Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Real" books - and their value

 It amazes me how differently people think on this subject.  Many people are shocked or incensed that artists are "altering" books that had a previous lives.  Lives that had ended for one reason or another.  I can see the value of all books.  I think the biggest difference for me is that I feel - and have seen it happen - that so many books don't have any value any longer to libraries or even individuals – usually because of wear, but sometimes because they were a text book or manual that now has been replaced by updated data in a later edition. I feel good though, that I can and have, saved old books from being discarded in a land fill.  And then I’ve used them in altered books and journals – giving them a new life – an extended life.  So why is this type of recycling a bad thing?   Hmmmm.  Not thinking it is. 

I have to admit that I'm a bit of a snob about books now.  Ever since I actually made some books myself, hand sewn and bound with leather utilizing a number of very old bookbinding methods.  Man has found new and better and faster and cheaper ways to print books in mass quantities with very little that is recognizable of the beauty of what I call a REAL book.  A book that feels and looks and smells just awesome.  One that is sewn together of full folios rather than individually cut pages that are simply glued on one edge.  In some of my handmade books, I’ve written quotes and brief thoughts .  Some I’ve used for sketches and little paintings.   

Not being a writer, my books will never have the same wide readership that a truly authored book has, but I think they are books just the same.  And completely made my own hands and heart .  And yes, I hope they last for many years to come – maybe my descendants will love them too.  But I also recognize that at some point my books will also fall apart and be relegated to a landfill.  But that is ok with me because I know, that means they will have been looked at and read and enjoyed and the hands that touched them were a part of the aging process. And their lives as a result were coming to an end.  But how much sadder if they had just sat on a bookshelf or in a case and never been enjoyed?!  And maybe, if I’m really lucky, some part of my book will still be useable and some kind soul will give it new life by adding to it or altering it so it can go on and have yet another useful life. A sort of book immortality! Ha-ha!

I love the written word and am a voracious reader.  I'm in awe of the great skill it takes to write a good story or poem.  And I admire how brave a person must be to share their innermost thoughts with the whole world when they write.  But why does it have to come down to an either or situation?  Why can't altered books, art books, and truly authored books co-exist?  For that matter, it seems to me that many
who have said how they rue the advent of the e-book are also the same people who are, themselves using electronic media to share their written words and thoughts.  Blogs, Facebook, on-line publications, e-journals, etc.  I think there must be a place for it all and that eventually, hopefully, all the options will settle out into their own little niches and co-exist happily.  Each one contributing to the enjoyment and education of the people who choose them.  And then they lived happily ever after.  The End.  (oh yes, I'm also a romantic! - ha-ha!)

If you'd like to read my sister Carrie's thoughts on this subject (she's the true writer in the family and we're so proud of her - go here to see her blog and her post on this topic: