Business & Design: Coffee Table Books

The retro home accessory of the future?

837Rizzoli on West 57th Street


When Amazon introduced the first Kindle in 2007, the idea of reading changed forever.  I remember seeing folks on the NYC subway carrying them, and wondering if the concept of an e-reader would catch on.  Needless to say it did.  What’s more of an anomaly these days is to find someone riding mass transit with a real book.

Times change.

In reading the news over the last few days I came across 3 articles that prompted me to ask the question.  Will books be considered retro by the interior design community of the future?

First there was an interesting article on Yahoo news about how schools are readily adopting e-readers and tablets.  The idea is popular with publishers as they can update books electronically, and students obviously like the thought of carrying less in backpacks.  Not to mention everyone saves money.  Then I came across a piece in the New York Times about government efforts spearheaded by John D. Rockefeller IV to extend funding to schools for upgrading internet access, and ergo online books.  And finally I read a post on about a bill on the floor of the California Senate that would require its Colleges and Universities to give credit for online courses.  E-textbooks, internet in every school, and online degrees from someone other than Pheonix?  Yes indeed.

Then I remembered a story in the Times that my friend Bruce Tilley of DecorNYC brought to my attention 2 weeks ago about a Tech start-up owner who chose to down-size from 2 residences to a studio apartment.  The thrust of the story being that as a society in the post recession economy we need to not only accept, but become accustomed to smaller living quarters.

So you’re asking, how am I making a connection between educational forums, smaller homes, and coffee table books?  Well, if coming generations aren’t exposed to (or taught the value of) real books, and we do indeed scale back our societal wish to inhabit large spaces, what will happen to Rizzoli and the hand full of other coffee table book purveyors?

That remains to be seen, but I can say that much like my friend James Andrew of What Is James Wearing suggested in a post last week, having a proper library has always been enviable, and book collections serve many purposes – including inspiration.  But I wonder if that will be true in the future, or will books become a retro accessory for those wealthy enough to have the space to house them?

OB-VI843_mag121_J_20121113231652Daniel Romualdez’s library photo courtesy The Wall Street Journal


I’ve got 2 observations to make in closing.  First, as with everything else in our ‘supply and demand’ world – the scarcer things become – the more valuable they are.  So I suggest you start collecting books not only to read, but as an investment.  And second, if you’re scoffing at the thought of books disappearing from your home – I think your land-line is ringing.