I’ve loved books since before I could read them. Some of my earliest memories are of watching my dad read in the living room. He had some great illustrated books (including Bjorn Landstrom’s The Ship which I still have) which I spent hours poring over, studying the illustrations. Later it was the Ramona books (I pronounced her doll’s name as “Sheh-vor-let” rather than “Chevrolet” until someone corrected me) and Roald Dahl, and Ian Fleming’s Bond novels were very exciting for an 11 year-old. They were and are the gateway to the life of the mind and imagination. I’m not Peter Greenaway-level obsessed with books, but I love them more than many things.
As the publishing industry wobbles and Kindle sales jump, book romanticists cry themselves to sleep. But really, what are we shedding tears over?
We’re losing the throwaway paperback.
The airport paperback.
The beachside paperback.
We’re losing the dregs of the publishing world: disposable books. The book printed without consideration of form or sustainability or longevity. The book produced to be consumed once and then tossed. The book you bin when you’re moving and you need to clean out the closet.
These are the first books to go. And I say it again, good riddance.
I esp. like this part: “Formless books” go to electronic distribution while we become more mindful about “definite content” books (books where the form is important for understanding or interpreting the content).
I propose the following to be considered whenever we think of printing a book:
- The Books We Make embrace their physicality — working in concert with the content to illuminate the narrative.
- The Books We Make are confident in form and usage of material.
- The Books We Make exploit the advantages of print.
- The Books We Make are built to last. (Fig. 9a, 9b)
The result of this is:
- The Books We Make will feel whole and solid in the hands.
- The Books We Make will smell like now forgotten, far away libraries.
- The Books We Make will be something of which even our children — who have fully embraced all things digital — will understand the worth.
- The Books We Make will always remind people that the printed book can be a sculpture for thoughts and ideas.
Anything less than this will be stepped over and promptly forgotten in the digital march forward.
Goodbye disposable books.
Hello new canvases.
Anything that makes something as intrinsic and intimate as reading a book more mindful and purpose-built seems very attractive to me.
Now, I’m aware that “throw away the paperbacks” is a somewhat elitist sentiment. Not everyone can afford some fancy electronic device as a paperback replacement, and it means that – some time soon – many books won’t be available in paperback form or they’ll be more expensive. But I hope that the price of the devices continue to go down to the point where they are commonplace and inexpensive.