This is an interesting challenge but one I can’t really deal with. I’ve no doubt that there are many books I’ve read that are no longer available, but I can’t think of any.
Also do books really disappear? Many bookshops used to run a search service where, for a price, they’d try and find out of print books. I’ve used such a service a couple of times with success; the most recent was to find a copy of The Cato Street Conspiracy by John Stanhope – a book I found really interested and wanted to reread. By the time it was tracked down I’d almost forgotten I’d asked for it – but there is was, in good nick, even with its dust jacket.
Now I suspect that all this is done over the web. Also a lot of books, including Cato Street are available online – I’ve found it at Questia.
So what is a ‘shelf’? These days it’s as likely to be a collection of impulses on a disk as a plank of wood in a bookshop or library. And ‘can’t find’ may rarely be true – anyone can search the world for their loved book.
All this refers to real books, but what about ebooks? Will they eventually disappear from their electronic shelves? Will they vanish into the graveyard of out of date readers and computers no longer able to access them? What will be the fate of the millions of ebooks in Amazon’s catalogue? Is it even possible to keep them findable for the next ten years let alone for the decades we expect real books to keep for.
Does anyone know the answer to these questions?
Cover art from Abe Books.