Saturday I had a conversation with some of my fellow authors. One woman told us that she has boxes of material on each book. And she saves it all.
Me? I have to admit that this is not my method for much of what I write. When I do educational books, I save PDFs of articles I download from the library. Print things out? Not for these books. I just use too much. For my current project, I’ve roughed three chapters so far and I have three and a half pages in my bibliography. At this rate, my bibliography will be 14 pages long. I simply cannot store that much material.
But these books are also out in one year or less. I’ve already gone over everything with my editor by then and their fact checkers have it all.
There are also very few print books on most of my topics. This was definitely the problem when I was researching for Black Lives Matter and The Dakota Access Pipeline. Or there are books but they are out of date. I had this problem with both Ancient Maya and The Evolution of Reptiles and The Evolution of Mammals. I have bought a total of 7 books while researching my various projects.
How long do I keep the material? Given how few books I have for my various projects, it is incredibly easy to keep my PDFs. They are all on my hard drive and my back up. This is true for my works-in-progress and my books in print.
I can’t say that I have a paper free office but my references materials? Very few in print but PDFs can be saved under author name in the same file as my manuscript. So much easier than coming through filing cabinets upstairs and down.