books being sold by the yard when it was the fashion for pubs to be lined with old tomes for 'character) - but when we did a stock count at the library where I work, I calculated that if I read one a day it would take me 28 years to read just the novels that were there. When you think that 206,000 new titles are published in the UK a year... well, it's made be a lot pickier about what I keep hold of.

  7. I get all my books for Kindle on manybooks.net. You download them to your computer and then upload them onto your Kindle.

    You can choose by author, genre, etc. I have no more room for books in my weeny house, but lots of lovely room on my Kindle. :)