From Assouline to Zine: Print is Back

There was a time when Kindle threatened the existence of books. It’s 2014, your parents just gifted you the new Kinlde 7 already uploaded with The Fault in Our Stars, the complete Divergent series, and a year’s subscription to Kindle Unlimited. You slowly shift from your Kindle, to your iPad, to simply sneaking in Wattpad chapters every moment you can pull out your iPhone to scroll through the immersive world of whatever smutty fanfic you’re currently absorbing (or maybe the pipeline was the other way around). Paperback books become inconsequential and quite honestly too expensive to invest in and too laborious to wait to acquire and then lug around. E-reading declares: it is the end of the printed book.

, From Assouline to Zine: Print is Back, Liminul Magazine
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Fast forward to literally yesterday, you’re scrolling through the Assouline website, trying to justify the $300 spend on a coffee table book while you sit on your knock-off Mario Bellini sofa (sorry, Mario Bellini-dupe) in front of your Booknook stocked with your old pre-kindle YA book collection that you recently retrieved from your parents’ house. You spent a whole weekend positioning the books just right so it looks as if the Booknook has slowly grown over the years. Or maybe you only became a reader two years ago when you happened upon Booktok which influenced you to spend a collective thousand dollars on Amazon hauls, stacking them haphazardly along your living room wall. However you’ve approached reading over the years, it is undeniable that print is back – and it has returned with the coveted currency of a status symbol.

, From Assouline to Zine: Print is Back, Liminul Magazine
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Terms such as Bookshelf Wealth and Booknook have positioned themselves as early 2024 interior design trends to invest in. However, this phenomenon isn’t entirely new. The desire for printed works has slowly grown since the 2020 lockdown reconfigured consumerism and displays of luxury. As work, school, and community discovered ways to thrive remotely, the home became a centerpiece in our lives. Now, as the demands of digitalization continue to infiltrate our private spaces, the freedom to relax and invest in one’s unplugged intellectual pleasure has become a privilege.

There has been a mass return to the “simpler” life. It’s found within the virality of “tradwife” discourse; vinyl sales closed in 2023 at skyrocketing rates; candle-making parties and pasta-making parties and the overall aestheticization and fetishization of the pre-digital is everything right now. With this return has come wide-spread appreciation and a deep desire for print: printed books, printed magazines, homemade zines, coffee table books worth hundreds of dollars never to be opened, never to be read.

, From Assouline to Zine: Print is Back, Liminul Magazine
via Pinterest

Bookshelf Wealth is a bookshelf that is heavily stocked and aesthetically pleasing. Booknooks are spaces in the home dedicated to the printed book. Like a shrine, piles of books are displayed in a strategically disorganized fashion, on cozy vintage wooden shelves or stacked into a covered-up fireplace. It is print copies of fashion and culture magazines stacked on MCM magazine racks or piled onto your nightstand to hold your lamp up or your makeup at your vanity. The design aesthetic has been described as the cozy home in a Nancy Meyers movie. It is not so much a need to consume the text but a need to live within the walls built of their pages.

What merges social capital with this trend is that capturing digital proof of your home stuffed to the brim with print books and magazines positions you as a person who is able to escape the system, step outside the cyclical days; someone who prioritizes realness, and doesn’t conform to the zeitgeist of our times – the digital echo chamber. In an age where e-reading is vastly more accessible, more affordable, and in our current rental crisis, easier to keep and move with, the return to print is almost impractical. But impracticality is the basis of all things desired and all things consumed.

Books are expensive and collecting books requires space and perhaps a level of permanence in your living situation. To be under 40 and have a stocked Booknook filled almost entirely with books printed after 2020 may be the quietest whisper of wealth one may hear.

One Booktoker demonstrates the financial investment of collecting books with her five-shelf bookcase, filled with mostly paperbacks costing just over four thousand dollars.


I would have preferred to stay ignorant 😔 || #book #books #bookish #booktok #booktoker #bookworm #booknerd #bookrecs #bookrec #bookclub #bookreccomendations #fantasybook #fantasy #fantasyromance #fantasybook #fantasybooktok #fantasybookrec #fantasyromancebooktok #fantasyromancebooks #fantasyromanceseries #romantasy #romantasybook #romantasybooktok #romantasybookrec #bookhaul #bookvlog #readingvlog

♬ original sound – harley

There are ways to circumvent the financial roadblocks of print collecting. There are thrift store books and Facebook marketplace deals – interior designer Marco Zamora came across someone selling their collection of vintage Architectural Digest magazines. He spread the stacks around his bedframe creating a beautiful ode to Bookshelf Wealth. I personally started my magazine collection from an old hinge date posting “free magazines – pick up in Mile End” on his stories. The intimate process of Zine crafting has begun to emerge on TikTok. Assouline, the luxury coffee table book retailer that specializes in only printed books, has already fallen victim to the dupe market. There are fake Assouline books (literally fake books) being sold for $10 on Temu because who really opens coffee-table books anyway?


Blank books are 2 for $39 and the boxes are 3 for $32🫣 #amazonhomedecor #preppyhomedecor #funapartmentdecor #colorfuldecor #coffeetablebooks #assoulinebooks

♬ Aesthetic – Tollan Kim

The return of print is nostalgic and comforting and exciting but it is also expensive and impractical. The digital ticket that gets you the social capital of this trend is in itself paradoxical. Antithetical to the digital yet a very component of it, the return of print, like many of its sister-trends, aestheticizes and fetishizes the analogue from the digital consumer lens. From Assouline to Zines, from A to Z, words are being printed but is this really a return to something simpler or an unsatiated desire to consume?

, From Assouline to Zine: Print is Back, Liminul MagazineHannah Verina White is a Montreal and Toronto based writer. She has a deep love for the melodramatic and nostalgic, both of which influence the way she writes and the subjects she chooses to write about.