Want To Seem Smarter? "Books By The Foot" Is For You

Thinking is even harder than reading so we’re gratified to hear that Strand Bookstore in NYC has a service by which the image-conscious can purchase “Books By The Foot.”

Our personal favorite is the “Foreign Language Antique Leather” collection. It’s cheaper than the “top shelf” leather books because it’s “the same beautiful antique leather books as above with books mostly in French, Spanish, and German.”

Perfect for the stingy polyglot?

Get ready to repeat the following: “No, I don’t speak French, those were my great-great grandmothers. Or something.”

Some of the collections do seem kinda neat, however. We love books.

Books By The Foot [BuzzFeed]

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  1. Steve Trachsel, Ace says:

    Im not shocked this business exist. I had a friend who used to steal the fake old-looking books from the displays in stores (like Dockers or that sort of thing).

    Personally, I hit the super-cheap book outlets and buy the fake leather bound classics a couple at a time for a buck or two. Ive got a really nice bookshelf and Ive actually read most of them

  2. Propaniac says:

    I read an article about this service; it sounds like an awesome place to work. I believe a lot of their business is for movie sets and stuff.

  3. ColdNorth says:

    Wow. This reminds me of The Great Gatsby, where the library in his mansion was filled with row after row of books. However, none of the books pages had ever been cut. Hence, we knew that he had never actually read any of them.

    I always thought it was kind of neat that one could tell if a person was a book phony by that simple test. Alas, perfect bound books put an end to that test…

    Until now!

    I can’t wait to go into someone’s house and find one of these little beauties on the bookshelf.

    It seems like $400 per linear foot is considerably more expensive than actually purchasing an equivalent amount of real, hard-cover books. I guess this is another example of the wonderful phrase, “More money than brains.”

    God bless America.

  4. timsgm1418 says:

    this just seems silly…If I’m not going to read it, I don’t buy it, I certainly wouldn’t buy “classics” just to look smarter. I have no problem with people seeing that I’ve read The Stand, This Perfect Day, Cheaper By the Dozen, and Tom Sawyer. I like a variety of books, and my bookshelves show that.

  5. haeli says:

    Half-Price Books has been doing their “Books by the Yard” for years, so I’m not really surprised that someone else has done it as well.

  6. girly says:

    @ColdNorth: I don’t see where it says they are not real books?

    I think they assemble a collection of books for you and simply charge by the foot.

  7. freshyill says:

    I love the Strand. Aside from being a great book store, they’re also great at making people look like they read.

    I guarantee you that they’ve sold more stylish totebags for 20-something girls to carry on the subway than actual books.

    If you must see the totebags, which aren’t half bad, they’re here: [www.strandbooks.com]

  8. girly says:

    The affordable option:

    Leather Looking B
    $60.00 per foot

    Oversized and medium-sized hardcover books in decorative faux-leather bindings. Some books are gently used and represent a variety of subjects, including encyclopedias and law books.

  9. I could use this: all my tables are wobbly.

  10. freshyill says:

    @ColdNorth: Dude, they’re real books.

    Yes, books are for reading, but I can also see how some people would want some nice looking, color-coordinated books as a decoration.

    Frankly, my bookshelf is a hideous mix of color, shape and size. I wish the books I actually read looked nice.

  11. elijah_dukes_mayonnaise says:

    I can relate to this — I have a leather-bound collection of Cliff’s Notes.

  12. madanthony says:

    The text at the top mentions that it’s great for movie set designers, which makes sense.

  13. thirdbase says:

    I have a whole room of these books. Remember it’s not what you know it’s what people think you know.

  14. MameDennis says:

    “I just love books… they’re so decorative!”
    –Gloria Upson

  15. This is only going to result in awkward conversation:

    “Oh! I see you read XYZ book! I love that book! What’d you think of the characterization?”

    “Umm…errr…”

  16. nuch says:

    I love the Strand so very much, but with hardcovers for so cheap (I got “The Corrections” there for $6.95), wouldn’t it be easier to just buy a bunch of books yourself?

    Also, timsgm1418: Sometimes it’s just aesthetics. When you have a nice bookcase in the living room, it looks nicer if it’s full and not just a mismatched collection of paperbacks. Or, for those of us who make frequent use of our library cards and paperback swaps, it’s a nice alternative to a bunch of empty shelves.

  17. ianmac47 says:

    This is nothing new. Many of the Strand’s clients are movie and television production teams.

  18. jc75 says:

    “I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany. “

  19. girly says:

    I have a collection of Houghton-Mifflin readers. The school district used to have a giveaway of old books and toys over the summer every few years. They are also pretty cheap online.

