The Billy bookcase is one of Ikea’s best-selling products. With a timeless look and easy-to-assemble makeup, it’s no surprise that millions have been sold worldwide. Though it may look pretty, many people are concerned about the stability of the Billy bookshelf.
Billy bookcases are sturdy, but they shouldn’t be used in commercial or retail settings. They were not designed for long-term, heavy-duty use, so they may last long in a home setting but not in public.
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty commercial bookcase for use in a store or office, skip the Billy, but consider it for your next home renovation or living room update. Read on for more about the strengths and weaknesses of this beloved piece of furniture.
What Are Billy Bookcases Made Of?
Billy bookcases are one of Ikea’s best-selling products. They exemplify the stereotypical American bookcase with simple lines, clean colors, and easy construction. Although the assembly process can be slow at times, with a little patience, putting together the Billy bookcase from Ikea is a task a novice homeowner can accomplish.
One of the characteristics that makes the Billy bookshelf so popular is its price – the standard Billy bookcase with 31.5” x 11” x 79.5” dimensions only runs buyers $59 on the Ikea website. This low price can be attributed to a couple of different factors, all of which combine to create the quintessential Ikea combination of affordability and chic design.
How Ikea Operates
The prices at Ikea are so low because of the speed at which the products are assembled. In an article from the BBC on the ubiquity and success of the Billy bookcase, reporter Tim Harford discusses how humans don’t ever actually touch Ikea products on the assembly line – all the work is done by robots.
The second major reason that Ikea products are so inexpensive is that they’re unassembled, making them easy to ship. In his article, Harford states that shipping pieces like bookshelves and couches in pieces and parts approximately halves the size of the parcel, Ikea can ship double the amount of product they would if their items were delivered fully assembled.
The third reason that Ikea products like the Billy bookcase are so inexpensive is that they are made of cheap materials compared to handmade furniture. Instead of being made of strong wood, the Billy bookcase is made of particle board, a cheap alternative to pure wood made from wood chips and resin.
Because of this particle board makeup, the Billy bookcase isn’t well-suited for use in retail or commercial environments. This bookcase isn’t the best if you’re running a business where customers or employees will be using it regularly and bumping into it. However, it’s suitable for use in a quiet, low-traffic home.
How Do Billy Bookcases Work?
The Billy bookcase is extraordinarily popular. According to the BBC, over 60 million have been sold worldwide, meaning almost 1% of people own one of these bookcases.
On their website, the Ikea company claims that there is one Billy bookshelf sold every five seconds. The bookcase’s popularity is due to how inexpensive they are, how long they have been around, and how easy they are to customize.
They Mix and Match
What defines the Billy bookcase is the ability to mix and match its parts to fit your household. The shelves themselves are adjustable within the bookcase, meaning that, if you have a row of taller books, it can be easily accommodated. All you need to adjust the shelves is some patience and a screwdriver.
They Come in Multiple Sizes
Along with the bookcase's inner shelves being adjustable, there are also several different styles and shapes of the Billy bookcase that can be purchased to expand your bookcase. Because the pieces all look so similar, they often blend together to look like one large fluid piece of furniture.
There is a wide variety of sizes and orientations of the Billy bookcase that can be purchased from the Ikea website, including the standard 31.5” x 11” x 79.5” unit – this is the unit that most purchasers end up going for. This style is 6’ 7.5” tall, making the top shelf within arm’s reach of most people. It’s also slim enough that it fits into smaller spaces within your home or apartment.
Other varieties of the Billy bookcase are available in the following sizes:
- 15.75” x 11” x 79.5” (half the width of the original Billy)
- 31.5” x 11” x 93.25” (12 ¾ inches taller than the original)
- 31.5” x 11” x 41.75” (almost half the height of the original Billy)
With these varieties, you can put together a nearly endless bookshelf system that suits your exact needs.
However, They’re Not So Rugged
Unfortunately, because of its somewhat flimsy particle board makeup and stackable properties, the Billy bookcase isn’t very stable. If you stack multiple units on top of one another, there is a chance that they may fall over because the materials are so light.
This is something to be aware of when you’re looking for a bookcase. If you’re just hoping to find a place to hold your cookbooks, the Billy is a great choice for you, but if you’re hoping to display some prized antique chinaware, consider buying a more stable bookshelf or cabinet.
What Do Customers Think of the Billy Bookcase’s Sturdiness?
Since the Billy bookcase is one of Ikea’s top-selling products, there are hundreds of reviews on the item. This is helpful because reviews generally offer an unbiased peek into how these products fare in people’s homes.
The original Billy bookcase ranks at an overall 4.6/5 stars on the Ikea website under their customer reviews section, making it a generally liked product. In the specific product review breakdown, the Billy bookcase received the following ratings:
- Value for Money: 4.7/5
- Product Quality: 4.5/5
- Appearance: 4.7/5
- Ease of Assembly/Installation: 4.6/5
- Works as Expected: 4.7/5
The top reviews in this section of the website suggest that the Billy bookcase is easy to assemble and that the products are relatively sturdy for the quality of the materials that Ikea uses to put it together. Other buyers like it because it is a simple design that works in many rooms, and believe it is strong enough to withstand everyday life.
However, several people strongly dislike the Billy bookcase. These people believe that the product has a strong smell, likely due to the low-quality materials that Ikea uses to color, coat, and seal it. Others claim that the product is cheaply made, breaks easily and that the shelves bend under slight pressure.
There are a few traits about the Billy bookcase that make it a loved piece of furniture worldwide.
What’s positive about the Billy bookcase is that it’s affordable and rather fashionable. It comes in a few different colors that go with any motif, and the product is easily shipped and can be assembled in just an hour or two at home.
What’s not so positive about the Billy bookcase is that it’s cheaply made – the particleboard makeup isn’t meant to last like real wood is, so if you’re looking for a high-quality bookcase, you should look elsewhere.
If you’re looking for a bookcase that can hold a few light books or movies, the Billy model may be a good option for you, but it’s not sturdy enough to hold heavy or fragile items.