Featured on Howard Direct

Featured on Howard Direct



By: Nick Howard  |  February 2013  |  Contact the Author
I love books. But, not those printed on toner copiers or inkjet machines that use inks like the type used in fountain pens. No - books printed with real ink on real paper and sewn - not perfect bound. Covers hot foil stamped and embossed with gilded blocks and marbled end-sheets. A keepsake and a treasure. I can hold it, pass it on, mark it up, refer to it, display it and build a room around my books. Books that have drawings or etchings that someone did by hand - not by a program on a computer.

I'm not alone. The internet has given the book collector new ways to find, collect and sell such books and on any genre or historical period one wants. Sites like Abebooks.com, Oakknoll.com, Antiqbook.com are just a few that connect buyers & sellers from anywhere in the world.

As the world gets further away from the written word on paper, we should not think the demise of book printing is likely. Although titles will continually decline (in print), the ones that do get published will be keepsakes and possibly more valuable because of the costs associated with producing one will mean more quality and less mass production. Trees are indeed renewable, so the basic materials will always be available.

Where you live alters your perception of the book and its future. At one time, European book printing was centered in the UK, Belgium, France and Germany. The first wave of pricing pressures saw many titles head for Italy followed by Spain. In North America, the same happened with books being printed in far off places like Singapore and Hong Kong. Now, however, the majority of colorful case-bound books are printed in China. Try and find a locally produced book now! It's hard. Chinese printers have taken the lion's share of book production because of low manufacturing costs.

Paperbacks continue to do well and be produced around the world. But, they are not crafted and have very little redeeming manufacturing qualities besides the actual content. Paperbacks can be produced cheaply, but face the internet and on-line devices head on. In time, they will lose this battle. Case-bound short run quality books will not.

At the last Drupa 2012, Kolbus showed off a new automated machine that took the book block, changed all sizes, performed all the functions, mounted the case, and delivered a book. There were no samples left after each demonstration. People have a need and desire to hold and treasure something. Try that with an email.

In some ways, this skews our perception of the book's decline. But, the book as a jewel and crafted with care is a treasure. Sewn books that can last a lifetime may not be essential anymore, but there is a large and faithful following either for profit (old books) or for sentimental value. People love to collect things - special things. Books deliver!

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