Washington, D.C., snobs are purchasing custom-stocked bookshelves to appear smart and sophisticated on television, in Zoom meetings, and in other scenarios.
According to Politico, multiple services, such as “Books by the Foot” by a Maryland bookseller, use their warehouses of books to create literary scenery in various locations. Customers range from interior decorators and hotels to collectors, politicians, celebrities, and talking heads.
Demand for these confidence- and ego-boosting bookshelves grew this year, Politico reports, as more people began conducting meetings and TV hits through teleconferencing due to COVID-19 and government restrictions.
While book orders for personal reading pleasure were also up during the pandemic, demand clearly increased for a certain type of bookshelf order.
“We can sort of, you know, guess, or read between the lines, and we’ve had an uptick in smaller quantities,” “Books by the Foot” owner Chuck Roberts said. “If your typical bookcase is 3 feet wide, and you just want to have the background from your shoulders up, then you might order 9 feet of history or 9 feet of literature. That way, you put them on your home set … [and] nobody can zoom in on these books and say, Oh my God, he’s reading … you know, something offensive, or tacky. Nothing embarrassing.”
Others have noted the narcissistic facade that these bookcases present for people who feel they need to maintain a certain image even over Zoom.
“It’s self-obsession — but also, stuck at home and just looking for that validation online,” author of “Fourth Watch” Steve Krakauer said. “Who on Twitter is going to say that your Zoom backdrop was the best?”
“It is pure vanity,” he added.
Krakauer also noted that people have begun to focus on Twitter pages dedicated to rating pundits’ backdrops during their TV hits, as talking heads hope to land a decent score.
“It’s a sad state, but this is the media in 2020,” he continued. “All they’re looking for is their Twitter mentions and trying to get a nice little shout-out from the room-rater account.”