Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Publishers embellishing physical books

The Herald-Tribune reports a publishing trend of embellishing book covers and adding pictures to sell physical books:
Many new releases have design elements usually reserved for special occasions — deckle edges, colored endpapers, high-quality paper and exquisite jackets that push the creative boundaries of bookmaking. If e-books are about ease and expedience, the publishers reason, then print books need to be about physical beauty and the pleasures of owning, not just reading.
It seems to be working:
There are indications that an exquisitely designed hardcover book can keep print sales high and cut into e-book sales. For instance, “1Q84” has sold 95,000 copies in hardcover and 28,000 in e-book — an inversion of the typical sales pattern of new fiction at Knopf.
The attempt to create books that are beautiful objects not only emphasizes beauty over against e-books, but also permanence:
... “If we believe that convenience reading is moving at light speed over to e,” Mr. Schnittman said, using the industry shorthand for e-books, “then we need to think about what the physical qualities of a book might be that makes someone stop and say, ‘well there’s convenience reading, and then there’s book owning and reading.’ We realized what we wanted to create was a value package that would last.”

... In October, the British novelist Julian Barnes underscored that point when he accepted the Man Booker Prize for “The Sense of an Ending” by urging publishers to pay attention to aesthetics. “Those of you who have seen my book, whatever you think of its contents, will probably agree that it is a beautiful object,” Mr. Barnes told the black-tie crowd in London. “And if the physical book, as we’ve come to call it, is to resist the challenge of the e-book, it has to look like something worth buying and worth keeping.”

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