We still don't have a really great internet connection (this is still going through EVDO), so I can't implement my Brilliant New Idea for reducing the size of the library. Long ago (like, 12, 15 years ago, something like that), I decided that It Would Be Wrong to let the library grow uncontrollably. I was hanging out on rec.arts.books at the time and it was clear that having a library of 10K+ volumes really affected one's quality of life (and not in an unmixed blessing kind of way, either). I set a personal limit of 3K volumes. When I started moving across country, I decided to pare it down. The goal was to halve it, but the first cut probably only knocked it down by a third. At this point, it's running about 1600 volumes (mine -- doesn't include R.'s or the kids' books) give or take a few dozen. A lot of it is in boxes due to a combination of limited wall space for book shelves, my husband using shelf space for music collection, photo albums, etc., and a son who for a long time would not leave anything alone. While T.'s getting much better about de-shelving everything he can reach, I've still got a lot in boxes that I can't decant until I've got more shelving and/or all children are old enough to be trusted around books on bottom shelves.
When it became clear, about 10 years ago, that internet search engines like google had effectively replaced a reference library (and with google books and a questia subscription, I doubt even I could afford a reference library as good as what I have access to online), I unloaded the books I kept around for reference purposes. I was somewhat nervous about this at the time, because what if I was wrong? What if the internet became wholly unreliable, or started charging a ton to access it or blah blah blah? Needless to say, I have no regrets. The Brilliant New Idea is more of the same: if a book is available via kindle, why should I own a physical copy? There's no reason to believe once a book is available via kindle that it will ever cease to be available (the Your Media Library unlimited downloads implies perpetuity in fact, altho R. points out that something might be available to existing owners but not purchasable by new owners). This suggests that I could carve out of my library any book that is available via kindle; the next time I want to reread it (if ever) or consult it, I can download it new on the spot. I'm actually less nervous about this idea than I was about getting rid of my reference books. (I did keep the OED. I'm not an idiot; you can't get at that online for free and there's nothing quite like it. Also, I keep the cookbooks I like.)
Anyone see any flaws in this? Other than those of you who consider me a heretic for purging the library of anything at all. :-)