Yes You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover

Doing the library over in green? Have I got a website for you

Bad news for bookcases: My daughter’s about to move into her first apartment, and she’s been making lists of what she’ll need to fill it: a bed, a kitchen table and chairs, a full-length mirror (she’s vain), curtains, maybe some plants. Bookshelves aren’t on her list. She has a couple boxes of college books up in her bedroom. She’ll probably take those along when she moves out. But there are so many different ways for her to read now that bookshelves aren’t even on her must-have list.

A house without books used to be a house without ideas. You could tell a lot from scanning the bookshelves when you were a house guest: Did your hosts like mysteries? Cookbooks? History? Now, for some people, books are nothing more than decor; this website lets you buy “books by the foot” not by content, but by color of binding, so you can fill the library in your McMansion with blue books, or green ones, or “granite grays” or “earth tones” or even “highly distressed vintage leather.”

When we were cleaning out my dad’s house a few years back and selling its contents at auction, the auctioneer told us he wanted any really old photographs we had of relatives. People like to buy them and frame them, he said, and hang them up as though they were pictures of their own relations. Buying books for their outsides, not their insides, seems as silly as that.

It’s hard for me to imagine an apartment or house without bookshelves. I’ll console myself by remembering how heavy a liquor-store carton filled with books can be when you have to tote it all the way to the third floor.