Frontispiece of Folio's "Prime of Miss JB"
"You know those built-in bookshelves you've always dreamed of having in your house or apartment?" reports the online book digest Shelf Awareness. "Apparently there are fewer people like you than there used to be. Crain's Chicago Business reported that 'with sales of e-book titles surpassing those of paper-and-ink volumes, homeowners are moving on.' Re/Max broker associate Lynn Fairfield said clients are dry-walling over bookcases to make room for flat-screen televisions: 'When I show houses, I never see books lined up on shelves anymore. If there are shelves, they're usually filled with sports trophies or photos or knickknacks.'"
As a person who lives, breathes, eats, sleeps, and dreams books; who has 26 non–built-in bookcases crammed into every conceivable cranny of a townhouse (including bedrooms, baths, and stairways); and whose greatest fantasy is to have a roomful of Folio editions of my favorite authors (I do have one of Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie!), I guess you could say that I am unusually enamored of books as possessions and aesthetic objects. But obliterating bookcases with flat-screen tvs? Yoiks!
I am sure I would enjoy an e-reader immensely for certain purposes. And I love it that Google has out-of-copyright books available in a thrice. But when I kick the bucket they will probably have to pry a real book from my cold, dead hands. End of story. What do you all think—of books as mementoes, as possessions, as things to heft in your hand, to treasure and display?
P.S. Shelf Awareness also reported that Linda LaPlante—screenwriter of the Prime Suspect PBS series that blessedly brought Helen Mirren into our homes—is going to adapt Marcus Rediker's book Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age for tv as a sort of "Deadwood on the high seas." This we gotta see!
P.P.S. The painting "Granny Lion Tamer," above, is by self-taught British artist Beryl Cook, whom I discovered through her illustrations for Folio's Miss JB.