Other Tips & Design Ideas

Bookshelf vs Bookcase: Which is Better?

Written by

Rosanne Jones

Writer, Designer


Steven D. Carrico


bookshelf vs bookcase

When it comes to displaying your books, family photos, and mementos, two common options are bookshelves and bookcases. However, did you know that these two furniture pieces are different and shouldn’t be used interchangeably?

Therefore, you need to know the dissimilarities between bookshelf vs bookcase to determine which option suits your intended purpose and available space.

In this article, we will explore how these two furniture types diverge so that you can make an informed decision. But first, check out this comparison table between bookcase vs bookshelf.

Features Bookshelf Bookcase
Size and storage
  • Small, fewer shelves
  • Can store lightweight items
  • Tall, large, more shelves
  • Can store bulky and heavy items
  • Open-fronted and no backing walls
  • No encased ends
  • Usually wall-mounted
  • Has backing walls and encased ends
  • Freestanding
  • May have drawers and cabinets for additional storage
Available space Doesn’t take up floor space Takes up a lot of floor and wall space
Style More modern More traditional
(for built-in options)
$1,290 to $4,420 $2,500 to $8,000


1. Bookshelves


Simply put, a bookshelf is an open, horizontal shelf used for storing printed work. Aside from the traditional types, some common variations of bookshelves are ladder-style, floating, and modular ones.

  • Can hold light trophies, decorations, and other personal items.
  • Save floor space.
  • Ideal for storing family photos, plants, and decorative items
  • Lightweight bookshelf and can be portable
  • Difficult to rearrange if fixed to the wall
  • Maintenance can be difficult if the design is complex

2. Bookcases


A bookcase is a huge cabinet-style piece of furniture with horizontal shelves. It’s usually installed with doors made from glass for dust protection and, in some cases, cabinets and drawers. Unlike bookshelves, bookcases are always freestanding.

  • Ideal as a storage solution for large books
  • Adds aesthetic and warm atmosphere to your room.
  • Don’t require installation
  • Can take a lot of room space.
  • Requires a lot of manpower to move.

Bookshelf Vs Bookcase: Which is Better?

Now that you have a better picture of how bookshelves and bookcases work, let’s further explore how you can choose depending on your preferred style, room space, price, and types.

1. Size and storage


The clearest difference between a bookshelf and a bookcase is their size, with the latter being the bigger one. Therefore, bookcases tend to feature considerably more shelves and storage space compared to bookshelves.

Due to their sizes, although they both can hold books, these two furniture types have different storage capabilities:

  1. Bookcases are better for large/hefty items, valuable possessions, and collectibles (such as action figures or expensive leather-bound books).
  2. Bookshelves are great storage solutions for light books and decorative knick-knacks, such as trinkets and plants.

2. Design

Whereas bookcases are usually freestanding, bookshelves are, in most cases, bolted to the wall. As such, it’s rare to see the latter with backing walls, which are always present in bookcases.

In addition, bookcases are designed with encased ends. Larger and more expensive ones will also come with drawers and cabinets for additional storage. It’s also not uncommon to see them built with glass doors to protect the values inside.

On the other hand, bookshelves don’t really have doors, cabinets, or encased ends. This means that people storing printed works on this furniture type may need a bookend to keep the books in place.


3. Available space

The disparity in size and means of installation also results in the difference in how either book storage type takes up your space.

  1. Bookcases will always take up more floor and wall space, so they’re more suitable for spacious homes.
  2. In contrast, since bookshelves are fixed to the wall, they don’t require that much floor space. You can just mount them over your table, couches, etc.

4. Styles


If you’re into neat and sleek style, then bookshelves would be a better option, since they tend to be more modern and minimalistic. For instance, floating shelves are great for contemporary designs that favor open shelving and clean lines.

Meanwhile, bookcases evoke a more traditional and classic vibe. That said, it’s not that hard to find ones that complement a sleek design scheme, such as Etagere bookcases.

5. Price


Bookshelves are pretty affordable—you can get one for as little as $30. Of course, premium options like built-in would be more expensive, considering they cost $1,290 to $4,420.

On the other hand, bookcases are more expensive, ranging from $2,500 to $8,000. Alternatively, you can go for a ready-made option at most furniture stores, where the starting price would be around $100.

In other words, if you’re on a tight budget, it’s better to choose bookshelves.

Decorating Ideas with Bookshelf and Bookcase

Knowing the different types of bookshelf and bookcases is not enough if they will not complement your room. So, here are some tips and tricks to bring out the best design that you desire.

1. Living Room


The living room is a great spot for a bookcase that can be used to display art or family photos. If the space is too small for large bookcases, you can build a low bookcase behind sofa.

Additionally, if you have a small living room, a floating and lightweight bookshelf, would be an ideal way to maximize your floor space.

2. Bedroom


Built-in bookshelves around doorways or windows are a great spot to keep your favorite family photos and personal stuff. You can also put a bookcase in your bedroom if you have a wide wall area.

3. Home Office


Home offices or dens are the usual places for storing a lot of books and other important documents. You can maximize your space by placing the bookcase on the wall to the left of the vent and turning your desk to face the door on the chairside.

4. Dining Room


If you have a large dining area, consider putting bookcases against the wall or in a corner. You can style your bookcase by grouping items into three or placing taller items next to shorter ones.

You can also put a bookshelf at the top of your dining hutch, which is ideal for displaying seasonal decorations and other wall art.


An organized room reflects a well-organized mindset. That’s why knowing the best placements gives a better compliment to your interior design.

Although a bookshelf and a bookcase have somewhat similar functions, it’s also important to consider your room dimensions standards before choosing between the two.

Thus, we hope our tips and tricks helped you to decide between a bookshelf vs bookcase.

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