Cleaning Up My Kindle Library

By James Wallace Harris, Saturday, April 23, 2016

I had 501 ebooks in my Kindle library when I started this essay. I have 401 now. After reading an article that said 40-45% of all ebooks bought are never opened, I loaded up Kindle for PC, put it in cover view, and scanned my books. Damn, they were right. I’ve been acquiring Kindle books since 2007, and many of those books I had gotten for free in promotions, downloaded for free because they were in the public domain, or ones I bought on the cheap because their authors were anxious for me to try their work. Most I had never opened. Psychologically I assume, I’m buying books for a future, for when I have 72 hours in a day for reading.

This made me contemplate my Kindle library. I love shopping for used books every week and I also love snapping up ebook bargains. But scrolling through the cover images I saw several books I thought I wanted to buy that I already own. Damn! My Kindle library has gotten completely out of hand. I’m constantly buying $1.99 specials because of BookBub, Kindle Daily Deal, Book Riot Deals, or Early Bird Books.

SF Books On Kindle

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon and permanently deleted 100 books I knew I’d never read. This has proven to me that free ebooks aren’t something I actually want. From studying the dates purchased, I had already stopped adding free books years ago. However, I switched to compulsive buying. I bought 146 Kindle ebooks in 2015, probably three-fourths of them for $1.99. Since I average reading one book a week, I’m buying three years worth of reading every year. That’s illogical! You’ll think I’m even more insane when I tell you two-thirds of the books I “read” each year are with my ears, so I’m actually buying about seven years worth of ebooks each year. (I’m not sure if that fractional math works out—haha, a word problem for you.)

It would be a huge help if Amazon created some way to mark books read or unread. I need some method of reminding myself of how many books are waiting patiently for me to spend a week with them. I’m guessing I have a decade’s worth of unread Kindle books in my library. (I need to stop buying those sale ebook!!! It’s an addiction.)

When I scroll through the Kindle library now, I see only books I want to read, or have read and want to keep. But it’s in one big jumble, ordered by title, author or recent (date last accessed). I wish Amazon would let us permanently classify books in their “Manage Your Content and Devices” web application. I can create subject collections, but only for a device, like for Kindle for PC, and sometimes it seems, when the software gets updated, I lose those collections. The photo above is part of my “SF Novels” collection.

In recent years I’ve been buying classic science fiction book when they go on sale for $1.99, and have 70 novels, and 48 short story collections and anthologies. Today, I realized that I need to browse my collection at least weekly, to remember what I own, and inspire me to read rather than shop. Between hundreds of printed books, a thousand audio books, and these 401 Kindle ebooks, I have 30-40 years worth of reading queued up. Since I’m 64, I’m covered for the rest of my life. I should stop buying books. I won’t, but I should. At least, I should browse the covers as often as possible, to remind myself of all those books waiting to be consumed, and at least stop me from buying duplicates. That might slow me down some.

Spending the afternoon working with my Kindle for PC app has shown me the value of looking through my collection. Especially in cover view mode. I wish I had similar software for viewing my Audible books, or even wish the Kindle for PC could manage my Audible collection too. Amazon does own Audible. It would also be nice if I could enter my physical books into the same system, so I’d only need one program to browse my entire collection. I like seeing the covers. There’s software for the PC, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS that allows this, but it would mean maintaining two databases, and that would be a pain-in-the-ass.

Since I buy most of my books from Amazon, it would seem they should be responsible for helping me manage my library.


12 thoughts on “Cleaning Up My Kindle Library”

  1. I have the same problem with paper books, Jim – with the added problem that my bookcases are overflowing. For years, I bought far more books (used, normally) than I ever got read. It adds up. 🙂

    Since 2005, I’ve used AZZ Cardfile to keep track of what I own and what I’ve read. (My books are listed by author. When I read a story, I add a very brief note about it.) It’s not fancy, but it’s so simple I use it to keep notes on all sorts of things.

