Monday, July 20, 2009

Books Worth Saving

As I’ve explained in a prior post, I generally view books as disposable objects, and “when I'm finished with a book, I have no qualms about giving it away, donating it to charity, or even (gasp!) throwing it away if it's not worth passing on.” I make an important exception to this general rule in the case of collectable books. For me, a collectable book is any book I admire as a physical object. Signed books, rare first editions, or books with beautiful or unique designs get promoted to my “keeper” bookshelf.

In this age of e-books and print-on-demand books, I sense a growing counter-movement to create and collect books worth saving. Book design has always been important, but some publishers are making it their niche. Take, for example, Chin Music Press in Seattle, Washington. Self-dubbed “Seattle’s antidote to the Kindle,” Chin Music is seeking “to recreate that sense of awe book lovers get when they enter the rare books room.” According to a review in the Orlando Sentinel, Chin Music’s recently published novel Oh! by Todd Shimoda “shows an amazing attention to detail and mood. The pages between chapters are peppered with illustrations from [the author’s wife] that capture the contemplative feel, and there are ‘exhibits,’ or bits of research along the way.” I have a copy of Oh!, and I can attest to its beauty, from the sparkles embedded in the brown endpapers and the buttery-soft paper to the colorful watercolor illustrations. This one’s a keeper. In the UK, Full Circle Editions has just launched its first book, The Burning of the Books. This new publisher is dedicated to producing beautiful books, and its first title is a “sequence of poems and images” that “form a visual and verbal tour-de-force.”

To see a bunch of collectible books in one space, visit Librissime, a bookstore in Montreal, Quebec that only stocks books worth saving. As explained by Michael Ross at the Britannica blog, the owners of Librissime “celebrate books as objets d’art, and as essential for enriching your life. These books are stunning examples of the craft of bookmaking, published by publishers who, at various times—over the years and right through to the present—have produced the most glorious publications you will ever see.” And for those of you who prefer the books to come to you, check out Indiespensable, Powell’s high-end book subscription club. Of the twelve installments that have shipped (or are about to ship) since the club’s inception, half of them feature special collectible editions, and almost all of them have included signed, first editions.

May your shelves be filled with books worth saving.

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