Already the norm for film sets and commercial spaces, fake books are becoming common fixtures in homes, but if you see one, you might never know.
See Go Ahead, Judge This Book by Its Cover. There’s Nothing Inside by Anna Kodé of The NY Times. Excerpts:
"If it looks like a book, feels like a book and stacks like a book, then there’s still a good chance it may not be a book.
Fake books come in several different forms: once-real books that are hollowed out, fabric backdrops with images of books printed onto them, empty boxlike objects with faux titles and authors or sometimes just a facade of spines along a bookshelf. Already the norm for film sets and commercial spaces, fake books are becoming popular fixtures in homes."
"At Books by the Foot — a company that sells, as its name suggests, books by the foot — one can purchase books by color (options include “luscious creams,” “vintage cabernet” and “rainbow ombre”), by subject (“well-read art” or “gardening”), wrapped books (covered in linen or rose gold) and more. The tomes are all “rescue books,” ones that would otherwise be discarded or recycled for paper pulp, said Charles Roberts, the president of Books by the Foot’s parent company, Wonder Book.
During the pandemic lockdown in 2020, remote work created increased demand for the company’s services. “People were requesting books for Zoom meetings,” Mr. Roberts said. “They wanted classic literature, cookbooks or other things for their backgrounds, kind of like props but also to reflect their personality and tastes. People wanted to avoid getting made fun of for having a romance novel in their background.”"
One seller "cut books — so only the spines remain — and glued them to shelves for cruise ships, “where they don’t want to have a lot of weight or worry that the books will fall off the shelves if the weather gets bad,”"
"Although it has the capacity to hold more than 1.35 million of them, many of the books in China’s 360,000-square-foot Tianjin Binhai Library aren’t real. Instead, perforated aluminum plates emblazoned with images of books can be found, primarily on the upper shelves of the atrium. While the presence of artificial books in a place devoted to reading has been widely criticized — “more fiction than books,” one headline mocked — it remains a buzzy tourist attraction. After all, the books don’t need to be real if it’s just for the ’gram."
"For her (Tina Ramchandani, an interior designer) clients’ homes, fake books are usually placed on the upper shelves of bookcases that can’t easily be reached. “We did this for a house out in the Hamptons. It’s usually for larger homes, where you’re not using every part of the home like you would in the city,” Ms. Ramchandani said. “Say you have an extra reading room, library or some sort of media room where you fill it with books and can’t ever get to the top parts. So instead of doing real books that are going to collect dust that you’re never going to access, we end up doing fake books.”"
"Anna Shiwlall, the owner of 27 Diamonds Interior Design in Anaheim, Calif., said that she frequently makes use of fake books, especially if they are “of certain sizes or colors that coordinate with the room or if we want the client to feel a portrayal of a well-traveled life.”
“Not too many people read physical books now, but we are reminded of certain things when we’re surrounded by them,” Ms. Shiwlall said. “The smell of it, the stories it brings or the colors that make the room pop.”"
"they’re mostly in the style of vintage mystery books or books about fashion, chosen primarily for their size and color."
"Arielle Zibrak, an English professor at the University of Wyoming, compared today’s use of fake books to their presence in the fiction of the Gilded Age, where they typically symbolized “the spiritual and intellectual poverty associated with empty consumption and material excess.”
“Novelists like Edith Wharton depict the new money families of the Gilded Age, those whose fortunes came from industry rather than land holdings, experiencing an astronomical rise in wealth outpaced by their ability to understand or consume art and culture,” said Ms. Zibrak. “In these novels, buying fake or purely decorative books is aligned with having poor taste in art or an ignorance of social custom.”
Another famous literary example of unread books can be found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” which is set in the Roaring Twenties, an era nearly synonymous with overconsumption. The books in Jay Gatsby’s library were “uncut” — “books at this time would arrive with the pages folded together; to read them one used a letter opener to cut the pages apart,” Ms. Zibrak said. “The implication here is that Gatsby is a fake gentleman — one who buys the library to appear cultured but doesn’t actually learn from it.”"
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Fake Authenticity (2011)
Students: Make a mistake on purpose, its good for you! (2007)
A fake job reference can be just a few clicks away (2015)
Fake Economist Fools Portugal (2013)
Slave Redemption in Sudan (2007) (Fake slaves are sold to those who buy slaves and then give them their freedom)
Can A Product Work Just Because It's Expensive? (2008) (fake medicine)
If It Pays To Have Friends, Can You Pay To Have Friends? (2013) (you can hire fake boyfriends)
Study: Half of American Doctors Give Patients Placebos Without Telling Them (2008)
Saudis grapple with fake street sweepers (2017)
Rent a White Guy: Confessions of a fake businessman from Beijing (2010) (by Mitch Moxley in The Atlantic Monthly, excerpts below)
Can adding a phantom third story to their homes help families find a wife for their son? (2018)
Why do employers pay extra money to people who study a bunch of subjects in college that they don’t actually need you to know? Signaling (2018)
Mexicans buy fake cellphones to hand over in muggings (2019)
Conspicuous Consumption, Conspicuous Virtue, Thorstein Veblen (and Adam Smith, too!) (2007)
How does a company selling used luxury goods spot fakes? (signalling and conspicuous consumption) (2019).
Why do stores sometimes pay people to be fake shoppers? (2019)
Excerpts from "Rent a White Guy"
"Not long ago I was offered work as a quality-control expert with an American company in China I’d never heard of. No experience necessary—which was good, because I had none. I’d be paid $1,000 for a week, put up in a fancy hotel, and wined and dined in Dongying, an industrial city in Shandong province I’d also never heard of. The only requirements were a fair complexion and a suit.
“I call these things ‘White Guy in a Tie’ events,” a Canadian friend of a friend named Jake told me during the recruitment pitch he gave me in Beijing, where I live. “Basically, you put on a suit, shake some hands, and make some money. We’ll be in ‘quality control,’ but nobody’s gonna be doing any quality control. You in?”
And so I became a fake businessman in China, an often lucrative gig for underworked expatriates here. One friend, an American who works in film, was paid to represent a Canadian company and give a speech espousing a low-carbon future. Another was flown to Shanghai to act as a seasonal-gifts buyer. Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image—particularly, the image of connection—that Chinese companies crave. My Chinese-language tutor, at first aghast about how much we were getting paid, put it this way: “Having foreigners in nice suits gives the company face.”
Six of us met at the Beijing airport, where Jake briefed us on the details. We were supposedly representing a California-based company that was building a facility in Dongying. Our responsibilities would include making daily trips to the construction site, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and hobnobbing. During the ceremony, one of us would have to give a speech as the company’s director. That duty fell to my friend Ernie, who, in his late 30s, was the oldest of our group. His business cards had already been made."
"For the next few days, we sat in the office swatting flies and reading magazines, purportedly high-level employees of a U.S. company that, I later discovered, didn’t really exist."