To Every Book, Its Own Format

In a room full of bookworms, fear was running high that the End of Books is near as eReaders and digital technology makes the deckled-edge, leather-bound book obsolete. At the BookExpo America in New York, publishers, authors, critics and readers crammed into a conference room to hear a panel on the next decade of book review. The panelists talked reviews about a quarter of the time; the conversation inevitably devolved into a back-and-forth between the Luddites who loath the new digital book technology and those who see the future of books in the glassy screen of the iPad.

As I listened in the crowded room, one voice for me floated to the surface: an optimist; a negotiator between the pleasures of the past and present—a beautiful binding, just the right paper, an enchanting typeface—and the ease, accessibility and portability of the present and future—any book you want, anytime you want it, wherever you are. An editor from a small, independent publishing house in Brooklyn chimed into the conversation and said something to the effect: “To every book, its own format.”

Meaning that some books would be best served by the evolving digital technology, while others would be best served by a traditional format. And that that decision has as much to do with the content as with the artist’s intention. I loved this idea. The idea that the creation of a book is a holistic process that goes beyond the mere writing of a manuscript to encompass consideration of the nature of the reader experience.

As the editor put it, “Vinyl never went away; it has better fidelity.” Funny, I’ve got an iPod, but I’ve been thinking about acquiring a record player.

Leave a Comment