What is a book?
Amazon’s new strapline for their wonderful Kindle is ‘the book lives on’ – well, that’s a relief.
Of course the book lives on and it would appear that digital versions of books are outselling what most of us think of as a book – the tangible object. What we don’t know is if more ‘books’ are being sold in total. Are more people reading because of the advent of ereaders? Let us really hope so.
However we must look to a dictionary for the definition of ‘book’ : according to Collins, first up is “a number of printed or written pages bound together along one edge and usually protected by thick paper or stiff pasteboard covers” ,but it seems this will no longer suffice, because secondly a book is “ a written work or composition, such as a novel, technical manual, or dictionary”; and only then is followed by various descriptions of bound records, scripts which all can be termed books. There is of course The Book, and we use many phrases incorporating it – a closed book ( a shut down Kindle?), cook the books (crispy Kindle?), in someone’s good books (maybe). Throwing the book at someone – could hurt with a Kindle too!
But in a world where most of us conduct , and organise our lives online, we are losing touch with some of our senses. I could not imagine foregoing the pleasure of holding, smelling and opening a new book . Or if it comes to that, a virgin magazine or pristine newspaper. I am not alone.
Marie and I started Prometheus Bound because we want to celebrate the book , first definition please, and the craft of bookbinding. Our aim being to turn even the humble paperback into an object to treasure and keep. Keep being the operative word. And it seems that many people still want that too – we bind favourite books for lovers, mothers, fathers, godchildren. We bind press cuttings for companies, make binders to keep football programmes. We are just about to bind again the prizes for the Spear’s annual and prestigious Book Awards. All these will be treasured for a lifetime.
Digital ‘books’ are here, and are a truly great invention (one of our book club members swears she’ll never buy a physical book again), but for those of us who love turning to page 1 and feeling the weight of the pleasure still to come, books will always be very special objects.