Friday, February 25, 2011

What Is a Book?

I'm preparing a talk about the handmade book for the South Carolina School Library Association Conference in March. I took this photograph to illustrate a brief discussion of What is a Book which I think is a particularly timely question. Here are two versions of Chapter Five of Little Women: the one I downloaded from Project Gutenberg on my ipod which I read last fall and the copy of the book that I read many times as a girl. Are they both Little Women? For me the answer is yes. The book is both the physical object and the set of words.

My involvement in making books has always been about both the object and the content. Whether my books have words or not, they have always been about something. The challenge is always to find the right form for the content, what Ben Shahn called "the shape of content."

As I reflect on the future of the book, I become more passionate about bringing bookmaking to as wide an audience as possible. No matter what happens to the form of the book in the marketplace, we will always be able to hold physical books in our hands because we can make them ourselves.

6 comments:

P-A-McGoldrick said...

I so agree, Susan, with the essence of the book. The fact that bookmaking keeps the "book" concept within our reach is a marvel!
I think that the bookmaking fascination has definitely impacted me as I, too, am spreading the word about this "green" activity, upcycling many items into books.
Have to say that the bookmark book is really appealing for those reasons & it is such a creative fun way to track the reading we do each year.
So glad you share this bookmaking passion!
Patricia

The Mom said...

Great image... but wow, I cannot help but FEEL that a book needs pages... or do they.

I absolutely LOVE your last line --thank you, mind if we quote you?

Hope the talk goes well, hope you post about it!

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord said...

Please feel free to quote. I was so surprised to find out I enjoyed reading on my ipod. I'd do it more except that I usually borrow books from the library rather than buy them. The only ones free as ebooks are older books so I have read some classics, including Little Women, but don;t have access to contemporary books. A small selection are available from the library but I haven't figured out the logistics yet.

Natasha said...

I am new to bookmaking and new to your site. However, as a pre-service teacher I have recently been introduced to making books. I found your site last week and taught the 'hotdog' book on Friday for one of my observations. It was a hit and my supervising teacher loved that I included it in my lesson. Yesterday, I made a book out of a paper lunch bag and in a few weeks my niece (a photograper) is coming over and we are going to have a bookmaking party. The point is all this is inspired by you and hopefully I will inspire others. What you are doing is great and it is working!!!

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord said...

Natasha
Thanks for posting. Glad to hear it's working. if you have photos you'd like to share from your bookmaking party, please send them to me and I'll post them. If party attendees don't want to be in the picture, photos of books are great. That's what I do at my workshops.
in good spirit
Susan

Forrest said...

Great post! Today I posted on my blog about how it is possible to be a book artist and love reading on a Kindle as well: http://nobeatenpath.com/?p=2386 I think some of the current articles and arguments floating around that 'book lovers' can't approve of the Kindle (or iPad, or any e-reader) because it is somehow not a 'real' book misses the point. And you have explained that quite well.