The other day I was admiring the array of books on a friend’s bookshelf, and suddenly it occurred to me that bookshelves might be an endangered species. If everyone were to switch over to eBooks, then the bookshelf as we know it might cease to exist.
I don’t believe that people will stop wanting to read old fashioned books. Rather, my worry is that the economic forces that allow the book to be a relatively mass produced item might shift radically, converting the bound paper book from a staple of our economy to an arcane object, a highly expensive toy for the rich.
If this happens, then the bookshelf selection as a form of self-expression will cease to become a meaningful part of our culture. Sure, there will continue to be multimillionaires who keep such things, but the general discourse will gradually move elsewhere.
If this should happen, will there be anything in one’s house that reflects one’s reading taste? Will there be a large display of titles that visitors can peruse, proudly mounted on a living room wall, that lets one’s guests choose what to load onto one of the eBook readers strewn about the house?
If bookshelves should disappear from our homes (presumably replaced by the ever more enormous screens of our flat TVs), I for one would be very sad.