I use Pinterest simply because I don’t have a coffee table.
Since its advent, the social networking site Pinterest has had its users composing boards with unified themes. One can browse through photographic collections of footwear, chicken recipes, tree houses, DIY beauty tips and just about anything that elicits interest. It is a community where people can share great photographs and concepts that they have discovered elsewhere on the web. It enables the mother to put all her kid-friendly meal ideas in one place and the design student to catalog images of furniture styles. Pinterest boards, in essence, have become the new coffee table books.
There’s nothing quite like the aesthetic value of artfully composed books. Personally, I love to flip through large glossy pages that picture Rhode Island lighthouses or the elaborately documented history and inspiration of Coco Chanel. These basic books make for a light, entertaining and often informative read. They have preoccupied houseguests, artists and family members alike, providing a visually stimulating experience in the realm of a certain subject. In our increasingly digital world, people have begun to switch to internet sources for such matter. Pinterest has exploded in recent years, its site traffic increasing 52% in the first two months of 2012 alone. The site is beautiful and rich with imagery, just as a quality coffee table book is. We have been given the opportunity to compose our boards; to design a collection of imagery and information with a personally resonating theme. Personally, I have boards for all of my interests, from New England fashion to my future home. I pin drool-worthy dessert recipes in one area and DIY projects in another. All of my passions have a place on this amazing site.
I have begun to wonder, in light of the website’s popularity and variety of image categories, whether coffee table books will become a thing of the past. For years they have gathered dust or been heavily perused in living rooms across the globe. Gender roles aside, in the last century it has been more common for women to decorate the home and entertain guests, particularly in the United States. It seems coincidental that 97% of Pinterest’s users are also women. It provides them with a digital version of shared aesthetic interest. Women are penning the latest new “books” every time they create a new board.
Statistics seem to suggest, however, that despite Pinterest’s growing popularity, publishers are not suffering a decline in coffee table book sales. In fact, the heavy, sometimes pricey books have been doing rather well. They are becoming art pieces in their own right, design elements that can tie a room together. Because they serve a greater purpose than just being read, they are surviving the transition from dog-eared pages to digital downloads. The same cannot be said for novels easily read on screens and cookbooks that pale in comparison to the wealth of recipes available online. Books such as these stand in shame at the front of Barnes and Noble, their prices dramatically slashed as they become more and more unnecessary in terms of function.
Coffee table books, though, are mainly visual. They remain appealing for the same reasons that Pinterest is so popular. Everyone looks to be entertained for short bursts of time, and collections of images can be inspiring and incredibly interesting.
While books are tangible and vividly printed, Pinterest holds an advantage in that it lets anyone create a collection. Some users take this rather seriously, composing beautiful and though-out boards for their many followers. Pinterest also creates a community beyond the gathering in someone’s living room. Users are communicating and sharing more effectively than ever. They can network socially with those who share their interests. It’s like you are inviting the world over for coffee and you’re all sitting there, sipping from steaming mugs and flipping through (web) pages.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr user torbakhopper