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

Wound Man

Think you’ve had a bad day? Check out this guy. He’s had everything thrown at him, including the kitchen sink.

This is Wound Man. No, he’s not some new variety of zombie. Though he reminds me of Julie Walker from Return of the Living Dead 3. She staved off her flesh eating desires by sticking bits of glass or metal through her body. Sort of a piercing party gone wild.

No, the original Wound Man appeared in medieval surgical books. It was intended to show doctors the types of wounds soldiers might acquire. The poor figure suffers from it all. Beatings. Stabbings. You name it. There were only three key illustrations that were reused from book to book. (Why carve a new block if you can simply grab the old woodcut.).

Just remember, your day could always be worse.

Tim Kane


I love everything that has to do with books. Most of my love exhibits itself in clever sayings or aphorisms about reading and books. At incidental comics, I stumbled upon an amazing comic about adopting books. Check out Stray Books:

I makes me want to adopt books. Now, how about books as a wall. In 2005, Swiss artist Jan Reymond began constructing elaborate installations each year, made of the old, unsold books as a last hurrah for the soon-to-be discarded objects. He also made a tree out of books. That’s dedication.

Then I found a photographer Kirsty Mitchell. Following her mother’s death from a brain tumour in 2008, Kirsty channelled her grief into her passion for photography. She retreated behind the lens of her camera and created Wonderland, an ethereal fantasy world.

Below is The Storyteller: A reference to Kirsten’s English teacher mother, a model sits elegantly on a carpet of bluebells enveloped by books.

Finally, we have artist Robert The (yes, that’s his name). He takes books and then cuts them up to create new symbols. A lobster. A broom. A cake. And yes, a gun.

I still love to read books too. Now, mostly ebooks. But sometimes there’s something special about glue and paper. If the picture below doesn’t make you shiver with excitement, then real, physical books, aren’t for you.

Tim Kane

Surreal Picture Story

I’ve recently become addicted to the website Retronaut. Never heard of it? You should. It posts all sorts of strange and quirky photos from the past. Recently, I came across some very bizarre photos. Seeing them, my mind began to spin out a story.

Someone has poisoned the watermelon. Hungry kids, desperate to beat the summer heat, recoil at the hideous taste. But there is a side effect. Eating the tainted watermelon transforms you…

You shrink down to chicken size. As well as yearn for the taste of tobacco. Unfortunately, all that smoking only accelerates the effects of the shrinkage. It keeps going until…

The only place left to hide is between the buttocks of dapper gentlemen on baseball fields. But beware, these men are actually there to trap the tiny kids. Once captured, each tiny tot is locked up…

There kids will be rehabilitated so they can live happy lives here in the good ole USA.

Now everyone is happy.

Tim Kane