If you needed any more proof that the age of dead-tree books is over take a look at these alarming style changes at Ikea: the furniture manufacturer’s iconic BILLY bookcase – the bookcase that everyone put together when they got their first apartment and, inevitably, pounded the nails wrong into – is becoming deeper and more of a curio cabinet. Why? Because Ikea is noticing that customers no longer buy them for books.
This isn’t quite the canary in the coal mine – think of it as a slight tickle in the mine foreman’s throat – but all signs are pointing to the end of the physical book. There are plenty of analogs to this situation. When’s the last time you saw a casette tape rack sold outside of Odd Lots? What about the formal “stereo cabinet” with plenty of room for records? What about Virgin Megastores?
As much as it pains me to say this and as horrible as it sounds, the book is leaving us.
Next month IKEA will introduce a new, deeper version of its ubiquitous “BILLY” bookcase. The flat-pack furniture giant is already promoting glass doors for its bookshelves. The firm reckons customers will increasingly use them for ornaments, tchotchkes and the odd coffee-table tome—anything, that is, except books that are actually read.
Will bookstores disappear? I think so. With the rise of popular fiction appearing on ereaders, I think the paperback will be the first to go and all that will be left is the “curio” hardback. Then I look forward to a half decade of the publishing industry scrambling to stem piracy and flail wildly at consumers, then hardware manufacturers, then finally settle into the long-fall doldrums the music industry is now facing.
I’m a writer. I love books. I love/hate the publishing industry. But when Ikea is against your product, it might be time to curtail the long agent lunches before it’s too late.