A Library, but not a book in sight

I have (almost) no books in my house. That doesn’t sound right, I hear you say, especially for someone proclaiming to be a writer. But I had to say it because it’s mostly true. Don’t go away, there is a happy ending. OK, if you can’t wait, I have a lot of e-books. Anyway, for the less impatient… There are actually some books in our house but I have for most of my adult life led a rather transient existence. The consequence of which is that with all the packing and moving and lugging from town to town, I’ve often been obliged to lighten my load. Many a friend has benefited, along with various local libraries – those people really love free books.

Trinity College Library, Modern Cave Dweller, Harry Tuttle

For those of you that are concerned, you’re so sweet, I really do have quite an extensive e-library. Library is perhaps somewhat of an exaggeration. Until recently these were scattered over myriad devices and in more formats than I thought existed. So what do I do? I seem to have settled down over the last few years and might even let myself imagine that I won’t move again for a while, so do I start building up a paper library again? To be honest, I’m not sure that it won’t go all pear shaped and I find I have to move again. Also, for some time now I have been moving towards a paperless existence – partly enforced by the aforementioned inability to stay in one place. That and my apartment is only so big.

Recently – longer than I care to admit – I have been trying to gather all of this together and get it all organised, you know, like a proper library. No, I’m not finished! To achieve this noble goal, I have chosen to use Calibre. I tried it years ago, but as I said nothing was particularly organised, so I just left it in a corner as another unfinished project. Yes, I regret that. Why? because now I have thousands of books to go through. Some of them are easy. Some need reformatting – I’d like as much as I can in epub. Do I have a good reason for that? No, not really. Most importantly, in terms of time, is that the tags for these books are nightmare. And by nightmare, I mean something really scary, not something written by a teenager that’s afraid of the dark.

Let me give you an example of the tag-madness. What in the world of tags does “FIC028000” mean? Don’t answer that. Another favourite is “book”. It worries me what sort of person thought that this was a helpful identifier. Why are the tags a mess? My collection has accumulated over some time: some of it is free; some of it is from Project Gutenberg; some of it is from friends and I probably should have paid but I haven’t yet worked out how I feel about buying the same book multiple times, and of course there are those that I’ve just bought over the years – because that’s the right thing to do. Even after all that, when you find sensible, credible tags, there is a question of taste, or education and I don’t always agree with how a book has been labelled. Did I mention that I can be a little OCD, which is both Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as Occasionally Considered Dangerous.

In any case, I am enjoying having all of my books in one place – two if you count the backup. However there are a couple of thing that I do miss about having “real” books around. Books smell wonderful! There is something special about that and I’m not talking about the hallucinogens caused by the little bugs eating them – they’re not that old. Hallucinogenic books are a real thing.  The other thing I miss, is browsing the book shelf and the covers. It’s a stupid thing, and of course we never judge books by their covers, although I saw someone remark recently that a good cover can make you a lots of sales…

Anyway, this has been my choice, my compromise. I have given up the smell and the pretty covers for a virtual library. My take home advice then, for the young and old alike – Start to organise your e-library today. Even if you are lucky enough to have a real one. And please please please, for your own sanity in later life, tag everything.

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