Last Friday night The Economist published an anecdote about how Ikea had planned for the death of the book. They were supposedly about to release a new deeper bookcase and were also now pushing doors for their bookcases. (I covered it here.)
TO SEE how profoundly the book business is changing, watch the shelves. Next month IKEA will introduce a new, deeper version of its ubiquitous “BILLY” bookcase. The flat-pack furniture giant is already promoting glass doors for its bookshelves. The firm reckons customers will increasingly use them for ornaments, tchotchkes and the odd coffee-table tome—anything, that is, except books that are actually read.
My problem with the anecdote was that it sounded too much like an urban legend to be plausible. I didn’t believe the story, and guess what?
I was right, and the many sites who posted this story, including The Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, Time, The Daily Mail, Gizmodo, The Los Angeles Times, TechCrunch, TeleRead, NeatoRama, Acualitte, eBouquin were all wrong.
My counter argument could be summed up as:
- Ikea always had doors for the bookcases,
- they already had deeper bookcases, and
- it was the wrong time of year for a new mode.
I was right on 2 out of 3, which isn’t bad.
Edward Champion of the Reluctant Habits blog contacted Ikea and he was told that the death of books had nothing to do with the new deeper Billy bookcase. It did exist, but it had also been under development for a couple years now. Also, the existing 11″ model isn’t going anywhere; the new 15″ Billy will simply supplement it.
BTW, this new deeper Billy model is the same depth as the existing Bergsbo bookcase, and that one isn’t going away either. I’ve also heard via another source that Ikea have had doors for the Billy pretty much since it launched in 1979. Ebooks had nothing to do with the doors, either.
My rule of thumb is that when a story sounds to good to be true, it probably is. And this one sounded too pat and too much like an urban legend. It’s right up there with not eating PopRock and Coke (because your stomach will rupture and you will die).
via Reluctant Habits