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Books

The Best of Paper, the Future of eBooks

07.30.07 | Comment?

In yet another case of old meeting new, the Britannica blog has an essay on a unique bookstore that pays homage to printing at its finest. If you love books–the weight, the smell of ink, the feel of a hardback cover–then this store is for you. According to the article, the Librissime in Montreal specializes in high-end, limited edition books. These books raise printing and binding to an art form. I think I’ve mentioned in the past how, as a kid, it was a special treat for me to get to visit a bookstore and pick out a new book. When I’d walk in the front door the smell of new paper and fresh ink would wash over me. To this day that smell gives me a jolt of excitement. The Britannica essay is a celebration of printing as an art form for people who get a thrill at the smell of books, however it also ends with a cautionary note. It warns that we should take care not to lose a valuable art form as we move from from print books to e-books.

While I appreciate the essay and what it’s trying to say, I think I would have been more personally moved if it had used my pulp mega-bookstore as an example. Lamenting the potential loss of high-end print books, such as a set of new books valued at $14,500, just doesn’t resonate with me. I will never own books like that. The essay’s warning is akin to suggesting that I might one day not be able to own a Greek sculpture. Just like that sculpture, the closest I’ll ever get to a book in the Librissime is seeing it in a museum or library. I totally agree that printing, like sculpture, is an art form worth preserving. But the true works of art are just as out of reach as ever.

Moving from the art of the printing press to present e-book technology, TeleRead brought to my attention that the makers of that 3rd generation e-book reader I mentioned Friday were interviewed by a French blogger. The interview is in French, but there are two points in the video you can appreciate whether or not you understand the language. First, skip to 1:50 into the video and check out just how crazy-thin this device is. Then skip ahead to the 6 minute mark and watch the other gentleman switch from one “page” to another. One of the criticisms of earlier generations of the technology used in the screen (called e-ink) was that a screen refresh took a maddeningly long 2-3 seconds. The images in this video appear to refresh in a second or less.

Finally, TeleRead also posted a news item about another French video that I can only describe as e-book porn. No, the link is completely work safe. I only mean that it’s designed to cause lust in e-book enthusiasts in the same way that gun porn, featuring pictures of guns, does the same for gun enthusiasts. My own take (which you’ll read from the comments on TeleRead) is that this is really cool science fiction, but it also is technology that is either currently available or incrementally right around the corner. It just hasn’t been implemented in this manner yet. However, I fully expect to see this in my lifetime.

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