Jessica asks an important question:
why do you hang on to books? I try to give the good ones to friends and if i cant send em off i try to give em to libraries. i never understood that, they get so dusty and cumbersome and if i want to reread them they are in the library… i remember you commeted to me once about how you owned way more books to make some point about how you were much more literate than me.
I certainly hope that I wasn’t using the size of my book collection to make some sort of claim to superiority, but if I did or it seemed I did, I apologize.
One might also ask : why have more than two pairs of shoes? You can just wear one pair over and over until they fall apart. It’s of course a different scenario, but (1) it is more convenient to have more than two pairs of shoes and (2) it brings one aesthetic pleasure to be able to dress in different ways. Having hundreds of books is then the wardrobe equivalent of being Imelda Marcos, but the fundamental two points remain — keeping books is convenient and pleasurable (to me at least).
I do lend books to people, and sometimes I just give them outright, in an indefinite loan, or tell them to lend them to others. Sometimes I have a book for years (Civilwarland in Bad Decline comes to mind) before giving it to someone. However, some books I have are relatively hard to find in libraries or so popular that they are invariably checked out. If I donated all of my books to the local public library or the university library, perhaps 10-15 of them would make it into circulation (reference material mostly). Almost all of them would go up for sale in order to raise funds for the library, which is a good cause, but hardly the most desirable result, which is to give that particular copy of the book a wide readership via library circulation.
That being said, I have used BookCrossing and other systems, and I do prune my book collection by selling things back to used bookstores or donating to the library. But I think there are reasons to have books beyond avarice. The only time I find them dusty and cumbersome is when I move — which I am doing this month, so perhaps I will change my tune then (EDIT: no, I haven’t found a place yet, and I think I am going to go insane).