Things you can’t do with an e-reader…

Last year, Bloomberg Business Week printed a story about a man who began having rather apocalyptic nightmares after his son was born. He envisioned the bookshelves in his compact Japanese home falling on his new baby, burying the child in books. So he did what any prudent parent would do: he bought a scanner and converted his 850 books into PDF files.

 Now, you may be gripped by New Year’s resolution-induced clean-ups, or perhaps you are still enamoured with your new e-reader. But if you find yourself with extra books on your hands—the old-fashioned kind, with pages and covers—there are a few ideas for what to do with them.

The Repurposed Library: 33 Craft Projects That Give Old Books New Life by Lisa Occhipinti offers an array of  projects for old books. These accessible crafts range from shelves constructed from books to wall decorations made by folding book pages. Some highlight books as a form, and others capitalize on the monochromatic appeal of the printed book page. Perhaps the most ironic inclusion is a Kindle book holder, described on Amazon as being for “those who want to replicate the sensation of holding a “real” book.”

Playing with Books: The Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book by Jason Thompson edges from craft into art with a similar approach to the same medium. The gallery section of the book highlights some beautiful works, including that featured on the book’s cover: a dress made of telephone book pages.

One artist frequently highlighted in exhibits or publications dealing in book art is UK artist Su Blackwell, whose detailed artworks are fascinating in their meticulous detail. Her gallery shows intricately-cut book pages assembled as sculptures. Perhaps the most clever ones use books as both subject and medium, such as those featuring scenes from Wuthering Heights or Alice in Wonderland.

 Another artist highly accomplished in the realm of paper art is based in Scotland, but remains anonymous. In spring 2011, a librarian discovered a small, detailed paper sculpture of a bird’s nest and eggs. It was accompanied by a note, saying”This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas…” By November, a total of ten such sculptures had turned up at libraries and museums in Scotland. The final note said that the sculptures were thank yous for the kind of “special places” where they had been left.

If perhaps you are not ready to part with your books in such a permanent way, two older books highlight some storage choices. Living with Books by Alan Powers has a range of appealing ideas, including the highly impractical (and dangerous) stacking of books along the edge of a staircase. It also includes a whimsical “coffee table book table”, comprised of glass sandwiched between–yes, coffee table books. While more traditional in its approach, House Beautiful: Decorating with Books by Marie Proeller Hueston does feature a dramatic, three-foot pile perilously wedged across the full expanse of a mantelpiece.

Books Make a Home: Elegant Ideas for Storing and Displaying Books by Damian Thompson can provide some further storage ideas. Whatever style of home you prefer, books can add something to your interior, whether they are the honey-coloured leather covers lining your Italian villa, or the identically slipcovered tomes in a modernist condo. (Does anyone except designers actually do this?) In a great variation of the recliner with pockets for the remotes, this book features the Biliochaise, where you can surround yourself with five linear metres of your favourite reading material.  

In the end, there is a solution for the Japanese man who consolidated his collection but might miss the ambience his books provided. A designer has come up with wallpaper printed to look like an array of bookshelves. But given the design’s sagging shelves, homeowners may never be free of their nightmares about collapse!

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