Book spines as wallpaper

Posted by Rob Walker on March 5, 2010
Posted Under: Consumer Behavior,Suggestions

Book-walls are just aesthetic now, just an unusually dense wallpaper: We don’t really need them for consultation. I can probably find the complete text of most of them online within an hour.

That’s from a Globe & Mail essay, A Lament For The Bookshelf. And of course when I read it I thought: Now there‘s an idea — a book-spine wallpaper pattern! [IMPORTANT UPDATE: Please see after the jump — it exists! Sort of!]

I can easily imagine a variety of choices for different consumer segments, based on what identity each one wants to project. Old-school classics? Dense philosophy? Hip contemporary fiction? Art tomes? Hilariously ironic “bad” books? Etc.

Or how about this: A flat screen that hangs on the wall and is about the size of a bookshelf, or even a book case, that displays a rotating assortment of book spines? It could be tied to what’s actually in your Kindle or whatever, or it could be a complete fantasy. There could be a subscription service so your virtual shelf is always displaying whatever got the best reviews in the Times in the past few months.

Moreover, the book spines don’t even have to be photorealistic, they could be executed in various visual styles, like this. Or, again, a subscription service so a different artist rendered the idea of the books you would like have on display, if you actually had a bookshelf.

C’mon. That could happen.

[Update: Or has it happened already? More after the jump.]

Thanks to @yellowdoorhouse I am belatedly aware of “Genuine Fake Bookshelf” wallpaper by Deborah Bowness! Example below. [You can see this wallpaper or something very, very much like it, “in action” at the SoHo House, apparently. Or you could when this picture from my friends at Poketo was taken.]

Still — the ever-changing version via flat-screen subscription scheme, I don’t think that’s been done. Has it??

Click for more info.

Another update! See comments.

Click for deets.


Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page. Tags:

Reader Comments

Stacey Greenebaum’s Mocks – (scroll down) – are nice example of that same urge – explicit identity-making via books, removed from the book itself.

Written By Steve Portigal on March 5th, 2010 @ 12:30 pm

Related to that, I suppose, though I hadn’t thought of it before, is Busted Typewriter’s destroyed-book Kindle holders.

Written By Rob Walker on March 5th, 2010 @ 1:02 pm

PS Tons of great book-cover-design links here:

Not strictly on point … but not off point, either.

Written By Rob Walker on March 5th, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

Kind of reminds me of this series of “Ideal Bookshelf” prints by Jane Mount:


Written By katiebakes on March 5th, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

Me too, KatieBakes! If you click on the boldface word in the phrase “like this” in the post, you’ll find that that is (almost) exactly what I linked to!

Written By Rob Walker on March 5th, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

Rob, check out my reply and link on Twitter…you won’t be disppointed…

Written By Susan Clements on March 5th, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

Still, I like your ever-changing flat screen TV version. All the books I will never have time to read, rotating through. Sigh.

Written By Susan on March 5th, 2010 @ 5:55 pm
Written By Scott on March 6th, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

Thought-provoking post, Rob.

Another wallpaper example exists:
“stacked paperback wallpaper.” I kid you not:

Related (sort of):
magazine spines as wall, or room divider: (click on the Oktavilla project; images 1-3 and 7 are better views of the magazines)

–Molly (@mollyblock)

Written By Molly Block on March 6th, 2010 @ 10:52 pm

Fantastic, Molly! I’ve added that to the post. Great tip, much obliged…


Written By Rob Walker on March 7th, 2010 @ 7:02 pm
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