I used to have visions of a large glorious library, but as time goes on I find less appeal toward having a large physical collection of books. I have often wondered how many people who maintain personal libraries don’t really know their contents and merely keep them as a semi-public display of knowledge.
I like having virtual books. I used to maintain all of my ebooks myself in folders arranged by topic, but a couple of years ago I stated using Calibre to maintain the collection. I like maintaining a virtual library for two reasons: quick access and the ability to easily maintain a dynamic collection.
Quick access is an obvious one. It is wonderful to be able to carry with me a collection of books that I can quickly reference, whether by title, author, searchable content, or other means. However, I have found that maintaining a dynamic collection means a lot as well in a technical-oriented field. Certain kinds of books, while informative for a short period of time, can quickly become outdated and lose their relevance.
I typically encounter three to five titles to add to my collection weekly, and prune the unnecessary books every few months. I’ve noticed that this leaves my collection revolving around 500 titles, give or take a few at any given time. I acquire books that I think may have personal appeal or may be useful for reference at some point in the future, and then later I re-judge those titles based on whether or not they would have any actual relevance to me (if I had not already read them).
Like any collection, some books are essentially timeless and will remain in the library forever, whereas others could be considered “throwaway” books where I may read them a single time and then never look at them again. Those are typically tossed in each pruning session.
I still find it very amazing that we live in an age where a person can carry 500 books with them anywhere they go. Some people say they could never completely go virtual because, among other reasons, they enjoy the feel of reading a physical book. For me, I typically take notes as I read (which I also like to maintain in electronic form) so I enjoy the ability to have the book open on the right side of the screen and my notes open on the left side (I probably arrange it that way because I am left-handed; I’m not sure).
Besides, the idea of wandering around shirtless in a physical library holds little appeal for me. 🙂