Shelf life

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.

3 thoughts on “Shelf life”

  1. I just wont want to see my friends (the books) leaving, especially because they gave me so much joy and at times comfort. And I still can’t think about eBooks will do the same for me, at least as long as they are so untouchable.
    The book of poems that you opened up a thousand times, the book that wears the words of a friend who gave it to you, the book that joined you on the first long distance trip you took.
    As long as eBooks can’t bear traces of being loved, used, read, they wont replace the real ones for me. As long as eBooks don’t smell, aren’t out of different kinds of paper, as long as they can’t talk to me like a normal book does, they wont be my friends.
    Until then I am looking forward to make a lot of new friends, being put in shelfs, lie around in any room in stacks and hopefully never get lost somewhere, since it is always hard to lose a friend. 😉

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