Clever Alternative Uses for Books

So, what else do people do with books, besides read them? Lots of things, it turns out.

This New York Times article (“Creative New Uses for Books”) sufficiently piqued my interest —

“Set aside any emotional attachment you may feel toward the reading of physical books; the truth is that creative uses for books that do not involve engaging with words on a page already abound.”

Some uses might be better than others. I rather like the book planter idea myself. Life growing out of the “dead tree books” and all that. (Pictured, Left. Courtesy of inhabitat: “How to make a beautiful book planter”)

Then, there’s books-as-furniture. (Favorite example: the front desk at the Last Bookstore, Los Angeles). And check out the cool stuff from Berkeley-based artist Jim Rosenau ( Clocks, bookshelves, bookcases, and a reading chair. Made out of books.

More and more lately, I can’t help but notice seeing books showing up in high end, trendy types of fashion stores. Does this mean books are fashionable? Will I finally be cool?

The book-as-prop is an odd concept to me. Books meant to be seen, but not read. Hmm. Anyways, more on this from NYT:

“Nicholson Baker’s insightful, and still-relevant, 1995 New Yorker essay, “Books as Furniture.” That article started out by considering the way books functioned as props in mail-order catalogs and went on to deliver a thorough history of book display. Unlike other collectibles, books “represent a different order of plenitude,” … But even if books become unnecessary to imply a surplus of mind-leisure time, they are now functioning like catalog props in real life.

For $29, Restoration Hardware will sell you an antiqued uncovered book bundle. What appears to be a cubic page clump is described this way: “Liberated from their covers, stitched and bound with jute twine, the foxed and faded pages of old books become objets d’art.” Various small merchants on aren’t so fancy about making the same argument. One called Adoption Agency offers a “retro book stack” — i.e., four old books — for $14.”

I wouldn’t pay $25 for it either (plus, it’s cheaper to do it yourself), but I love the symbolism of a hollowed-out, no longer readable print and ink book being used to protect an ereader:

“it turns out that clever people have found uses for the most unremarkable texts. For example, last year another Etsy seller, Busted Typewriter, had an interesting listing: “Love your Kindle but miss the feel of holding a real book?” it asked. “Then I bet you’ll enjoy carrying your Kindle hidden inside a book. This hardcover copy of ‘Buying In’ by Rob Walker has been sealed and cut by hand to fit Amazon’s Kindle 6 Wireless Reading Device.” Pictures confirmed that the book — along with plenty of others — had been destroyed in a manner that made it a convenient Kindle disguiser, and somebody (not me!) bought this thing for $25. At the time I had mixed feelings, but looking back, I realize I should probably be pleased to know that I was, in a sense, on the cutting edge of the future of books.”

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Just to round things out, here is another fun list of alternative book uses: “Cool Non-Literary Uses for Books.” The ideas are inspired, odd, or somewhere in between — a Christmas Tree made out of books, wearable book clothing, and buildings? (Gizmodo: Step Into a World Made Entirely of Books).

And, here’s everything else you could ever think of: 80 Ideas for All Your Old or Unwanted Books. Books in the freezer? No, not The Shining. Any book in the freezer will do, apparently.


Surprise me


I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

What I’m Reading Now:

Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg

Related Articles

Have questions or ideas or requests for working together?

Get in touch