# Calculate the Capacity of a Bookshelf or Bookcase

TR Smith is a product designer and former teacher who uses math in her work every day.

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How many books can your bookshelf hold?

You can compute the capacity of a standard rectangular bookcase using simple arithmetic. All you need to know is the width of each shelf, the number of shelves, and the average width of a book in your collection. This is a useful calculation to make when you are in the home furnishings store or shopping for a book display case online.

## Step 1

First, measure the interior width across each shelf in inches or centimeters and multiply this distance by the number of rows. If you plan to pack two rows of books along a single shelf, increase the number of rows by the appropriate number. Call your final answer A.

## Step 2

Estimate the average width of a book in your collection, in inches or centimeters and call this number B. Then compute A/B. Make sure A and B are in the same units. Your answer is the approximate number of books your bookcase can hold.

## Example

You want to buy a bookcase that has 6 shelves, each of which is 83 cm across. You do not plan to stack any double rows of books, so the value of A is 6*83 = 498.

You also estimate that your average book width is 2.5 cm, so B = 2.5.

Finally, A/B = 498/2.5 = 199.2, so this bookcase can hold about 199 books.

Calculate the capacity of your bookcases to better organize your library or study space.

## Another Example

At a garage sale you pick up a bookcase that has 4 tall shelves, each of which is 110 cm across. You plan to fill each shelf with a single row of thick binders, so your value of A is 4*110 = 440.

You estimate the average width of your binders is 6 cm, so B = 6.

To compute the capacity, you compute A/B. This gives you 440/6 = 73.33. Therefore, you can fit about 73 binders in the bookcase.

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