Books: turning stocks into flows

May 3, 2009 – 6:14 pm

After I get back to Boston, my Big Project will probably have to be my books. I’ve written before about what proportion of my worldly possessions consist of books; well over 50% by weight, volume, number-of things, monetary-value, and just about any other gauge you can think of. I live in cities with great libraries, move often, and inhabit tiny spaces. This is suboptimal. The important thing is not owning books, but having access to books I want to use in the way I want to use them – meaning I should only own a book if:

  1. It is irreplaceable and I want it with me indefinitely (most things in this category don’t actually need to be with me; for instance, I can store my yearbooks at my parents’ house).
  2. It will be abused (bending pages, writing in it, taking it hiking and probably dropping it in the mud, etc).
  3. I cannot borrow it, I need it immediately for a project, and I will be using it for work or study such as to get more than… say, 2 hours of use for every dollar I’m paying for it.
  4. Having it around changes the way I’m able to think and operate on a daily basis. I would put things like the Bible, Feynman’s Lectures on Physics, my massive tome on Jazz theory, and Horowitz and Hill, etc. in this category, among others.

What this means is that when Andrew comes to visit, he’s likely to find me in a storm of clearing literary clutter. Instead of owning lots of books, I’m setting myself up to have access to read a lot of books – and making sure I read them. Since I won’t have a massive library half-composed of unread books (the knowledge that isn’t yet in your head is where the value in your library is, in my opinion) to walk by every day and prompt me to read, I need to make sure new books get pushed to me just about as fast as I can devour them.

So I’m hiring a virtual assistant to make sure that happens, inspired by Sacha doing a similar thing with her library account. Once a week, I ask them to…

1. Visit http://bpl.org and click on My Account. Sign in with the provided library card number and PIN.

2. Click on the Search Catalog tab. You should see a search dialog.

3. In a separate tab, log into http://www.goodreads.com, then go to my to-read shelf. You should see a list of books in the bookshelf “to-read,” sorted by order from 1-20.

4. Start with book 1 on my goodreads to-read shelf and proceed in order through the list (book 1, then 2, then 3, etc.), using the http://bpl.org search dialog to see if the library system has that book.

5a. If the library system has the book, then click the “Hold this for me” button for that book. It will take you to a “Request Confirmation” page; make sure the location is set for “BPL Central Library – Copley Square” and then click the Request button. Return to the http://goodreads.com tab and edit the shelf for that book from “to-read” to “currently-reading” by clicking the [edit] link in the “shelves” column for that book. Copy the titles of the books that have been placed on hold into an e-mail under the heading “PLACED ON HOLD”, one title per line.

5b. If the library system does not have the book, return to the http://goodreads.com tab and edit the shelf for that book from “to-read” to “to-find” by clicking the [edit] link in the “shelves” column for that book. Copy the titles of the books that are not in the library system into an e-mail under the heading “PLACED ON HOLD”, one title per line.

6. When there are 5 books in the “PLACED ON HOLD” list (or when there are no more books in the to-read shelf), sign out of both websites and send me the e-mail with the title “Goodreads books placed on hold”. Thank you!

We’ll see how this goes; these instructions will probably need some fine-tuning (I’ve also asked for ideas on how to improve them). I’m new to delegating, but decided to spend $210 this summer on timesvr as tuition in loosening my stranglehold on the “must… do everything… by… myself!” mentality.

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  1. 2 Responses to “Books: turning stocks into flows”

  2. That’s a brilliant idea! I should get that going myself. Time to go crazy tagging things as to-read… =D

    By Sacha Chua on May 4, 2009

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  2. May 16, 2009: » Virtual assistance: Process for managing my to-read books -- sacha chua :: enterprise 2.0 consultant, storyteller, geek

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