The Decline and Fall of…How Does it Go?

It was a nice day recently so I was of course sitting inside a dark bar, when one of my friends turned to me and said “My wife and I are thinking of getting rid of our books. They just take up space. And it’s not like I’m not reading them again.” 

I asked all the usual questions and hurled the correct invectives: What about your child? Aren’t you just going to have to re-buy them in kindle format? Are you a troglodyte?…etc…

From there we discussed the idea that really, anymore, the book is going to become a fetish object. And rightfully so. After all, who really needs a paper copy of pulpy or non serious summer reads like the next thriller from Dean Koontz or the next 400 page trend piece about Middle Class White People from Jonathan Franzen? Downloading them to your iDevice or what-have-you is just as good. Why kill the trees? 

And so what books remain to be made will be owned in much the same way that people own all manner of old format media, like records/ players. But. But maybe not.

Since the whims of the rich are often an indication of where culture is heading, let’s take a look into the future shall we?

In the future there are only POORS huddled around trash can fires, or people sipping 18yr old scotch in their leather volumed libraries.

The idea of curling up with a good book has increasingly come to mean flipping on an e-reader, not flipping through the pages of a leather-bound novel in a book-lined room.

Yet the home library is on the rise, having become something of a cerebral status symbol. Affluent homeowners are buying quality books in quantity to amass collections for private personal libraries. 

But what if you haven’t actually read a book since the Clinton Administration. But you’re rich?

Some people are also seeking the services of experts to help pull together notable collections or to advise on the look, feel and content of their home libraries.

Oh good. You can just buy culture. I’m interested, but what do they cost. And remember, I’m interested in looking smart, but I don’t know where to begin.

Juniper Books’ collection-development service attracts people who want a library but haven’t had the time or inclination to amass a collection of books. “Part of the desire [to create libraries] is for people to look smart and well-read, and part of it is the quest for some great knowledge in this electronic age,” says Thatcher Wine, owner of Juniper Books, in Boulder, Colo. The company’s collection-development business doubled last year to a few hundred clients. It charges by the linear foot—or by the individual book—with most libraries in the $3,000 to $100,000 range.

(Reminds me of the scene in Hannah and her Sisters where Max von Sydow gets mad at someone who wants to buy his art because it will match his couch.) 
So anyway, who are these people that are utilizing your services? 

A typical client is a 35- to 55-year-old hedge fund manager, Hollywood mogul or technology executive.

Look, people have always been inheriting or acquiring books as much for their looks as to read them, so this is nothing new.  After all, one of my favorite bookstores The Strand, has been selling books by the foot for years now. 

But Geez.

Isn’t it….notable…that the same people who’ve created, financed, and marketed the move away from books, and into digital are now using the rewards from that Faustian bargain to surround themselves in  the very things they’ve replaced, in order to look like a better, more cultured person? 

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