The future of book jackets is being discussed on NY Observer today, with special attention paid to such jacket-less books as No Impact Man by Colin Beavan, Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne, and The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott, a Chicago native, all due out in September.
It’s a small thing, the book jacket, but one I’ve thought about often, as I’ve always much prefered the engraved covers of older books to the glossy, slick wraps of newer hardback titles.
In the article, this quote from McSweeny’s managing editor, Eli Horowitz, really grabbed me:
“To some extent,” Mr. Horowitz said in an email, “it comes down to the
question of what purpose the book is designed for: to be sold in a
store, or to be a part of a reader’s life. Even well-designed jackets
often feel like advertisements, not actual parts of the object.”
It’s interesting, this recent return of the hand-bound and
artistan-crafted versions of things while smack in the middle of the
downloadable-in-an-instant e-book and digital everything. And, it’s interesting to hear old things called new when they’re really little more than a return to
an existing-yet-long-abandoned method.
The Observer article closes with:
“There’s something really exciting about seeing stamping directly on
the boards,” said Ms. Strick, of FSG. “I don’t know if I even
completely understand why that is. Maybe there’s something permanent
about it, that kind of makes it feel substantial and special and gives
it a certain integrity.”
is it about? Is it simply a matter of an engraved book cover feeling
more substantial? Does it have greater artistic integrity? I mean, it
might feel more hand-crafted, more artistic, but it’s likely just as
mass-produced as the printed book jacket. But, it is a return to
a nearly-lost way, and that’s what’s got my ear more than anything. So
is this resurrection of the old ways of book cover printing indicative
of something weightier, culturally? Because I’d be remiss if I didn’t
mention that all this talk of a return to stamped bookcovers brings to
mind something I always say when I hear resistance to businesses
social media: “Using social media in business,” I begin, “is really a
return to doing business the person-to-person way.” I pause. I wait.
“Like in the old days.”