I read an article recently that talked about a trend where people are removing all the bookshelves from their living room or family room and replacing them with bars, cabinets, closets, and flat screen tvs. It's happening because people have all their books on an e-reader so they don't need the shelf space anymore.
At first I was a bit dismayed by this trend. Wild thoughts went through my head, like, first of all, it should be obvious that there's room for both bookshelves and flat screen tvs, or cd cabinets or whatever. Why do you think rooms have four walls? And, fourth of all, a wine refrigerator?! (My second and third thoughts of all will not be shared in this space.)
It reminds me of a really stupid e-reader ad I saw. This girl is reading a book and this guy is reading a Kindle or something. She says something to the effect that she prefers to read "real" books because she can read them in daylight. Then the guy says that the e-reader screen is such that it can be read in daylight, too. And he shows her. Then she says something else lame, and he counters it with something lamer. Then she says she can turn down the page of her book to mark her place, and he shows her how he can mark his place on his e-reader. Then she says "Yeah, but you don't get the physical pleasure of turning down the page." Then she pretends to make a big deal about dog-earing her book.
Okay, not only does the ad make people who prefer physical books look stupid, it uses a strawman argument. A book lover would be appalled at what she did. If she's going to go about moronically dog-earing books, then she shouldn't be allowed to handle them anyway. Someone should give her an e-reader already and put a stop to her defacing of books.
Then I remembered something I read recently in Shelf Awareness, a quote from Penguin CEO John Makinson: "There is a growing distinction between the book reader and the book owner. The book reader just wants the experience of reading the book, and that person is a natural digital consumer: Instead of a disposable mass market book, they buy a digital book. The book owner wants to give, share and shelve books. They love the experience. As we add value to the physical product, particularly the trade paperback and hardcover, the consumer will pay a little more for the better experience."
Except for wanting to replace "book owner" with "book lover", I agree with that statement. But to be clear, I personally have nothing against e-readers. I think they're fine for book readers. I think they're even fine for book owners/lovers to use on occasion as a supplement or for convenience. I also personally have nothing against people who drywall over their built-in bookcases. In fact, I think it's for the best. Working in a bookstore that depends solely on donations for its stock, I've seen the difference in treatment of books from book readers and book owners. When a book owner's collection comes into our store (because the owner has moved or, sadly, passed away), it is cause for rejoicing. The books are in very good condition and the selection is varied and interesting. When a book reader's collection comes into our store, there are times - more than you'd think - when we find that a huge part of it must be thrown out. I've seen box after box of books stinking and warped with cat piss, books with mouse droppings all over them, books inhabited by spiders and earwigs and silverfish, books coated with animal fur and dust and (once) dried grass cuttings, books with missing pages, moldy pages, scribbled-on pages, torn pages, chewed up pages. I'd much rather deal with a book owner's books than a book reader's.
So, yeah, I'm keeping my built-in bookshelves, and my shelves for cds and dvds, and one of these days I'm even going to get a flat screen tv. And they'll all be in the same room!