Today I accompanied my lovely wife to the University Library to get an extraordinarily large stack of books on furniture. Lately this is what passes for a date, but I’m not complaining. San Jose boasts the luxurious 8 story Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. library, a collaboration between the City of San Jose and the San Jose State University. Spending the day there is a little like going to book heaven.
I love books – I mean, it’s been a serious addiction in times past. Many were the days when an Amazon shipment would arrive at my house from the big brown UPS truck, so I could read a book in a weekend and sometimes learn what I was looking for. But now, mainly for “minimalizing” my life, I’m breaking the addiction with a 12 Step program of book reduction.
1. Do more research online. Free research is great but why not pay for some deeper wisdom from those dedicating their lives to bring it to you? Try a monthly subscription to an online forum, or ezine like this site for Home Brewing. Or the awesome Herb Mentor online video library (currently being remodeled). Yes, you may have to pay a couple of bucks to get access to forums and whatnot, but one book a month would have run you $5-$25 anyway.
2. Go to a class. Nearly everywhere has places to learn from a human who has done it before. In the South Bay area, we have Common Ground Garden Supply and Education that runs classes like this. You may still buy a book, but perhaps you’ll buy one, very useful handbook, instead of trying to learn on your own with 4 or 5 books. BTW – also great for date time.
3. The obvious answer, buy ebooks! Some specialty authors don’t have their ebooks available through an ebook distribution system but make them available for download on a website. Our friends at Permaculture UK pointed us to Green Shopping, where they’ve been running a 3 for 2 sale on permaculture ebooks for a long time.
TIP: If you buy ebooks directly, rather than through a system that will forever archive them, and you’re tired of losing the ebooks when your PC crashes, save them to an online storage location like DropBox. If you have an Amazon account, you get 5GB online storage for free, probably forever. Put your rogue ebooks there so they’re not lost and you can access them from anywhere.
4. Borrow books from friends and neighbors. Eeks, I know that means you’d have to actually talk to your neighbors, but you may be amazed how many other backyard gardeners there are near you. And all those friends with common interests may already have what you’re looking for. You’ll never know until you ask. Loan out your spares, especially the one’s you are not worried about losing.
But wait, you say. I want to support the new economy! I want to reward writers and publishers who are taking risks investing in fringe topics like urban sustainability. Don’t I need to buy their books to support them? Good question.
5. “New media” really need to be encouraged to offer their material electronically. If they are not, send them a note, use ALL CAPS.
6. Many independent authors allow you to donate directly on their site through Paypal or some other system. That’s a great way to support them directly; do it! It’s also some nice moral support for an author to see even a small donation come in, because it means they’ve connected, their work has value, they have touched the life of another.
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7. Go to workshops and seminars of the folks who write the books you love when you’re privileged to have them working or presenting in your area, also tradeshows, user groups, and big events like Maker Faire. I had a splendiferous day with my son at Maker Faire and we can’t wait to go next year.
Well what the heck do I do with all the books I have? I know what you mean. After doing a deep, book cleanse, I still have shelves and shelves of the darn things.
8. Some you should just save, because you never know what might happen. Remember Fahrenheit 451?
9. Donate your books. Books can have a new life or provide funding for charities like Goodwill. Most local libraries will take books in good condition. Specialty books will be loved by clubs, churches, youth groups like Civil Air Patrol – if it was once useful to you then pass it on. The library we went to today takes used books, as well as our local San Jose Public Library system.
11. I started a “Free Books” area in our break room at work. I bring in only “work appropriate” books, use your best judgement for your company. I was shocked that just about any book I couldn’t get rid of through some other means was snapped up like candy when I left them in the break room with a “Free” sign. I’ve never seen anyone take the books – you have to walk away for it to happen.
12. Sell them on eBay, or take them to a used book store for cash or credit. Half Price Books is a great resource if you have one near you, and I wish they were here in California by me. I’ve wondered how many times the same book has been recycled through a re-use company like that.
Books that brought you great pleasure, wisdom, or DIY know how can do the same for another person, and another, and another. Imagine the secret life of books when you release them from their dusty shelves, boxes and storage areas to live again, delighting another soul with their timeless adages and anecdotes. Make sure to add your name to the inside cover, and draw an underline for the next recipient to write their name, and the next, and the next.
Fly free my pretties!