November 11, 2013

Need a quick library? Try “books by the foot”


Interior designers and set designers know the value of physical books. Maybe not on a literary level—but definitely for their looks. There’s nothing so in vogue as a library of antique hardcover bindings, or brightly colored books organized by color, or maybe even books wrapped in paper. But actually reading and collecting those books? That takes literary taste and a years of cultivation. Need something in a pinch? Not to worry! There’s a thriving market for “books by the foot.”

The Strand offers a books by the foot service for purchase or rental. Options include art books, paperbacks, leather bound books or Victorian-era books and their services has been used for movie and television sets for The Royal Tenenbaums and Saturday Night Live, as well as staging spaces for designers and hotels.

Even people who have collected a library over years and amassed a collection of books from different publishers with a variety of covers are wanting to streamline the look of their shelves. New York architect Peter Pennoyer told the New York Times in 2011 about a box he made to look like a shelf of books for a client who wanted to organize her collection of classics.

“A book is a meaningful, sensory experience,” he pointed out. “If we buy her all new Trollope, then she’s suddenly looking at a volume that’s foreign, that doesn’t smell right or have the typeface that’s familiar. If she doesn’t have the memory of having read the book, it’s not going to mean the same thing. My thought is to elevate all these mismatched bindings and put them in these containers, so it all looks uniform and pretty, but the client can keep the books she’s loved for decades.”

In the same article, Knopf cover designer Chip Kidd said he wasn’t crazy about books being put in containers or covered in leather. “You don’t have to redesign the jacket,” he said. “The jackets have been designed.”


Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.