As eBooks Grow, Will the Printed Book Become Art?

Book art by Lisa Occhipinti

Think back, if you can, to a time when you might have learned calligraphy. You know, that fancy formal type writing that went out with the advent of the typewriter. I know I loved writing that way, but only for special notes or letters. It took too much work. Printing or cursive was faster. Plus, calligraphy had taken on airs. It felt it was better than everyone else. It was art.

Will the printed book slide into this pretentious slot? I think it very well might.

Think about it. Printed books won’t vanish. In the near future, at least, they’ll be plentiful. A fellow writer of mine just had his backlist bought up by Amazon. I asked if they would create ebooks, and he said no. The backlist is all Westerns, and these are older readers who still prefer print.

Yet as the generations march on, much of the printed books may vanish. Leaving splendid coffee table tomes and specialty volumes to remain. These will become aesthetic icons.

Even flimsy paperbacks will be enthroned in museums. We love nothing better than the deification of pop culture. Think I’m spinning a yarn? It’s already happening.

Look at this art installation for the 2012 Olympics in London by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo. New and used books were stacked up in this shape of a fingerprint (the late Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, to be precise.)

Jan Reymond is another artist, who lives in the small Swiss village of Romainmôtier. He’s created multiple installation pieces where he suspends used books to create sculptures. Here he created a tree called, Le Thésarbre, in the courtyard of an abbey.

Finally Lisa Occhipinti is a mixed media artist who creates art projects out of books. Below is “Circulation” which binds together some rather beaten volumes.

You need look no further than your local Anthropologie store. Their window displays make copious used of old dusty books.

These may be the future of books. I certainly can’t see anyone preserving ebooks in the same way. Someday there might be artists who create art from the copious ereaders we use. But there’s something so tactile about a physical book. I’m fascinated by it and would gladly peruse art installations that showcase the tome.

Tim Kane

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4 comments on “As eBooks Grow, Will the Printed Book Become Art?

  1. While these sculptures are beautiful and interesting, I can’t help but feel a pang deep down in my gut to see books torn apart this way. I guess I’m just getting old and crotchety but I’ve always cherished books, trying to keep them in as pristine condition as when I got them and when an accident such as spilling my coffee on them occurs, I mourn the passing of an old friend. I truly hope the print book never goes out of fashion and that they remain treasured to readers of the printed word. 🙂

  2. I’m not elderly and I still love physical books. There’s nothing like the scent of an old or even new book, and nothing better than dogearing to mark your place or particular passages you love. You can’t get that from ebooks.

    I do like ebooks, especially since I publish my stories as such, but I love the real thing and plan on continuing to collect and read them for many years to come.

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