iPad Wreaks Havoc at Home

April 7, 2010

Our homes will never be the same.

As of two days ago, 300,000 people had either purchased or signed up to purchase Apple’s iPad device. That figure is projected to grow quickly and exponentially. Add it to the sales stats of the Amazon Kindle and the many eReader units other manufacturers will soon release and it is easy to envision a future devoid of three-dimensional books.

For most of my adult life, I have been an editor and writer for magazines and websites that showcase beautifully designed rooms. Books have always played a huge part in the décor of these spaces—they appear on coffee tables and consoles alongside bowls, lamps and trays; next to beds and sofas, piled high enough to serve as side tables; and in built-in and standing shelving units where they function as harmonizing visual elements among various personal collectibles.

I cherish the decorative impact of books—their colorful wraps and horizontal and vertical planes—as well as their less tangible ability to enrich a room by projecting an air of erudition and substance, as in this library designed by Miles Redd,

or this classic one designed by Jamie Drake (which I wrote about for decorati.com).

My own rooms have always been filled with books ( even the living area of my tiny Manhattan apartment), and I have long relied on them to fill empty surfaces and counterbalance the geometry and palettes of homeowner displays when styling rooms for magazine photos.

But given the public’s burgeoning interest in mobile reading devices, the days of printed books as decorative objects are surely numbered. Some of those who have known the tactile and visual pleasures of bound words will keep their rooms stocked with tomes (I will definitely hold on to the humor books my father wrote and the French ones he studied), but future generations of eReader users who are less familiar with or hooked on their allure are not likely to do the same.

So what will become of the many miles of shelves that presently line our walls once we start shedding books and stop adding them to our surroundings?

Americans have long abhorred a vacuum. I suggest we train ourselves to like it. To that end, we should let our shelves stand empty for a time and begin to acknowledge the material excesses of the past. We should make an effort to become comfortable with fewer possessions and uncomfortable with vast expanses devoted to holding objects.

And if, after that worthy experiment, we find that we still would rather preserve the shelves for storage than yank them out,  how about we give them over to living creatures instead of landfill-clogging stuff?



2 Responses to “iPad Wreaks Havoc at Home”

  1. Anja Says:

    I understand your concern, but I got a different opinion on this.
    I’m actually looking forward to say byebye to my haptic books. They take lots of space in my appartment, get dusty and I eventually use 25 of them on a regular basis. The rest just stand there and let me love the idea on one fine day I will have another look in.
    Imagine, how much space you win, when the shelfs are no longer needed. You could have smaller houses/ appartments, save energy costs, produce less CO2, no one needs to carry them around while moving (I just moved to an aparment 4th floor in Berlin, Germany…) .
    I love the idea – I’m just waiting for a device which allows to easily scan all the books (not to mention the folders, which fill up my office) and digitally save them. And provides comfortable reading.

  2. Ron Chusid Says:

    I imagine that with the young you are correct that ebook readers will reduce the number of physical books they own and display. For those living in apartments this might be helpful. However many of us are not going to give up our walls of books.

    I purchased an ebook reader for convenience while traveling but I primarily have digital copies of books I already owned physical copies of. Early after purchasing it I did happen to get a digital copy of a book by an author I had not read in the past. I wound up purchasing not only a physical copy of the book I was reading but two additional books by him. In this case the ebook reader wound up adding to the number of books on my shelves.

    This is for the better. My dogs would never stay put on the shelves.

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