During my recent house feng shui-ing, I emptied and refilled a couple of bookshelves. One of the bookshelves contained our collection of VHS tapes, which we can no longer play because our video tape player went kaput and is no longer even in the house. I shuffled these tapes to a bookshelf in the basement. I also moved a bunch of music CDs from the same shelf to a shelf upstairs. As I was taking cookbooks off the front entry shelf and moving them to the shelf cleared of the tapes and CDs and replacing the cookbooks with other books from our collection, a thought dawned ….
Soon, we will no longer need bookshelves.
The seed of this thought was actually born when I was dusting my CD collection a few weeks ago. Now that I have an iPod filled with digital music (much of which was burned from my CD collection), I have no need for the CDs. I don’t take them out to play them anymore and, although it would cost me to replace the music, I can easily download the music on them from iTunes or some other music service that holds the digital files in the cloud.
Our VHS tapes are obsolete, but no matter. We can rent DVDs of what we want to see, or there are services available that will let us download movies from the cloud.
At the rate the book industry is going, with past books rapidly being digitized and current books automatically being digitized as they are produced, I can imagine a time when people won’t buy as many physical books as they do now. They will download them from the cloud, either as audio files or in e-reader format. When that happens en masse, people will no longer need bookshelves to contain their collection. Bookshelves will go the way of VHS racks and CD containers.
Tchotchkes are their only hope.