In Defense of Actual, Physical Books

Published June 10, 2009 by Graham


“My sister bought me my first book, The Prince and the Pauper. A ritual began with that book which I recall very clearly. The first thing was to set it up on the table and stare at it for a long time. Not because I was impressed with Mark Twain; it was just such a beautiful object. Then came the smelling of it. I think the smelling of books began with The Prince and the Pauper, because it was printed on particularly fine paper, unlike the Disney books I had gotten previous to that, which were printed on very poor paper and smelled poor. The Prince and the Paper–Pauper– smelled good and it also had a shiny cover, a laminated cover. I flipped over that. And it was very solid. I mean, it was bound very tightly. I remember trying to bite into it, which I don’t imagine is what my sister intended when she bought the book for me. But the last thing I did with the book was to read it. It was alright.

“But I think it started then, a passion for books and bookmaking. I wanted to be an illustrator very early in my life; to be involved in books in some way–to make books. And the making of books, the touching of books–there’s so much more to it than just reading; there is a sensuousness. I’ve seen children touch books, fondle books, smell books, and it’s all the reason in the world why books should be beautifully produced.”
Maurice Sendak, 1970

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8 comments so far

  1. gracie says:

    amazing- we’re on the same page, as i just wrote this yesterday. oh, book puns.

  2. Matt Maggard says:

    I love physical books too. But I also see that I read most books once – especially most modern non-fiction business & society books. After that they take up space. To me, those are perfect for the kindle.

    But I don’t think books will ever totally go away. I certainly hope not. I think books will probably get more expensive and will primarily be for children’s books, photo/art books and the classics. Things that we want to keep as personal mementos of our passions.

  3. Mark says:

    Agreed! Technology is amazing, but nothing beats a nicely bound book with a good page layout. How a Salinger book gets ink all over your fingers that smears onto the white cover.

  4. Lyndall says:

    McSweeney’s make beautifully bound word objects…I recently purchased this one:

    It made me intensely happy.

  5. David says:

    Surely there are words that should live on eternally within those who share the sentiment over the tactile sensation of the physical book.

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