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The Decline of the Bookshelf


The bookshelf may be on its way out.

This week’s Economist led off a piece on e-books with this nugget: for the first five months of 2011, e-book sales outpaced hardcovers. It’s gotten so bad that IKEA’s reconsidering the bookshelf entirely. Now it’s more of a glass-doored ornament case. The book-covered wall may already be a thing of the past...

Needless to say, we disapprove.


We aren’t standing against the Kindle, but the idea that it’ll cast the bookshelf into obsolescence seems downright tragic. As we’ve said before, building up a good bookshelf is the whole point.

The way we see it, a good hardcover is the text equivalent of a vinyl LP: tactile, authentic, and infinitely cooler than the digitally perfect replica. And for the same reason Dad held onto all those old Kraftwerk records, you should plan on holding onto that dusty Raymond Chandler hardcover for quite some time.

That means shopping differently—more vintage, more collection-building, more focus on the book-as-object—but do it right and your bookshelf will be the most handsome object in your apartment. A few first-edition Nabokovs will look a lot better than any trinkets you’d have on the shelf, and they’re surprisingly easy to find if you know where to look.

And you’ve got somewhere to put them.