    I keep track of the Kindle books I’ve read, too (not separately), but I’m old-fashioned enough to still prefer paper, so there aren’t that many.

    It took me awhile to enter all the books I own, but since then, it’s been easy to maintain. I wish I’d done this earlier, because I can’t even remember most of the books I own that I read before 2005.

    The problem with software, of course, is that you’re dependent on the people who make it and sell it. If necessary, I could export the data in a variety of formats, but then I’d have to figure out what to do with it after that. This particular software is very simple, so I can decide for myself what I want to record and what I don’t. For my purposes, I’ve never seen anything else as useful.

    1. Bill, I wish I had been using a database like you have, and making notes on what I read. I have kept a reading list since 1983. But I don’t make notes. I wanted this blog to be my notes, but I don’t write about everything I read, and it’s not useful for generating reports. I’ve thought about writing my own custom program, but that’s a tremendous amount of work. Since I buy most of my books from Amazon, I’m starting to believe they owe me a great book management program that covers print, ebook and audio books.

      1. Jim, I wish I was still writing book (and game) reviews for my blog, because then they’d always be available – and in a lot more detail. (Note that my book reviews are sorted by author name, so they’re just as easy to find.) My cardfile notes are just a couple of lines, usually.

        Of course, a couple of lines is easy to do and takes no time. Therefore, I keep it up. There’s a reason why I don’t blog as much as I used to. Blogging takes time and effort.

  2. I did a similar exercise with both my book and board game collections. It’s incredible how much money and effort we’ve been spending in acquiring new books/board games whereas what we already own is more than enough.

    At the same time i’m also trying to de-clutter (after reading Marie Kondo’s – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up) so i’ve given away most of my books to friends. Even books that I hadn’t read because i know that in all likelihood if i haven’t read them by now i won’t do so in the future either. Most of the time i read the book I’ve just bought and not a book that’s been lying forgotten in my library, physical or electronic.

    The same applies to my board games collection which is even worse because of the space it requires and the fact that you need other people to join you as well. I’ve been auctioning and selling board games for the past year and still have too many. I’m also making efforts to limit new acquisitions. Especially impulsive ones.

    There is definitely satisfaction in reading reviews and doing research to find new books and board games. It’s a part of the hobby that i love but most of the time it seems it overshadows the most important part which is the actual reading and playing what i already own.

    1. Costas, I’m a big fan of Marie Kondo too. I thinned out hundreds of printed books after reading her little book. I wished every time I bought a printed or audio book from Amazon they would give me an ebook copy. That way, I would have all my books registered in the Kindle for PC system.

  3. Yep, same problem here but with physical books. I bought too many books last year and that habit followed me into this new year. I certainly need to weed out my overflowing shelves and get rid of books I dislike and know I’ll never read again. Like you, I get many through compulsive buys.
    I hardly purchase ebooks but I wish there was a way to tell which are full books and which are just samples. I downloaded a lot of samples, which is a bit opposite from the current trend because I try the sample to see if I’ll like the book and then purchase the physical copy.

    1. I guess all us bookworms are compulsive book buyers. I stopped getting samples because they cluttered up my Kindle. I deleted all of them. I just use the Look Inside feature.

      If I had my druthers, I’d like to own a physical copy, ebook edition and audio edition of all my favorite books. They each have their unique value. But more and more I’m learning the value of owning the Kindle edition. That’s because I finally got an iPhone last year, and my Kindle library is always with me now. Of course, so is my Audible library. I got the iPhone 6s Plus, the big one, and it’s a great ebook reader.

  4. I pretty much use my GoodReads account as a catalogue. Besides the shelves to mark the subject matter of the book (non-fiction, historical fiction, classics, etc) I also have shelves for Audible, Kindle and physical books I own. They have an app so it’s easy and handy to look it up when I’m out book shopping! There are some other sights, like LibraryThing, that I think you can do the same, but I don’t believe they have an app.

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