    The workbooks that came with the readers were very colorful and fun to use, and you’d tear out the sheets to turn them in. Nowadays, it seems that kids just get black and white photocopies of worksheets.

    I wonder if anybody else remembers the series: Bears, Balloons, Boats, Sunshine, Rainbows, Weavers, Moonbeams, etc… I guess you can tell these books were probably made in the 70′s.

  20. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    However, none of the books pages had ever been cut. Hence, we knew that he had never actually read any of them.

    @ColdNorth: Why would you cut up a book you were reading?

  21. leejay says:

    Only 17.50 a yard at 1/2 Price!

    [www.halfpricebooks.com]

  22. JohnOB1 says:

    Why I’m just stunned. Numerous posts and not one yet that said:

    “I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany. “

    Just sad. JUST SAD!

  23. bohemian says:

    So what does it say if we have about 15 boxes of books in storage an no bookshelves to put them on?

  24. Eilonwynn says:

    That’s nothin’ – A prop house I’m acquainted with rents money by the inch.

  25. The books on a persons shelf often make a good representation of who that person is.
    If you look at my bookcase, you will find lots of art books. Books about concert poster art. almost every Far Side Book ever made. A bunch of health books. And a bunch of good books I have actually read.
    What does it say about a person if they have a bunch of books they never even intended to read? They are a phony, or they are lazy, or they are just an asshole.

  26. KJones says:

    Truly a case of casting pearls before swine. Go to Project Gutenberg and read the books for free.

    The only people who would be impressed by someone having such books would expect a person to have read them. Anyone dumb enough to buy into this couldn’t spell poseur, let alone pronounce it.

  27. moore850 says:

    Of course, be prepared to be exposed as the poseur you are as soon as someone who actually has read those books tries to have a conversation with you about the material, say for the art books for example.

  28. wring says:

    @freshyill: dude i actually clicked on the link. it’s konsumterror wednesday!

  29. wring says:

    and to think i actually avoid puchasing books (i borrow from teh library) cus i dont have space for them!

  30. cockeyed says:

    The funniest part is that all the foreign-language books are porn.

  31. yesteryear says:

    someone should be selling records or cds by the foot… i’d imagine there’s lots of burgeoning hipsters out there who’d rather pay $600 for an insta-collection of old blues albums or originals featured in nuggets or something similar than spend the years required to amass them the old fashioned way.

    unless this is for movie sets, it just goes against the entire point of collecting – which is the hunt. dumb, dumb, dumb… but a brilliant business idea!

  32. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Where on the web site does it say you’re not allowed to actually read the books you buy from them?

  33. econobiker says:

    Goodwill outlets sell books very cheap. That’s correct Goodwill has outlet stores for all the crap that doesn’t sell at the regular stores.

    As an example here is book pricing for Goodwill in Indianapolis, IN- other areas/cities pricing may vary:
    Books and media:
    Hardback Books – 50 cents each
    Paperback Books – 25 cents each
    Coloring Books, Magazines, Comics, Wall Calendars – 25 cents each
    Records – 50 cents each
    8-Tracks, Videotapes, CDs – $1 each
    DVDs – $2 each

    (clothing/other stuff is sold by the pound since this is how they salvage sale bales of clothing, etc)

    Just remember to wear gloves, bring drinking water, and plan enough time to plow through large pallet sized tubs of books by throwing books from one to another tub.

    My spouse and I managed to profit nicely by picking the right books, cleaning the price tags off them, and flipping the books to a large used bookstore for credit. Easily turn $10 in books into $25 to $40 if you work it right…

  34. minouminou says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: During the Victorian era, publishers commonly bound books with the pages uncut, and book buyers had to slit their own pages in order to read them.

  35. selianth says:

    My mother-in-law buys decorative books for cheap at yard sales. It’s amazing the kinds of matched leather bound series you can find. Of course, these are MAINE yard sales, which are generally better than the usual kids-clothes-and-old-electronics I see here in Mass.

  36. selianth says:

    Actually you can buy “A selection of contemporary fiction” for $30. Even if there’s only 6 books per foot, that’s basically a bargain bin price of at most $5/book. Not too bad.

  37. aka Cat says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: they used to print several pages on a single sheet of paper, fold it, and then bind them together at the spine. And depending on how many pages were printed per sheet, you’ve got folds on one or more edges besides the spine.

    I’d never thought about it before, but apparently books didn’t always come with those additional folds trimmed off.

