I saw a classified once in a writers’ magazine. “Join the Moving Book Society!” it exclaimed.
Join it? I could be the President of it, for goodness’ sake. I’ve moved more books than Amazon.com. Although I’ve now lived in the same house for over twenty years, at one time my average length of stay in any domicile was between nine and eighteen months. I moved. I moved so often that I frequently didn’t get my books all unpacked before it was time to pack them up again. (We will ignore the fact that I still have books in boxes after twenty years in the same house. It’s a small house. I have lots of books.)
There is nothing like moving house with—on a conservative estimate—two tons of books to make you wish for legislation on book sizes and wine-box sizes. Books and boxes—both roughly rectangular. Should go together easily, right? Let me speak from thirty-six years of experience in moving books. Wrong. It should take twenty minutes to put the entire west wall of the library into seventy-eight cardboard boxes of identical size. Instead, it takes roughly the same amount of planning as the assault on Normandy.
There should be some law that decrees that all wine bottles will be sized so as to be packed in boxes which will neatly and compactly hold some number of books, that number varying according to the size of the books.
I’ve even got a system figured out. Books could be measured not in inches or centimetres, but in “penguins”. A “penguin” would be a book the same dimensions as the orange-spined Penguin paperback that we all know and love. (If all books were printed this size, there would be no problem with bookshelves, either!) A “sesqui-penguin” would be a book one-and-a-half times as high and wide as a Penguin. Small books could be “demi-penguins”. A “king penguin” would be a book twice as tall and wide as a regular Penguin, and a book three times as big in both dimensions would be an “emperor penguin”. That would probably be large enough for most art books, really, but bigger ones could be something like “galactic tyrant penguin”. Not that it would matter, because those books would be too big for wine boxes anyway. You’d have to wrap them in blankets and tie them up with string.
Then wine boxes could hold a certain number of penguins, demi-penguins, sesqui-penguins, king penguins or emperor penguins. Because the penguin system of book measurement guarantees that, say, four sesqui-penguins take up the same area as six penguins, you could mix and match to fill those last few boxes.
Eventually wine-bottle sizes would be renamed, too, for the size of box. Bottles in a box big enough to hold emperor penguin-sized books would be called “emperors”, and so on.
Of course, the big revolution would be in moving itself. Moving is a horrible job, doubly so for people who own a lot of books. Think of the stress saved for people who know that those boxes they hauled home from the liquor store will be a cinch to pack. Moving could become a walk in the park, rather than an ordeal to which root canal is preferable.
After working all of this out, I realized that “moving books” actually referred to paper-engineered books, pop-ups and the like. But, hey, why waste a perfectly good idea just because it started in a misconception?
Of course, it’s come too late for me. I won’t be moving again. But there it is, for anyone who wants to take it up and make it work.
No, no, you’re quite welcome.