Penguin are currently selling James and the Giant Peach for £100. It’s a limited edition hardback designed by Antony Gormley and is one of six titles in a special series. It’s hard to tell if it’s worth the money, their website only shows you 3 photos, for £100 I would want close up images of binding, I’d want hand painted or marbled endpapers I’d want to see the quality of the paper and I’d like the designer to sign it. A Perspex slipcase is not enough of a deal breaker for me. Now Penguin may not showing you the fine details of this book but they are showing you the larger picture of things to come in the publishing world.
In 10 years time the way you read your book may well have changed completely, so much money is being invested in kindles and the like that’s it’s hard to see how this trend will fade. If one electronic portable device can carry 1000 books then think of the storage savings. Imagine a library. The whole building could be held on one machine that someone can download unlimited copies to portable readers. It’s also great news for new authors, launching a new author is hugely expensive, imagine the costs involved in printing thousands of books that no one buys. An e-download will be so much cheaper and less of a risk. It’s great for readers as well. Your e-bookshelf can be scanned and new recommendations will be made based on your previous preferences. How nice would that be?
Physical books like handwriting are going to become elitist or subversive; they will leave the mainstream and peel away into cliques and collectible, underground fanatics and specialists. Rather like they used to be in the past, books will become things of beauty, bindings will become more extravagant and individual. In the middle ages books were bound in jewels, or shells as well as cloth or leather. Cloth was often embroidered and the leather was tooled to incredible intricacies. The art of book binding will soon be on the rise again and I for one welcome the idea of holding a hand stitched book bound in embroidered crewel work with hand tinted end papers.
But this is the 21st century and there are some new ideas floating around book art is a particularly charming one, where the whole book itself is a piece of work. I’m not sure how easy it would be to read but it sure is lovely to look at. I suspect Lewis Carroll would have loved to play around with book art, just think of a hole carved into the pages of a book where Alice falls down the rabbit hole and the text weaves across the blank pages. Of course it’s not just authors playing with the book format; it’s also publishers and artists. Penguin (again; they really are leading the pack in design innovation) recently released a range of classic titles with blank front covers for you to draw on, to make your own book. Rather flies in the face of your parents telling you not to scribble in your book.
Pop up books are the first step in book art and who doesn’t love pulling levers and tabs or having dinosaurs leap out at us in glorious 3D then opening envelopes and flaps to discover clues and hidden messages. There are even scratch and sniff books but a Fungus the Boogeyman scratch and sniff book is maybe a step too far!