    I guess most publishers print just two pages per sheet now, and if they don’t they certainly must have mechanical trimmers to get the uniform edges on every page. I know that I do occasionally get a new book with two pages incompletely sliced apart.

  38. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Used to be, when books were published, the pages would be printed on a large sheet which would then be folded into quarters or eighths and bound with the folds still intact. A little paper knife was an essential accessory for cutting the pages of a new book apart. Hence, someone with a library full of uncut books can’t possibly have read any of them.

  39. Trai_Dep says:

    For those too insecure or too oafish to slowly build their own library.

    One of the simple pleasures of visiting friends is casually seeing which books they have stacked about. Tells me much more of who they are than hours of psychotherapy. And vice-versa, I’m sure. And often a nice springboard to the start of interesting conversations. Stealing someone else’s taste negates that.

    Well, that and which meds are in their medicine cabinet. But I digress.

  40. Meg Marco says:

    @Trai_Dep: You are soooo not coming over to my place. Creeeeepy!

  41. DrGirlfriend says:

    What I got from all of this is that now I need a Strand en español tote bag.

  42. morydd says:

    @BayStateDarren: I read 10,000+ pages a year and if someone asked me “What’d you think of the characterization?” I’d probably still respond with “Uhh..” But then I was always prone to getting in fights with my lit teachers for not tearing apart a good book looking for extra symbolism. Sometime a tree is just a tree.
    But while I’ll buy the bag of books for a dollar at the last day of the library book sale. I can’t see buying books by the foot if I don’t get to pick the books.

  43. JeffCarr says:

    Oh, thank you Consumerist! I’ve been looking for a decent source for antique looking books for a couple of art projects. I don’t care what their content is, because they won’t be books when I’m done with them.

    This might be perfect!

  44. Vicky says:

    I am more intellectually intimidated by a hopeless mismatch of shapes and colors stacked double-deep and sideways than by the “law library” look. It’s the sign of a book collection in active and continual use and transition. But I am also aesthetically attracted to old books with faded gilding on the spine and a complete stranger’s name on the inside cover – it brings out the book nerd in me who deeply, secretly, still wants to curl up in the attic of the elementary school with a mysterious book and an apple and the promise of a ride on a luck dragon.

  45. MonkeyMonk says:

    I knew a guy right out of college who bought a bunch of random old leather books at a used book store to make a display on the mantle of the fireplace in his apartment. He never once opened a cover on any of them.

    I guess they made his pad look “distinguished” but knowing where they came from I always thought it made him look like a douche.

  46. @Rectilinear Propagation: Older printing systems bound the books using a multiple-fold technique (like one sheet folded into 32 pages), but did not slice off the folds on the outside. To read the book, you would sit there with a butter knife or letter opener or fancy little book knife and carefully slice along the fold as you got to each page. This was also common in magazine printing, and it’s used as a telling detail in a lot of American fiction from the era.

  47. Rajio says:

    Who the hell measures things in feet these days? … oh right, only Amerca, Liberia, Burma. Come on jerks, get with the program. Books by the metre please!

  48. Vanvi says:

    Library book sales often have great antique looking books for very cheap (cents!). I got a ton from my college library sales (I’d imagine college libraries would be better for this). I think I even read some of them.

  49. alhypo says:

    Hmm… If I’m ever in someone’s house who I suspect is doing this, I’m just going to start grabbing books from the shelf and saying “Oh, I’ve heard about this. Is it any good?” That’ll teach ‘em.

    This practice seems excessively narcissistic to me…and unwise. Think about it: you’re adding kindling to your house without any functional benefit. You know, I think I’m going to start keeping jars of petrol on my selves…for the decorative enhancement.

  50. Eilonwynn says:

    @CatMoran: Nope, they still do it in signatures, which is what you call the 16 pages which are all printed on both sides of a very, very large sheet. They’re then folded, and either cut, stitched in the centre, and re-cut, or glued, then cut, and finally bound. (for hardcover – for softcover / magazines, they’re cut on four sides, then glued, bound, and re-cut) Take a magnifying glass to the top of the spine of a hardcover book to see it. (I’m such a dork.)

  51. Eilonwynn says:

    You can’t assume that someone who has old, leatherbound books just bought them to look pretentious. I have a set of antique books I inherited which I haven’t had TIME to read, but if you look in the frontispiece, you can see my great, great grandfather’s name and the date he bought it, carefully recorded.

