Bookcraft vs. Books?
I always look forward to my daily dose of aesthetic inspiration from Design*Sponge, and I'm still ruminating on yesterday's typically gorgeous post on tables and cameras made of cool old hardcover books. Since the news that Amazon's digital sales now outpace hardcovers, I've been obsessing more than usual about the fate of physical books, wondering how long it'll be before my own dense shelves start to look like curio cabinets.
But like many who responded to the Design*Sponge post (Ashley Lorelle's "Beautiful and inspiring, but I’m not sure if I could actually destroy books to make them into furniture!" sums it up), I'm deeply ambivalent about using books as craft and building materials, despite the undeniable coolness of this pinhole camera:
This probably isn't a widespread enough trend to warrant serious angsting, but every time I imagine another way to make beautiful things from books, I run up against an internal argument.
The pro side goes something like this:
- I love salvaging and repurposing interesting old stuff in my home and garden, and objects made of books have a totally magical, storybook feeling.
- Those pinhole cameras are amazing objects in themselves, and the idea of taking such a low-tech photo with a book is really intriguing.
- Some older books have charming covers with deadly boring text, and just because they're old doesn't necessarily mean they're rare.
- Maybe all future generations need is the raw information, digitized, available to anyone, freed from the carbon consumption of production and shipping, and incorruptible.
- As much as we try to ignore it, we live in an age of extinction (of species, ecosystems, indigenous cultures, many of the ways of living we've always taken for granted), so this may be the perfect time to think about preserving bibliological diversity in physical form. Books (some more than others) are links in the evolution of human knowledge. What looks dull but delightfully cut-upable to the modern craftista may be very valuable information down the line, or even a precious artifact of a lost civilization. Do we as creative individuals have a responsibility to consider a book's potential value before we destroy it?
- We've been very fortunate to live in an age of booky ubiquity, when cheap energy makes it cost-effective (if only in the short run) to print and ship mass quantities of hardcovers. Physical books are a marvelous part of the industrial age's legacy. And if the worst happens and oil dries up before we can come up with another large-scale, sustainable solution--a not-unlikely scenario--those used hardcovers (now so cheap at garage sales) might feel like precious relics.
- In all its clean, convenient, connected, ink-digitizing, font-expanding glory, an e-reader will never have the magic of paper and cloth and real ink.
What say you, fellow bibliophiles? Am I over-thinking this, or would it be worthwhile for someone to draw up some tenets for those of us who also like to use book guts in mixed-media images or turn them into building blocks for bookcases (or tables, or cameras, or picture frames/shadowboxes, or bedframes, or doors, or....)? What can we create with stacks of old mass-market paperbacks--or are they just as precious?
The answer must be "It depends," but I'd appreciate your thoughts about what it depends on. --Mari Malcolm