As you may have, errr, read, Sweden’s most famous solar-powered lingonberry jam pusher, IKEA, has redesigned its medium-density fiberboard masterwork, the BILLY bookshelf, to sport deeper shelves (and optional glass doors) meant for decorative doodads. This has prompted a whole bunch of publications ranging from TechCrunch to Time to declare the 4-inch tweaking of BILLY (the shelves of the “original” BILLY measure 11 inches deep while the new model offers 15-inch deep shelves) as a clear signal of the demise of books in their non e-form.

Claims the Economist in the article that sparked the home storage hysteria: “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.” Coincidentally, this week the Wall Street Journal published a roundup of fancy decorative bookends with nary an actual book in sight.

But wait a hot minute before you fall into a pit of doomy, gloomy e-despair. The standard BILLY bookshelf meant primarily for storing printed materials will still indeed be available, unaltered, along with the new, book and décor-centric version. IKEA is not helping push printed matters towards the brink of extinction. IKEA doesn’t hate books.

Clarifies IKEA's American U.S. PR director, Mona Liss:

We created deeper shelve BILLY because our customers wanted to put bigger books on the shelves, those great big coffee table books along with mementos. BILLY has gone through transformations since production started in 1979 and has adapted to several lifestyles including places for CDs and DVDs. BILLY is one of IKEAs most iconic products and will continue to live on holding books for the many people. BILLY loves books and so does IKEA.
BILLY himself even responds to all fuss (Anna the friendly IKEA chatbot wants nothing to do with matters of literature, apparently):
So they think fun has gone to die? I don’t think so. Reading is one of the most enjoyable and smart things one can do with their time. And who knows better about reading than me, BILLY BOOKCASE. After all, I have been the IKEA go to bookcase for over 30 years. I have been sold to over 41 million happy homes and have delighted the little ones… and the big ones by storing books for all ages on so many topics. Sure, my shelves are deeper. Read this blog by Rosie Gray, she gets it! My shelves are deeper so I can house bigger books. Deeper books. And I can hold all those mementos and pictures to keep all those books company. And my original BILLY size still remains. You can count on it. My endurance remains high. So please, no more talk about reading books and how they are on their way out. Ebooks, sure. That’s OK. But a big beautiful book filled with eye popping pics? Now who could ever resist that!
So there you have it. Borders may have gone the way of the Dodo bird and Amazon may be selling more e-books than ones printed on paper but don’t involve poor BILLY in any of this. Personally, I'm an EXPEDIT guy myself (sorry, Bill) — more room for my books and my tchotchkes. And when it comes down to it, I think the fact that Elvis widow and "Naked Gun" actress Priscilla Presley is now behind a vintage-inspired furniture line is far more alarming than IKEA's bookshelf tweak.

Via [LA Times], [Curbed]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Is IKEA pushing printed books to the brink of extinction?
Many are fingering the redesign of IKEA's classic BILLY bookshelf to better accommodate items that <i>aren't</i> books as a harbinger of print publishing's demi