Friday, June 29, 2007

Books R Us

Modern technology is a wonderful thing. John and I took his photos from his trip to Texas for his grandfather’s funeral and put them up at Snapfish. Then we organized them into a photo album; Snapfish will print and bind them and mail the finished album to his grandmother, without us leaving the semi-comfort of our desk (have you seen our crowded, cramped Hobbit-hole office?).

I can’t wait until I am able to order laminated versions of my favorite books. The advantage of plastic pages is obvious when you think about cookbooks (I’m drooling just thinking about Beard on Bread and The New Basics Cookbook laminated and ring-bound), but consider the fate of my copy of Pride and Prejudice: right now the pages are falling out and the ink is fading from so much handling. (I re-read P & P 3-4 times per year.) But a super-sturdy version—an adult version of board books, if you will—might actually survive life on Nee’s bed-side table.

My idea of ordering books bound to my personal specifications is not entirely a new one. At the Herzog August Bibliothek (Duke August Library) in Wolfenbüttel, John and I once saw how one of the dukes had had all of the books re-bound in matching white (I think) leather covers. The result was a thing of beauty, if ridiculously expensive.

I don’t doubt that my idea will someday be feasible. Right now, people in highly specialized fields are already working to make rare, out-of-print books available via print-on-demand services. The scanned or re-typed materials are stored electronically, to be printed and bound in very small batches, which normal publishers don’t do. At least one publisher has already seen how this could be profitable for them in the future, when the technology for producing books at home has become as simple as the current technology for printing photos from your computer. (See an excellent entry by The Rejecter for more details.) Unfortunately for that publisher, their attempt to change their standard contract to give them the electronic rights to a work in perpetuity (*gag*) was met with outrage, and I believe they have since withdrawn that clause. With so many other personalized items available via the Internet—see Cafe Press for an example of an online mug/t-shirt/mousepad printer—I don’t see why not books (as long as the authors are properly being compensated, which brings us back to the publishers, I guess).

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