Building your home library
We all agree here that hard times are a'coming. One of the hard times I foresee in the future is accessibility to knowledge.
Today, we've got the internet, eBooks, and libraries everywhere.
I don't know how long the internet will last. eBooks require electricity to charge those batteries and the batteries don't last forever.
Paper books can be read for decades. Books on parchment have been read for centuries. Clay tablets have been read for millennia. If you learn the language, you can read the object.
Books used to be scarce and expensive. Today they're everywhere but will that be true in the future?
I propose we all build our home libraries because if you've got the knowledge stored in a book, you have it safe on your shelf for when you need it.
1) What kinds of books? This is very personal but I don't recommend storing diet books or current top-ten fiction. They have their uses (toilet paper, insulation, fire-starters, radiation barriers) but otherwise don't waste the shelf space.
Instead, look for how-to guides, histories, the classics; books you think will stand the test of time. Fiction should be something you'd be willing to reread.
2) What format of books? Hardbacks tend to hold together longer, followed by trade paperbacks. Mass-market paperbacks will fall apart the fastest. Audiobooks have all the problems that eBooks do: no juice and they're dead, and if you don't have the correct interface, they're dead.
3) Where should you buy your books? Today, used books are everywhere. Start with your local used bookstore. Their stock always changes. Always, always, always check out the books at every thrift shop you walk into. You absolutely *NEVER* know what you'll find. Yard sales tend to be stocked with mass-market pop fiction and diet books but you never know. Yard sales at assisted living facilities and senior citizen housing tend to have the best selection. Estate sales can be good too.
I developed a list of bookstores in the Mid-Atlantic region, including used bookstores: https://careerindieauthor.com/mid-atlantic-bookstores/
4) Library sales are the gold standard. As at your library when they do their sales. Then, move online to library sale listings. Dozens of library sales take place very month, many of them within driving distance. Booksale finder is a good place to start: https://www.booksalefinder.com/
The selection of books at library sales varies wildly and smaller libraries with a college nearby will have a better selection than a larger library with no nearby college.
5) Online at abebooks.com and alibris.com. However, if you're going to buy a book (using word of mouth) from either site, make sure it's one you want. Before we buy a used book, we preview it using the interlibrary loan. Often-times, we look at the book and decide we don't want it. The interlibrary loan saves us $$ for the books we do want.
6) Proper storage. Don't store books in your basement in boxes. You'll get mildew and silverfish. Books need shelves. If you build them yourself, you can size them properly. Mass-market paperbacks can fit very tightly as long as the bookshelf is reserved exclusively for that size. Hardbacks and trades can go together. Build separate shelves for oversized books.
7) Sort your library. Once you've got more than a few hundred, you need to organize. Fiction should always be in alphabetical order by author. For nonfiction, use either Dewey Decimal or the Library of Congress to start with and then adjust for your own needs. Labeled yard-sale stickers affixed to the spines will help you see at a glance what's on your shelves. For example, we organize our histories (thousands of books) by subject date. That is, ancient history comes first and then the histories march forward in time. The stickers identify the time period the book covers.
Our Hollywood library is arranged in alphabetical order by movie star. Other Hollywood books are grouped in date/time order.
8) Purge as needed. If you can replace a mass-market paperback with a trade, do so. Replace trades with hardbacks. If a duplicate is especially useful, keep it for trading. Purging is hard, because you may not be able to replace the title. In general, the weird stuff from tiny presses is much harder to replace than something that sold 100,000 copies.
9) Don't discuss your library with unfriendly people. Only you need to know that you store problematic, questionable books by racist authors such as Dr. Seuss and Margaret Mitchell and Pearl S. Buck.
10) Build your home library NOW, while you can. Libraries are busily de-accessioning. Publishers are busily de-platforming. Amazon refuses to sell some books. You can find books everywhere today. That may not be true in the future both because you can't find something that's been burned and because you may not be able to afford the book if you do find it.
11) The more home libraries exist, the better the chances are some books will survive to be read in the brave new future.
12) Yes, I know modern books are printed on cheap, flimsy, degradable paper but so what? Perfect is the enemy of finished and we save what we can.