Friday, July 27, 2012

The Art in Books

Why are people, including me of course, making the switch from paper to ebooks without much thought? I said before, I'm more interested in the content not the wrappers. It's still true but, working with old books has me thinking even deeper. The books, physically, today aren't anything spectacular. They aren't collectibles. Some have nice covers but that's it.

For my job, I've been handling some of the most gorgeous books I'd ever seen. I mean they are mesmerizing. Most aren't in English so I can't read them but that doesn't make them any less fascinating. The font is so beautiful. The cover and binding is a work of art. The paper is either a bone color or a light brown with a parchment like texture.

Check out this great video on how that type of paper is made.
The edges of the paper are blue, marble or granite color so when you close the book it looks like it's filled with colored paper. And the images...I don't know what people did differently but the images are amazing. They look like they were drawn in, maybe they were. These books are a work of art. I'd never give them up in favor of ebooks.
These videos took longer to find then I expected. Really annoying.

Anyway, as you can imagine, making these beautiful works of art took forever. No way people today could, by hand, make them and distribute them nation and worldwide. Can you imagine how much books would cost if the methods in the videos were still widely used? More than half the world wouldn't read. The machines may take away the beauty and the artwork but we gained more.

And when one of my books gets destroyed, I throw it away. When a handmade book gets damaged, you have to start thinking preservation methods which means shelling out some serious money.

Just think, in the next century people may be preserving the books of today calling them works of art. It would be funny if, in my lifetime, I see people preserving books written in the 2000s for their historical value. They may even do it already. You never know.

I'm thinking the machines, and the less appealing books they produce, got me focusing less about the wrapper and more on the beauty of the written words. For me, the art is in the words, everything else is extra. So, switching to ebooks isn't that far of a leap. I mean, I still care about book covers but that's not going away. Even with ebooks, the cover still remains an important part.

On a slightly unrelated note, about halfway into obtaining my masters, I knew Library and Information Science wasn't the career path for me. I want to be a full time writer but, I stuck with that masters program. It's weird but I'm constantly surprised about the information I retained, like I took class on papermaking and bookbinding and I used some of the things I learned to write this post. Well, it was a preservation class that covered those subjects. I'm using the things I learned far more than I expected. I really shouldn't be surprised but I am.
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