  52. props_nyc says:

    as a small luxury i can leave it to the someone who works with books all day, they’ll know better than me what’s good. anyways as Selianth pointed out $30 a foot for contemporary fiction is a bargain.

    i’d think of an assembled library as a challenge to myself to actually read them and be exposed to material i might not find on my own. not a ron burgundy device.

  53. OsiUmenyiora says:

    If you do this at the Strand you just might get some books that used to be in what is now my kid’s room. The Strand buys used books, and when cleaning out the room two years ago to get ready for the new baby I collected six boxes of books that I sold to the Strand for $400.

    Just last week I was in a bar on the Upper West Side that had lots of bookshelves and I said to myself that all the books looked liked they came from the Strand’s by-the-foot service. Nobody was reading them, they were just for decoration.

  54. Landru says:

    Another set of buyers for these books are real estate people who are staging places for sale. They want the bookshelve to look like a library they see on TV, not like a real world bookshelf with a mix of paperbacks and magazines and ratty well-read books.

  55. SisterHavana says:

    Can I just say how much I love the Strand? It’s always the first place I go when I am in NYC.

  56. maztec says:

    The Strand has been doing this for as long as I can remember. It is how I originally heard about the Strand over 15 years ago.

    The sad thing is you can go to a yard sale or cheap books sections and buy this many books, hand selected by books you like, that costs a lot less. Unless you are picky about the titles you show…

  57. Alex Brewer says:

    If you think this sounds sad, my grandpa has cabinet door that looks a bookshelf, but actually only has the spines of classic books cut off and glued onto the wood. Behind it is a TV and sound system. They don’t even look that good; it’s obvious they aren’t real books.

  58. cacic says:

    My bookcases are filled with ancient volumes picked up from the Goodwill for 50 cents. Brattle Bookstore in Boston would sometimes ship useless books over there before people caught on. When times are tight I sometimes pull out a volume or set and sell them on Ebay.

  59. EvilConsumer says:

    I always buy leather bound books of classics but am too afraid to damage them so i buy a cheap second hand paper back to actually read and land to my friends. Plus the musty smell of old paperbacks is kinda nice.

  60. Citizen Snips says:

    So…whos buying a tote bag!? I know I am.

  61. m4ximusprim3 says:

    I have a matched set of beat up clive cussler novels- does that make me pretentious or stupid (or both?)

    @Rajio: Are you kidding? If they sold them by the meter, they’d cost like 3.28 times more!

  62. dweebster says:

    You can dress up a monkey and give him the presidential seal, but he’ll still be an idiot that flings poop.

    These books are aesthetically pleasing, but from what little I know “smartness” does not hop down from a bookshelf to greet you just because you bought a pretty book.

  63. Trai_Dep says:

    @Meg Marco: Well, how else are we supposed to verify that the latest update of PDR is accurate? Trust the man?!

  64. guevera says:

    @john OB1: damnit… i even looked up the exact quote before I saw you posted it!

  65. girly says:

    Just because someone buys a book because it’s pretty I don’t think that’s so wrong.

    Reading books is great, but there are a lot of things that get used for their aesthetics. I really doubt all those people who wear sports jerseys play baseball or football or basketball, etc. Some of them do, I’m sure.

    Not everybody who wears tennis shoes plays tennis, either.

  66. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Do the commentors who dislike people buying books for their appearance feel the same way about people who buy pianos or other musical instruments but don’t play them? Collectors who display comic books, action figures, coins, etc. but never use them?

  67. cockeyed says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: I think it would be a big waste of money to buy that sort of stuff and never use them. I mean, who buys a piano that doesn’t know how to play it and never plays it? I’m sure there are people, but that seems really ridiculous. Pianos cost a lot of money.
    Collectors do usually read the comic books they collect, they just do it with care.
    I don’t care if someone buys decorative books, but I think your examples (other than the coins) are not well thought out.

  68. Trai_Dep says:

    And, people who buy books by the yard are trying to adopt pretensions for which they’re ill-suited. Being literate, quasi-intellectuals in this case.

    Jay Gatsbys, in other words. Without the charm or mystery.

    Just… Sad.

  69. nardo218 says:

    You’re a horrible, horrible person.

  70. nygenxer says:

    Oh, I do miss Strand…I’m in TX now & there’s a used bookstore chain called “1/2Price Books” and they sell BBY (‘books by the yard’).

    They’re sold mostly for decoration: architects, photographers, corporate housing, hotels – that kinda thing. Lotsa old encyclopedia sets (or ‘encyclopaedia’ for you Britannica folks.)

    BTW if you’re ever down in TX, I can highly recommend 1/2Price Books. The selection is large, eclectic, changes constantly and the staff is always great.