The beauty of the book

Sometimes, for me, the beauty of the book is in its cover, in the font that’s used, in the way the chapters are introduced, in the way the paper feels in my fingers, in the pure physicalness of it. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why I don’t yet have an e-reader – because there’s nothing I love more than the feel of a book in my hands.

It might be a paperback I’ve read over and over again, whose pages are yellowed with time and leave a faint residue of the past – my past – on my fingers.

It might be a book like this one – a book I read first in my grandmother’s basement almost forty years ago when it was already at least fifty years old. I can still remember turning those pages for the first time, engrossed not only by the beautiful illustrations, but by the fact that the pages in my hand were already so much older than I was at the time, fascinated by the fact that my grandmother, who felt so ancient to me at that time, had read this book when she was a child.

Or maybe it’s a book like the book I finished reading this weekend – Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. The cover is amazing but… lots of books have great covers (I’ve bought a whole bunch of them myself). The writing is brilliant, the story blew me away, but today I’m talking about the BOOK, the pages, the ink, the design, all the things that add to the experience of reading.

Look at this inside cover –

It’s brilliant.

Or this –

The cover underneath the paper cover.

Every single piece of this book is perfect. It works with the story, it draws you into the story, it stops you in your tracks and makes you realize what you’re missing with the ordinariness of most of the books we read. Yes, we’re engrossed by the story – but we used to be engrossed by the book itself.

The fact is that if we read a book like this on an e-reader, we’re missing a big part of the experience. What if I’d bought this book on an e-reader?

I would have missed the beauty of the cover beneath the cover – and I would have missed a way into the story that would have changed the experience completely for me.

I’m becoming more and more attracted to books that have that little something extra – that have design aspects that contribute to my reading of the book. I don’t think this makes me a Luddite, but it does make me somewhat of an eccentric.

What about you?



8 responses to “The beauty of the book

  1. You’re definitely no Luddite, rather, a connoisseur. The loss of the artwork that goes into making beautiful books, both tactile and visual, are what most folks rightly lament as we move from analogue to digital. Economics force it, but artists and artisans have always been the most poorly rewarded among us.

    Thanks for reminding me why so many titles remain on my shelves.

  2. I love wonderful design, and it will always be the first thing that attracts me to a book. It doesn’t hurt at all to have a beautiful cover.

  3. Hi everybody, I have managed to out last the flu, so, don’t send the flowers–we canceled the funeral. 😉

    Like Kate I love the art and design work that goes into some of the great books. I too, will miss the beauty and art work of the printed book. But don’t despair; the digital world of publishing is working on things like design and artwork to set their creations at the forefront. Even though it may not be the same, I assure you, it will be beautiful and memorable.


    • Wally – yay for you and the flu! I’m happy you’re feeling better.

      Yes, the e-books will be beautiful, but they’ll be different. They won’t have smell, they won’t have texture, they won’t have weight and heft and…

      I’m not averse to e-readers but I suspect I’ll use one only rarely. I like the way a book feels in my hand, I like flipping back to check something out. I like having two pages at the same time. I like the size of them…

      Yeah, yeah, I get the appeal of the e-book and the e-reader – but I’m going to buy books on paper for as long as I can.


      • I too, will continue to buy and read books, and i can guarantee Belva will.

        By the way, I think I heard, they are trying to develop a way to transmit smells. How they would do that I’m not sure. but then i didn’t think I’d ever see the Dick Tracey 2-Way Wrist Radio (1946) or the 2-Way Wrist TV (1964), and Voilà the cell phone comes along! Ahhhh! the smell of a leather bound book. 😉


  4. Ooh, THE NIGHT CIRCUS!!! I KNEW you’d love it! Such a gorgeous book in every possible way. It’s one I’ll refuse to loan out, because it’s so beautiful and I know I’ll be rereading it many times in years to come.

    I do love the feel of a hardcover book in my hands. Not so fond of getting smacked in the face with them when I drift off to sleep…

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