Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Death of the Real Book

Sadly it seems that the day of the real book that you can hold, turn the pages and put in your pocket is over.  The 'Brittle Book' syndrome and electronic downloads have hastened its doom.

It seems according to the Telegraph that Amazon, the online retailer and owner of the Kindle e-reader, has announced that digital book have been consistently outselling hardback books for the last three months in the US. The company has revealed that it has been selling 143 e-books for every 100 hardcover books over the course of the second quarter of 2010. The outpacing of digital books versus hardbacks is also accelerating, as during the last month alone, has sold 180 Kindle e-books for every 100 hardcovers.

I have always had a passion for real books hence my interest in the craft of bookbinding. It was obvious to me in 1990 that unless I did something all my books would fall to pieces so I took a bookbinding course at Auckland Tech. I did not know about the Brittle Book Syndrome then or indeed until 2006 when to my horror the local Librarian told me she could not stock my bookbinding DVD's because no  old books were restored and were just kept in boxes in their original condition. She felt like antiques they should be kept in original condition and not restored.

Research revealed that the old books were kept in boxes simply because there were now no bookbinders capable of restoring them available. None were being trained because every book printed after 1830 had a built in destruct mechanism known in the trade as Brittle Book syndrome from the acid wood pulp paper. Old books in libraries today are just scanned and the original thrown away.

Google Books project is scanning all the books in English from major universities and libraries to preserve them for posterity. There is no time to waste as within years many will have turned to dust. This causes friction with the publishers because of copyright which in USA is in place on all books until 2019 but less than 10% of today's books have known copy right owners. Google will scan first and arque later or publishers can choose not to have their books scanned.

So now if you want a  lot of leather bound books to grace your bookshelves the only thing to do is to do it yourself unless of course you are a billionaire and can afford $1000 per book.

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