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Bookmaking on My Mind

April 6, 2009

Gail Lindley’s bookbinding workshop is not the only reason bookmaking is on my mind.

A new book in hand gives me another example of what I’ve perceived as a trend in recent years: the publishing of books as interesting objects themselves. I think it’s been happening more, and I think it’s a natural response to the displacement of paper by electrons.

But I am cautious in this assessment. It could be the same effect as the sudden appearance of many cars in town just like my new one.

Which would be a measure of nothing but my own heightened awareness about books, pricked by fear and pain over the prospect of change in our beloved culture of print.

Which is silly, since a trend of careful publishing of interesting books is exactly the kind of thing that will “save” printed books.

I don’t actually have a new car. I drive an ‘87 Honda that gets better mileage than almost every vehicle on the market today, a curious statement about the evolution of technology.

Bookmaking, and the production of print in general, is actually easier in these electronic days. It is possible to publish your own book relatively cheaply and have it be well-designed and well-made (see Mel Strawn’s “Drawings”).

In addition to Gail Lindley’s bookbinding workshop (Gail is the granddaughter of the founder of Denver Bookbinding Company), I’m put in mind of bookmaking by the book “Gord Peteran: Furniture Meets Its Maker.”

When you see it, you’ll see why it had to be made the way it is. Gord Peteran’s work made me think of Andy Goldsworthy’s in the way it is intuitive and obvious but only after the fact.

The book about Peteran has bare cardboard, various kinds of paper, sketches, beautiful photographs of beautiful things, pages of text, fold-out pages, a functional and appealing binding.

It’s a “children’s book” for adults. Something to be enjoyed, loved, lost in.

Print looks fine on the Kindle e-reader; I wonder how graphic novels come across? Even black and white looks different moved from the page to the screen. Most of us enjoy classic works of art reproduced in books, but it’s a pale experience before the original. I believe that’s how graphic art on a screen would be.

The effect can be appreciated in reverse. Images of web-pages printed in books don’t look right. They have a richness you won’t find in “real” life, and they are static, like wedding photos. The dynamism and sense of possibility are gone.

We live in an ever more faceted world now. We will still have print, even as we still have theater and radio (in more forms than before), and we will still read (written language is a powerful technology).

The technology of print, and in particular the book, will continue. The big disruption now is in the publishing world, in its economics, in what it means to be “authoritative,” in who has access to the means of production.

You have that access now: Gail Lindley’s bookbinding workshop at the library, Saturday morning, April 25, from 9:00 a.m. to a time a couple-few hours hence. It’s hard to say. People start getting creative and things happen, time passes.

In the workshop, you will make a hard cover journal, using a pamphlet stitch for the text-block and making a hard cover from professional materials that bookbinders use. Gail will also provide ideas on how to embellish your journal.

The workshop will be limited to 16 because of table space. The cost is $35 and includes all materials and written instructions. Sign up asap.

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