Came across an interview of Peter Walsh, a clear-clutter guru, on Galleycat. He talks about people with too many books, there are people who read a book that changes their life and don't need to own the book any more, others who think of the book as containing information, if they get rid of the book they are divesting themselves of this. Ron Hogan, the interviewer, says this helped him to get rid of many books.
Walsh, it seems, has won a wide audience through Oprah.
When I first came to Berlin I spent a few thousand dollars a year on books ordered online. I had a reader's card for the Staatsbibliothek, but I had not registered with the police which meant I could not get the kind of card that entitles you to borrow books. A couple of years ago I forced myself to go to the local authority, which is about 500 metres from my house, and register with the police. I was then able to upgrade to the reader's ticket which lets your borrow books. A reader's ticket costs 25 euros a year, with or without borrowing privileges; to borrow you need to register with the police.
In 2005 I bought 140 books online. In 2006 90 (registered toward the end of the year). In 2007 60. Some of these books are not in the collection at the Staatsbibliothek.
If I could get everything I wanted from the Stabi I would have far fewer books in my apartment. If I could keep my books in some kind of books cooperative, where I had 24-hour access, I would hand them in like a shot.
The problem is, I spent my teens in places with tiny libraries. At 16 I lived in Guayaquil, Ecuador; the only source of books was a room in the consulate filled with cast-off paperbooks, a collection determined by the wisdom of crowds. People in places with small libraries find themselves spoilt for choice if they want the works of Mazo de la Roche, turn to Amazon if they want Bolano. [sorry, enye not working in Blogger] If they want to refer to a text, they have no choice but to give it shelf space in the home.
The odd thing about the people who specialise in decluttering people's lives is that no one ever talks about the possibility of (shock horror) communal ownership. The alternatives offered are a) private ownership and b) divestment. So you have to choose between having a Greek-English Lexicon in the home, which you consult a few times a year, or not having access to one at all. The idea that you might be better off as a member of a group, so that you all paid once for a book you all might occasionally have use for, and all clubbed together to pay for a place to keep the collection... well, it's not that it smacks of Communism. It's not that it's unAmerican. It's so absolutely alien it's not even considered as a possibility.