There is a ton of press on the new small house phenomenom. As a response to the excesses of consumption and the economic turmoil of the last few years, many architects, builders and inventors have created amazingly livable micro-houses.
I was listening to an interview with one of these tiny house makers and he was mentioning that with technology, we can compress hundreds, thousands of albums and CDs into a single Ipod. And the same with books - eliminating them saves hundreds of square feet.
This sounded absurd to me at first until I took a more careful look around our house.
For some, the compression of many hundreds of books into a single, tiny disc is a revelation. However, I must admit that my books mean a lot more to me than the words inside them. I have lived in a few cities, moved many times. But the constant of books has given great solace to that kind of displacement. Looking at one's various bookshelves is like looking at a kind of biography of self.
If you get the opportunity, I would strongly recommend Walter Benjamin's essay Unpacking My Library in his collection entitled Illuminations.
So, while I would encourage everyone considering making a new house to reduce their assumptions of the size "required", I am too guilty of a kind of hoarding fetish when it comes to books. A micro-house may be the goal, but our impediments of self require considerably more than focusing a microscope on need and function and making that the totality of a house. That difference, between our needs and our wants, makes the ground for making architecture.