Will the Home Library Survive the E-Book?

cabin bookshelf photo

Migrated Image / Lloyd Alter

Alex Johnson sees the beauty of books beyond their covers. He sees beauty and style, not only the spines of the books themselves but within the shelves that house them. His blog, the Bookshelf points to an interesting article in the Independent titled "Will the home library survive the surge of the e-book?" For some people, books are little more than decoration. The article quotes one book's owner:

"I've not actually read any of them. I just love the bindings." So said the actress Davinia Taylor earlier this year when she decided to put her house on the market - complete with its carefully-sourced collection of classic books. Rarely removed from their perch on a bookcase in the living room, their primary purpose was to disguise Taylor's walk-in fridge.

The article notes that books are still, among many, a sign of status.

"You can tell a lot about someone by their choice of books - and how many they've got," says Doug Jeffers, owner of the My Back Pages bookstore in Balham, south London. "You can tell their political views, their interests, when they did most of their formative reading and, as a result, how old they are. You can even guess where they go on holiday and what they do for a living."

Of course, that is a bookseller speaking, he has a vested interest. But "home stylists", those people hired to make houses look better to sell more quickly, say that it is important to show the right books.

Household stylist Abigail Hall agrees. "I often style houses for sale and you'd be amazed how important the contents of your book case can be. People form judgments about the type of person who lives in the property as a result. So the paperbacks they've bought on holiday go straight into storage, and the classics go on display."

Evidently the fashion started with the Victorians and cheap mass-produced books, exploded with paperbacks in the '30s and then again in the '80s, thanks to cheap shelving from IKEA. But books are heavy and expensive, bucking the trend toward smaller homes and more mobile lifestyles, and the growing popularity of e-books. If real books become nothing but decoration and status symbols, they will cease to say anything about their owners.

Our walls at home are lined with books, and our cabin is insulated with them. But we have not added a new one in five years; there is no room and our city has a great library system. My wife, who takes out about 250 books a year, just got a Kobo, a reader that works with the local library system; now she doesn't even have to go there to pick up a book. The era of the impressive library is following the impressive record collection- It's over.