Why collect books now, when the world has gone digital?
We are emerging from what may be seen as a Golden Age of Publishing and book production, both in the UK and the United States. Book production has been booming for the last sixty years but now seems to be changing, like the music industry. With the advent of the Kindle, the iPad etc., it is inevitable that much of traditional book publishing is starting to shift to downloadable formats, away from paper and ink. If this is true, I think that now is the time, for those of us who care about books, to start making a collection of the ones we love, precisely because it looks like there is going to be less of them, in the future.
Real books vs. e-books? Hardback vs. paperback?
Real books are fascinating to handle and decorative to display in a way that a small, flat screen can never be. As information storage devices, they are often, particularly with art books, a more efficient way of finding images. Most hardcover books, if printed on acid-free paper and kept away from damp, last astonishingly well, over many decades. Each book becomes a time capsule for the year it was produced, summing up a design aesthetic, in addition to the actual words.
Andy Warhol 1961
Like nothing else, book jackets represent an actual graphic history of our times.
How obsessive do you want to be?
The problem with any form of collecting, and also the fun part, is how obsessive you allow yourself to become: Does it matter if a book is a first edition? (Yes, but this is a great copy, so what the hell) Does it matter if the jacket is OK, but there's a rip? (No) Should you fetishistically put a plastic wrapper on the jacket, so it doesn't get any more damage? (Yes, probably, but now you have clearly started being a bit odd) Should you buy some more book shelves and start a proper library? (Yes. The children don't really need their own bedrooms, after all) Wouldn't it be cheaper to get rid of the children, whose grubby little fingers show no respect for books, and just concentrate on the books? (Hmmm)
A modest proposal
Let me help you find and collect classic books that you can pass on to the next generation, (before it is too late, and we have all been persuaded that squinting at a tiny screen is the same as handling a beautiful book.)