Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Books. #1

Don't know how about you, but whenever I hear the word “publishing” (and trust me, I stumble upon it fairly often), I instantly think about books. I guess that's a good point to start the journey.

By Seb Lester, personal favourite. 

 (I don't think I can break into anyone's heart by showing them lots of pictures of the old ones – most may feel an unpleasant whiff of a history lesson. In order to illustrate this lengthy entry I have added a few amazing contemporary book design examples. If those don't convince you, I suppose I shouldn't even bother with my writing!)

You may have heard of this too, but books are threatened. There are tons of articles, blogs and, I guess, books themselves, dedicated to the subject. Nobody's claiming they're going to disappear, but the growth of other forms of media have definitely pulled away a large amount of attention. That's what we tend to call progress, and starting to prove myself I can learn a less sceptical approach, I will call it progress too.
See an iPad for a better look

There was one thing, though, which helped the whole book situation out a lot. No drumroll, everyone's aware of ebooks and most have their own opinion about it. I have mine, but in order to avoid being biased and stubborn, I finally installed the eBooks app onto my iPod Touch. I won't lie, I love the way it looks and feels. 

Still, thinking in the shallowest way of all, can a wood texture and a few book icons actually replace a real bookshelf?

Honestly, if you're not that much of a book fan, remember how decorative those bookshelves can be. That's your key to at least looking intelligent. Isn't that just a lovely feeling. I remember laughing at those shelves in Lara's house from Tomb Raider III (you'll have to excuse me – I've never been a video game fan, so I'm guessing the same applies basically in every game like that), where the shelves were only developed enough to serve as a mere wallpaper pattern. I don't even think that was their intention – in those games you just don't stop and read a book, do you - but ever since then I keep remembering the whole concept of a wallpaper with a bookshelf pattern.

Apparently, the idea is as old as the world itself – and it's not at all unpopular.

If you're curious, you can find more examples here.
The point stays - ebooks are better than no books at all. However, there's a story behind every major change like this; doesn't it hurt when you read something like:

A library that would prefer to not be named was found to be thinning their collections and throwing out books based on what had been digitized by Google.“

(This topic is covered in the article here (that's one bad piece of a banner there, ouch)).

Just as the whole concept of my blog claims, I would hate books only remaining in the digital format. Stories like this (“All textbooks to go digital by 2015) is just the beginning of a growing phenomenon, and soon enough this will hardly surprise anyone. But just as Andy Robertson from Wired says, “of course this sort of digitisation of education has many plus points, but I hope we don't totally do away with the way things were. It's worked for a few hundred years so it can't be all bad, can it?”

A Gray318 piece. He's amazing.
My stubborn views may have something to do with the whole romantics of books we were raised to believe in: my Lithuanian friends know about the history of book smugglers, who illegally brought Lithuanian books (printed elsewhere) to the country during the severe Russification process at the very end of the 19th century. Risking their own lives, these people – and the books they carried became a great symbol of resistance. 

With no doubt, there are thousands of reasons why books are a key part of the cultural history, and I'm not too sure if massive refusal of books as physical objects could be its most glorious moment.

Okay, so what about the design?

I would be a big fat liar if I said that the digital deprives designers of the ability to express themselves. Oh yes, the variety of areas to leave one's mark in is absolutely endless.
These covers absolutely made my day.

But you know what? I'm really tired of having everything I need being stuck in my laptop. People have high needs for aesthetics; it's in our consciousness, and thanks for that, all the drawing weirdos like me can get paid for their work. Should we really only be able to admire a beautiful piece of Graphic Design only when our devices are on? Okay, you say, a normal person probably doesn't have a daily thought like “oh, right, now's the high time I find something beautifully designed to look at!”. I am perfectly aware that most of my reasons are absolutely irrational, but as long as I believe in making world a better place to live, I cannot imagine it without books. Beautifully bound, carefully designed and catching one's eye from a mile (like these Kafka ones, which absolutely took my breath away! It's s shame I wasn't able to track the designer down; however, at least I've discovered this beautiful source of book covers collected in one place, the Book Cover Archive). 
It's a must to check them out.

Needless to say, design's not staying in one place. The variety of book types is wider than ever, and the competition has never been that harsh. Consumers should be happy: rising standards only guarantee the quality of the products on offer is considered extremely seriously. Surely, arbitrary design has always existed and will hardly disappear in the future, but let's be fair to ourselves and enjoy what's the best we can find.

I feel it safe to say that book design is becoming way better and harder to resist. Of course, designers play the card of mastering all psychological techniques to attract people's attention – and wit is usually playing a very successful role here. A simple example of a witty idea is the TankBooks decision to publish some classical novels in a shape of cigarette packs. I wouldn't give it much credit for being amazing or outrageous, though; someone just had to come up with sooner or later:

There are hundreds of examples like this, and it's lovely to know that it's quite impossible to exhaust the resources of ideas to use. It would be such a shame if all this beautiful playing with type, photographs, illustration or anything else the designer may come up with would go to only be seen on screen. Ahh. And what will replace that smell of a freshly bought book?

That's not it yet, stay tuned to see what else I can squeeze out of myself on this topic.

Thoughts are kindly welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment