I recently read a blog post, titled “Book is Ruin: Ebooks, temporality, and tension”, by Sarah Wanenchak. In it, she describes the associations that many of us have with books (the “dead-tree kind” as she describes them) & Literature (yes, capitalized) and time & decay. in the article, she examines the temporal nature (including ruination and decay) of books, as well as the tension between the two camps: dead-tree bibliophiles and digital e-book heretics (my choice of adjectives, not hers).
First, I should mention that I am of the tribe that has never read a book – or anything for that matter – on an e-reader It’s not that I am ethically or morally opposed to e-readers or e-books. Quite the contrary, actually, as I believe that anything that can get a child, student, or adult to readis a valuable resource. And it’s not that I would never consider using an e-reader… if I had to. I’m of the tribe (likely a diminishing tribe) who prefer the physicality of dead-tree books: the weight and feel of paper, the smell of paper, dog-earring and marking up the pages, etc. Dead-tree books exist in time, particularly the past, in a way that e-books simply won’t. I enjoy loaning books to friends and hoping they too will add their notes and scribblings – each reader leaving behind a personal, handwritten history behind in the margins and pages. And even if they don’t leave anything written, dead-tree books retain physical traces of their users. There is something fascinating about these temporal and physical traces, the book’s history. Certainly e-books have their advantages, and the point is not to disparage one form in support of another – I support anything that gets people reading. Will e-readers bring about the end of dead-tree books? It’s not likely. First, there are too many who enjoy the physicality of books that I described. Second, bibliophiles aren’t born; they’re made. We learn to love books because we’re taught to. The same can be said for future generations. Sure, there might be fewer new dead-tree books published, in favor of e-books. But the dusty, hard cover and paperback books won’t simply disappear. And as a future teacher, I hope to be able to suggest that both can co-exist, and to use them to good purpose.
Below is a selection of some artists working with dead-tree books. Their exploration and exploitation of the physicality of these books is wonderful.
- Carved Book Landscapes, by Guy Laramee
- Fictional Landscapes, By Kyle Kirkpatrick
- Tower of Babel, by Martin Minujin
- Text Drawings, by Meg Hitchock
- Giant Labyrinth, by Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo