are bookshelves becoming a thing of the past?

This week I saw two stories about bookshelves suggesting they are going the way of the record player and rotary telephones. It seems that in the dawning era of electronic books (and I am the first to confess: I LOVE my Kindle) that bookshelves are becoming obsolete. Both and The Economist wrote about Ikea’s plans to remake its famous Billy bookcases to contain all sorts things besides books. The shelves are becoming deeper and they’re getting optional doors – all the better to hold things that aren’t books, like tsotchkes (and I am the first to confess: I LOVE tsotchkes).

In our house, we still have a lot of novels and other assorted paper products, like magazines, kids books, cookbooks, photography books. But it’s true that they are not the only objects that live on our shelves. When we staged our apartment to sell, in the photo above, we cleaned up the bookshelves so they contained very few books. Our realtor thought this would be more appealing.

These days, I find myself drawn more and more to old books and first editions. Is it the nagging sense that classic printed matter is becoming more precious? On our mantel is a first edition of EB White’s This is New York, a must have and read. I’m not buying fewer books now that I own a Kindle. Rather, now I am buying books that I truly treasure and want to have and hold and display. And for those, I need bookshelves.

What about your home’s future? Will bookshelves still have a place there? — Angela M.

From our partners

huh, I’ve actually found that most bookshelves you can find nowadays are *too* deep. They take up more space on the floor, and all that depth is an invitation to clutter them up until you can’t reach the stuff in the back.

We do have quite a few with books, but probably an equal amount with non-books. I’ve been thinking that one sized for paperbacks would be a good way to store shoes. (I do have small feet).

My favorite one came with the house, and is hand made (maybe as a kid’s woodshop project?) and about 8-9 inches deep with four 12″ high shelves. It turns out to be a really practical size.


I currenty don’t have a bookshelf. I have only just discovered my love for books and am really excited to get a nice shelf for all the exciting books I’ve been buying! Sad? I dont think so.

Books seem to have this strange affect where you feel good just by having turned the page. They are like trophies and I cant wait to have a nice way to display mine :)

Megan B

Books forever!! As a former bookstore employee married to a former librarian, we are both voracious readers and book collectors. As much as we try to pare down the collection, our many bookshelves still struggle to contain them all.

I’m glad to have my real media. And my bookshelves!

Sarah L.

Maybe paperbacks will fade out, but there’s too much beauty in hardcovers for them to go away completely. At least that’s what I tell myself. I can’t imagine a world with only electronic copies of books. I think if you have shelves and you’re not a book lover, you fill them with things you do love. Either way, flexibility in the shelve height and width seems like a good thing.


I can’t imagine a house without books. Curling up by the fire with a good book is still the norm in our house, cuddling up with a computer or kindle just doesn’t cut it. We have a room in our house that is a library. Our coziest room.

Bookshelves are one of those versatile things that can be placed or built in almost any corner of the room. I have really got creative in the past with bookshelves. Ive done some basements where I put the bookshelves on rollers. A rolling wall basically to hide something ugly. (like a sump pump or PVC pipes) Its usually not a huge cost build some nice ones if you know what you are doing.


My husband and I both read a lot, always have, and I work in publishing, so I have LOTS of books. That said, we bought a house last year that we both adore, but it has limited space for books right now. Most of our books are still in boxes. Other than the books we’ve bought (or brought home, I don’t pay for a lot of books), the recipe books, and the hundreds of kids books of my daughter’s. (Hey, I get 70% off at one of the major kids publishers.) I also have loads of collectibles and tchockes that need display space. I have one glass-doored book/display case in my living room which holds my ceramic collection and my collection of clothbound Penguin Classics–they look nice together. I have to figure out more places to put bookshelves before my books get moldy in the basement! I also need to put shelves up in the kitchen and can’t find anything I like that I can afford, hmph.

This is why I started an archival site devoted to bookcases. My goal is to have as many photos of shelves filled with books. I am hoping to organize these photos into different countries and urban/rural areas. I want future generations to know the utility of a bookcase. Take a look at my site and leave a photo of your bookcase.​The-BookCase-Project/201733486​549165