DEAD? The book? Don’t bet on it. The old familiar paper and boards artefact we’ve known and loved for centuries has still got plenty of life yet.
Yes, we all agree, the shelf-load of encyclopaedias is obsolete, thanks to the internet. And yes, it makes more sense to read pot-boilers and airport novels on e-readers and tablets.
But the tactile and visual joy of a well-planned book won’t be readily replaced by any digital format.
That’s my opinion, for what it’s worth, though I won’t die in a ditch to defend it.
Now that I’ve said all that, I can’t be certain that A History Of The Book In 100 Books is a work that couldn’t necessarily be done very nicely in e-book form. Oddly enough, aspects of its design appear to pay obeisance to digital publications, but maybe that’s a good thing.
A good portion of this book’s purpose, it seems to me, is to argue the case for the continued existence – especially in libraries – of real, hard-copy volumes.
But, perhaps sensing that many readers will be half-converted to the opposite view, the creators have made an article that will probably make those readers feel very much at home.
Each celebrated “book” (actually, many of the 100 items aren’t books, perse) is given a neat double-page spread, where words and pictures work nicely together to create an easily absorbed impression. And each spread provides “connections” – ashortlist of related material and ideas elsewhere in the book. Just like hyperlinks on a digital page.
I picked this book up and started opening pages at random. Some spreads grabbed me. Others didn’t. But hours passed before I realised how absorbed I’d become, and I mentally patted the authors on the back for the number of times they got me with “wow!” moments.
The book doesn’t only dwell on the Western bookmaking tradition. It skates around the world, pulling in leaves from other cultures, and delving into strange galleries to find the curious, the important, the memorable, the eye-opening. And the page-turning.
If you love books. If you really love books, then this eccentric miscellany will give you pleasure.
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