Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Book As Object, As Collector's Item, As Something Digital Can't Do...

With the surge of e-books and other digital and screen versions of books, one possible outcome for the publishing future is that physical books will become more designed, more "object," more special.

An example of this possible future taking shape is J.J. Abrams' - the director of both the Star Trek and now the Star Wars franchises - and the novelist Doug Dorst's collaboration, "S."

From the New York Times article on the book,

This being Mr. Abrams, “S.” is not a normal book. Inside a black slipcover stamped with the title, there’s an old library edition of a novel titled “Ship of Theseus,” published in 1949 by a certain V. M. Straka. The author and novel are the fictional creations of Mr. Abrams and Mr. Dorst, but the book’s edge-worn spine, labeled with a faded Dewey decimal sticker, is scuffed, and its corners dented. In used-book selling parlance, the condition of “Ship of Theseus” might be rated “good,” were it not for the tens of thousands of words tattooed in the margins of its yellowed pages by at least two different hands, both in pencil-lead gray and a riot of inks: black, blue, red, orange, purple and green.

 Tucked among the pages, readers will find handwritten letters and notes, a college newspaper clipping, a purple mimeographed telegram, photocopied book pages, postcards, an old photograph, a map scrawled on a coffee shop napkin, and even a throwback decoder ring.

“We took every advantage of publishing and the fact that it is an object,” said Mr. Abrams, who collaborated with the publisher Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little Brown & Company, and the design firm Melcher Media. There will be a digital e-book and related materials scattered online for obsessive fans, but to get the full 3-D sensory experience, Mr. Abrams recommends the hardback.

“The fun of ‘S.’ is having the book itself,” he said. “To physically hold it is kind of the point.” 
Emily Berl's photo of the book "S," as in the New York Times

It will be fascinating to see if this gives more support to books for children and teens that are also multi-layered physical objects of literary art.

Illustrate and Write On,


Beth Hull said...

I love this idea. It reminds me of Chris Ware's graphic novel, Building Stories, which comes as separate, different-sized books in a box. These books-as-items are so much fun!

Greg Pincus said...

This reminded me of a post by Seth Godin, particularly his points about "bespoke content" -

The erosion in the paid media pyramid

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Beth - thanks for your comment!
Greg - that's a great link. Very interesting!

dj said...

Aaah...the joy of holding a REAL book in your hands!