The IKEA bookcase that 'foreshadows the demise of books'

The Swedish furniture giant is making a bookcase designed to hold things other than books. Time to say goodbye to your home library?

Customers have spoken, and Ikea is altering its popular BILLY bookcase so owners can incorporate less books and more of anything else onto its shelves.
(Image credit: CC BY: Tristan Ferne)

Et tu, IKEA? As if Borders' liquidation and the rise of the iPad hadn't already sounded the death knell for old-fashioned books, now The Economist reports that IKEA is introducing a bookshelf designed to hold things other than books. Here, a brief guide to the shelf that "foreshadows the demise of books":

What is the deal with this new bookshelf?

The trend-setting Swedish furniture chain is putting out a new version of its popular "BILLY" bookcase with deeper shelves designed to hold tchotchkes, knick-knacks, coffee-table books — "anything, that is, except books that are actually read," says The Economist.

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How popular is the BILLY bookshelf?

Pretty darn popular. In 2009, the BBC reported that IKEA had sold 41 million of the bookcases since 1979. The factory that produces them pumps out 15 a minute and 3.1 million a year. "It is ubiquitous, modernist, industrial design taken to the ultimate conclusion," says furniture designer Matthew Hilton.

And the redesign signals the death of print?

That's what many are saying. "If you needed any more proof that the age of dead-tree books is over," look no further than "these alarming style changes at IKEA," says John Biggs at TechCrunch. These days, says Nick Carbone at TIME, "we're more comforted by the endless capacity of a millimeters-thin box of transistors" than we are by books. "It's quite telling that related industries are adapting to this change."

Is everyone interpreting the new bookshelf the same way?

Nope. I'm hardly sold, says Carolyn Kellogg in the Los Angeles Times. "When the death of print comes, it will be heralded not by more accommodating bookshelves, but by IKEA ditching its BILLY entirely for a wildly-efficient, hard-to-assemble, wall-mounted Kindle holder."

Sources: BBC, Economist, LA Times, TechCrunch, TIME

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