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Fredrik Strage: What happens in a city where we reduce the books to a nifty decorative piece?

Alfa antikvariat, Stockholm's largest, to close. I loved to stroll among the endless shelves. If I was looking for a gift, it has been so nice to go to the cashier and ask for a art book for my mother, a French 1800-talsroman in leather books to my dad, maybe a Virginia Woolf-first edition for my wife. Store manager nods politely, turns down among the books, like an enthusiastic mole and is just back with a few specimens which he carefully put on the counter.

the Competition from online shopping and e-books, as well as the rent on the 68.000 dollars a month, was too much for Alfa. There are, of course, other antique shops, but nothing as overwhelming, nothing with a veritable labyrinth of literature where you can get lost and find himself. Compared with the Alfa is the bästsäljarorienterade offer in the larger bookshops sterile and poor.

find that the leather-bound spines are fancy. The have a coffee at Joe & The Juice, or Espresso House can rest your eyes on the beautiful volumes along the walls. But when I try to take down the Bob Woodwards the Watergate story ”The secret man” at Joe & The Juice I discover that pocketryggen just a wallpaper. The same thing happens when I want to browse in the Nature & Culture of the old book ”the Knowledge book” on the Espresso House. My fingers reaches for the skinnbanden and touches a wall. ”The knowledge book” is absent on this mindless lattekedja.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to pull out the book from the stack, or read something other than its spine.

But does it matter? All the information in the encyclopedia is the Wikipedia. Need books when we have mobile phones? In the fall, researchers published at the university of Valencia report ”Don't throw away your printed books: A meta-analysis on the effects of reading media on reading comprehension” which showed that reading on the screen often became shallow and quick, while pappersläsning led to deeper understanding. The survey was, in any case, in my slightly teknikfientliga eyes, yet another sign that the physical book's disappearance leads to cultural förflackning and civilization's downfall.

I will be anyway happy when I pass a shop window at Hamngatan in Stockholm and see a stack of books stretching from floor to ceiling. Shop the Volt sells menswear but has apparently decided to also encourage the customer reading. On the Volt stacked books almost as stately as in bookstores. It is not particularly sophisticated literature, the range is dominated by Jackie Collins, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy and Virginia Andrews, but it is the kind of author that turns moderately interested readers to consumers. I go into the store and stretches me after Stephen king's ”Rage”, a skolskjutningsthriller as the author himself stopped from re-issued in case any are inspired by the story.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to pull out the book from the stack, or read something other than its spine. ”The fury” and all the other novels have glued to the pillar. Clothing chain uses the books as an alternative to cement. Some volumes have been cut to deal to it is not going to be some rough edges. As a decorative piece, it is perhaps creative but the reduction in book reading in comparison to in society – and the anti-intellectual statements like Kanye West's ”I'm a proud non-reader of books” – do bokpelaren to a melancholy monument.

burn you in the end, the people”, wrote Heinrich Heine. What happens in a place where it reduces the books to the decor? To my local Espresso House recently was invaded by rats feels fittingly apocalyptic.

Read more texts by Fredrik Strage, for example, about how it was when he became Sweden's youngest bitcoin millionaire.

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