A book is more that the words on the page, the story that is told, and the way it is written. A book is also possessed of sheer physicality. How heavy is it, how thick, or how many pages, what is the cover like, does the paper have a distinctive odor, is there room in the margin for comments, what is the typeface, etc?
Of course, these features, as well as other ancillary features of reading a book are relatively minor compared to the real reasons we read a book, although they cannot be entirely discounted. Recently there has been some discussion of these matters on the various Web sites I visit.
There is the matter of dust jackets. Some books have them, some books don’t. Are they necessary? I am reading two books now, neither of which has one. What purpose do they serve? Can they be met without a dust jacket? Some dedicated readers believe one of the major downsides of the new e-books is the absence of a dust jacket or a book cover.
Then there is the matter of the edge of the page—rough, smooth, or deckle edge (uncut). I remember returning from France a long time ago with a load of deckle edge books. A knife was required to cut open the pages; there was something rather special about these books, as if they were in someway more authentic than their smooth edged counterparts.
For those who don’t like to write in their books, there is now a way to avoid doing so by placing a “verdant sticky” next to passage you would normally underline or highlight. Simply place one of these Japanese designed stickies next to the passage and later remove it to reuse again after you’ve added the passage to your collection.
How do you arrange the books on your bookshelf--randomly, alphabetically by author, color of cover, fiction, biography, poetry, culinary, etc? Lately, I simply add the book to whatever open space I can find. And when I search for a previously read book, I am more often than not able to find it simply by the color and design of the book cover.
Dollars and Cents
There is the cost of a book, a matter that cannot be easily dismissed these days. Shall I wait for the paperback edition? Or hold off until one comes into the library? Or planning ahead, why not buy a Kindle or a Nook, or the forthcoming iPad and start downloading them “in less than a minute” for $9.99 or, in an increasingly number of cases, for nothing.