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Re: Hoarding books and manuals.

by footpad (Monsignor)
on Aug 07, 2002 at 02:14 UTC ( #188215=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Hording books and manuals.

I confess I also horde hoard1 books. Some of this comes from growing up in a house with a Civil War devotee who'd been raised by bibliophiles. I learned how to carefully remove dust jackets while I read the book inside, how to read hardcover and paperbacks without breaking the spine (or unduly soiling the pages with oily fingers), and to always use a thin paper bookmark instead of turning page corners or (worse) placing the title upside down (with its spine facing up).

I learned all this before my age hit double digits, far before choosing a career, the development of the technical publishing industry, or a certain guy by the name of Tim Berners-Lee began wondering how nice it would be if colleagues could link their electronic documents together across a global network.

When I found my trade (as opposed to my calling), I began to hoard written knowledge, whether source code, utilities, books, magazine articles, conference proceedings, or what-have-you. (Somewhere in my archives, I have a stack of punchcards, a roll of punchtape, several dozen cassettes, and scores of floppies of all sizes, including at least one 8-inch CP/M disk.)

In short, I've always been an information junkie. Why? Because there are tidbits in that forgotten (and mostly unmountable) lore that are periodically needed. Sometimes we find ourselves struggling with an older piece of equipment or we need to tackle a new project in an area we've read about but never actually coded for. Sometimes, the older works can be more useful than many of the current crop of "churn-and-grind" manual rehashes we see today.

However, I've recently had to move into far smaller digs. While doing so, I discovered I had boxes and boxes and boxes of the stuff lying around, some of which I hadn't opened in more than ten years.

Since most of those boxes are now in a storage unit (an expensive one, I might add), I've come to the realization that, "No, I don't really need to keep all of those sources." So I've been going through and parting with things like old DOS manuals (and diskettes), four editions of Petzold, Castro's Perl book (and titles of similar quality), and so on.

I've donated what made sense (and was less than five years old) and recycled the rest.

I figure it it this way: Since there's a readily accessible body of knowledge going back more than twenty years, a way of searching for people (and their works) interested in (and using) the same things I work with, and a way of reading that which is no longer available, I really don't need to be paying to store stacks and stacks of mouldering paper.

Mind you, I am keeping a few things (perhaps one in ten), but most of it is going to be reused by someone else at this point. (After all, do I really need to keep my Turbo 3.3 manuals? I don't think so. Not at this point.)

Perhaps more succinctly: Information may be power, but only if it's useful and only if you use it. Some things are classics; keep those. Unburden yourself from those things that do not serve you. If you must, keep a few for sentimental reasons (I've had a hand in a few titles; I'm keeping those), but focus on what you're doing and using now.

The truth is that much of the worthwhile information in older formats is being retained in newer ones. And, should you discover we were overly aggressive in clearing your shelves, well, you can almost always find older titles in various places.

At the very least, you'll have plenty of room for the next crop of books you need. :-)

In closing, I'd like to remind folks that there are other ways to put unwanted books to good use. Consider, for example the VDL or other possibilities.


P.S. Mind you, this only refers to my technical library. My recreational library is also getting reviewed, but far less aggressively.

1 - Update: Fixed the Freudian (Warcraftian?) slip. Good catch, ChemBoy. Thanks.

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