Which Bookcase Do You Need? Calculate the Capacity of a Book Shelf

Updated on October 11, 2017
Jo Kenyon profile image

Anyone can Google to find a quick answer. But sometimes, the simplest answer isn't the smartest. JK enjoys big questions and interrogations.

Source

How Many Books Can a Bookshelf Hold?

Maybe you're looking at a giant pile of books wondering how big a bookshelf you need to buy. Or maybe you're looking at a bookcase, in a store or online, wondering how much of your library it will hold. Perhaps you're good with your hands and planning to build your own custom shelves.

In any case, you can make a fairly accurate estimate of what you'll need, even if you're not great with numbers. All you need to do to is take some measurements and do some simple math.

The Formula for Finding the Capacity of a Bookshelf

The width of the interior of each shelf

x (times) the number of shelves

÷ (divided by) the average width of the books you own.

How to Calculate a Bookshelf's Capacity

How can you find out how many books will fit on the shelf your grandfather built?

  1. First, get a tape measure to find out how wide each shelf is. Measure the open space inside the shelf, not the wood that frames the opening. The average standard width of a bookcase is 30" to 36", but custom sizes vary.
    For example, let's say your grandfather's bookcase is 38" wide.
  2. Next, multiply that number by the bookcase's total number of shelves.
    Let's say your grandfather's shelf has nine shelves. So 9 x 38 = 342.
  3. Next, you'll need to gauge the approximate average width of your books, and divide it into the number you found in step #2. Most books are about an inch and a half thick, but things like art, medical, and reference books tend to run a little fatter. Magazines tend to run about a quarter of an inch. If you're a perfectionist, you'll add up the exact widths of all your books (!!!) and divide by the total number of books to get the average width. If you're lazy like me, you'll make a rougher estimate and deal with the excess (or lack) of space later.
    Let's say the average width of your books is about 2". So 2 ÷ 342 = 171. Your grandfather's bookshelf will hold approximately 171 books.

How to Calculate the Average Width of Your Books

Something to Consider

If some of your books are taller than the shelf you want to store them on, you might have to stack them on their side to get them to fit. In this case, you could estimate by stacking those books as tall as the shelf will allow, then adding the length of the tallest book in that stack to the width of your other books to calculate the average.

How to Build or Buy the Perfectly-Sized Shelf for Your Books

But what if you're starting with books, but no shelf? If you want to make sure that the bookcase you buy or build is big enough for the books you own, read on.

  1. First, count how many books you have. Let's say you own 200 books.
  2. Next, you'll want to estimate their average width. Again, you can do this the nitpicky way by measuring each book's width, adding them all up, then dividing by the total (200), or you can make a rougher guess. Let's say that your books average 3" in width.
  3. Multiply the average width with the total number of books (3 x 200 = 600). This means you have 600 inches total width of book, so you'll need 600 inches of shelf.
  4. If you're building your own, you have some freedom and flexibility. All you need to do is make sure you build at least 600 total inches of shelf space.
  5. If you're buying online, multiply the bookshelf's width and the number of shelves it has to find out how much space it offers. The ubiquitous IKEA Billy bookcase, for example, runs almost 30" wide and has 6 shelves. That means it offers just under 180" of shelf. If you need 600 inches of shelf, you'll need 3.33 bookshelves (600 divided by 180). So you can buy 4 and use the extra space to display your collection of Star Wars figurines, or you can donate 10% of those dusty textbooks to a thrift store.

How Tall Is the Average Bookshelf?

Bookshelves usually stand 80" tall maximum, which is how high a six-foot-tall person can reach without a stool.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Jo Kenyon

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)