I was reading the other day a quote from JFK Jr who said on the death of his mother, that she died surrounded by family, friends, and her books. Apparently, Jackie’s books were very much a part of HER, her personality, her sense of self.
Up until recently, people could browse your bookshelves and learn a lot about you–what your interests are, your range of topics, favorite authors, how much you read (or at least buy books).
More and more, though, this is changing. People aren’t buying books so much as borrowing them from the library. Or reading them on their e-readers or computers. There’s nothing PHYSICAL on the shelves to tell strangers in your home, for better or worse, who you ARE.
Do you think this is a good thing? Bad? Discuss!
While I agree that digital readers have had an impact on who buys physical books, I don’t think it’s removing anything telling from your shelves at home—I think my action figures and other collectibles say a lot about who I am and what I value. And Jackie O. had enough money to purchase books she might only read once or twice; I only buy books that I’ll reread over and over again, due to space and money concerns.
Books are a huge part of me; you only have to talk to me to find out. And until they make a ten dollar Kindle that doesn’t electrocute you in the bath, people will still buy physical books and keep them at home. So I find this question kind of alarmist and disingenuous; there will always be things in your home that express who you are, be they books or not. And bibliophiles will always have a book or two kicking around—heck, even having a Nook in a specific place of honor says something about you.
Ultimately, I find the slow move away from print books to be utterly neutral—it’s natural for our society and, while I love books, the codex will eventually give way to the next innovation in publishing. But the pace of that is going to be glacially slow, I think.