Friday, February 25, 2011

What Is a Book?

I'm preparing a talk about the handmade book for the South Carolina School Library Association Conference in March. I took this photograph to illustrate a brief discussion of What is a Book which I think is a particularly timely question. Here are two versions of Chapter Five of Little Women: the one I downloaded from Project Gutenberg on my ipod which I read last fall and the copy of the book that I read many times as a girl. Are they both Little Women? For me the answer is yes. The book is both the physical object and the set of words.

My involvement in making books has always been about both the object and the content. Whether my books have words or not, they have always been about something. The challenge is always to find the right form for the content, what Ben Shahn called "the shape of content."

As I reflect on the future of the book, I become more passionate about bringing bookmaking to as wide an audience as possible. No matter what happens to the form of the book in the marketplace, we will always be able to hold physical books in our hands because we can make them ourselves.

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