Um, excuse me, NYT, but I'm pretty sure actual READERS have actually managed to keep the printed, bound book alive until now and will continue to do so. The idea that the only use for printed books in the digital era is as decorative elements or objects is stupid, frankly.
E-readers are great and having just lugged seven tomes on a plane for a single's week's vacation, I see their value. I plan to get one, eventually. But just as mp3s have failed to destroy the CD, (or even the vinyl record, thankyouverymuch) so too will e-readers fail to kill traditional publishing.
We already know this. It's not worth a story in the New York Times.
But the article is also about books as design. About the growing trend of decorating with books. About how rich idiots in McMansions wouldn't think of having a house without a library... even though said rich idiots don't read.
It's ridiculous. Pretentious. And it really annoyed me.
Look, I've experimented with book storage too. I'm often bothered by the fact that my unwieldy library isn't cohesive looking. Back in 2004, I swathed all my texts in white paper and labeled the spines with pen and ink. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but in practice it was awful. Despite my alphabetizing and categorizing, I needed my memories of spine colour and dust jackets to find things. And the white felt boring. The whole experiment was a waste of time.
I've also considered colour blocking and size-based organizing, but again, neither really makes sense for me. Why not? Because, my library is functional. It's meant to work.
It contains books I actually read.
The NYT article spoke of book swaddlers. People who cover existing texts in matching papers, textiles, etc. to make them more, ostensibly, visually appealing.
"It’s a practice that irritates book designers like Chip Kidd, who creates noted covers for Knopf. 'It feels sort of needlessly complicated, like turning on the vacuum cleaner and going and finding a piece of dirt,' Mr. Kidd said. 'You don’t have to redesign the jacket; the jackets have been designed. This feels arbitrary, like taking a piece of wood and wrapping it in paper.'"
This little excerpt was, for me, the story's saving grace. I agree with Kidd completely. The covers have already been designed. A book is a thing. It's not only its content, not only its story. It's a whole. And living with the whole can be beautiful too.
What's my point? I'm not sure. I think my point is this: if you don't read, why have a library? Why not fill your shelves with something that matters to you? Why not get rid of the shelves completely and hang art instead? Why not do anything else? Anything authentic instead of something so blatantly silly? Why? Why not?
In honour of honouring books, here are a couple of pictures of real libraries, owned by people who actually read. The first is from my friend Jodi. The second is a shot from my own living room.
Got any "real" library pictures you'd like to share? Shelves full of books you've actually read (or at least intend to read)? I wanna see em.