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Spineless eBooks

By James Caldwell | Published: August 25th, 2009

Ever look at someone’s bookshelf? It is one of the first things I do when I enter a room with lots of books at eye level. I start scanning the spines of the books and reading their titles. But until the other day I had never really noticed all the different logos that represent the various publishers.

Book Spines

Book Spines

The more interesting spines hold my attention firmly while the others usually get nothing more than a quick glance. Visually, I note the colours on the spine, how clean the design is and how clearly I can read the typography. But not until the other day did I ever note the publisher’s logos. I don’t know why they seemed so visible on this particular afternoon, but they were suddenly obvious and unavoidable. I stopped looking and reading the spines and started scanning them for the incredibly variety of logos instead. Most had artwork except for the academic presses, which generally consist of only the name of the press. I noticed that many of the publishers had designed special logos for alternate audience segments and other publishers had refreshed or modernized versions of their logos represented on their more resent print runs. Generally all the logos were one colour line work, using only positive and negative space to make themselves recognizable.

Now for a sobering thought. I can’t help but think that this lovely collage of book spines is going to go the way of the dodo when eBooks become the standard. There will simply be no more jacket art nor spines to peruse, no more colour, line and type to hold my attention. There really is something I enjoy about the tactile quality of the printed book and I am certainly going to miss it if or when it is gone.

A book spines analogy

When the paper book disappears, and some form of eBooks replaces them it is going to be a dark day. I believe it will be a sore reminder of the day when ‘vinyl’ was no longer available on mass. I enjoyed flipping through all that vinyl, there was an art to quickly flipping through hundreds of albums at my favourite record store. Every so often one of the covers would hit a chord with me, I would stop and stare at that album and maybe even pick it out of the bin. If I did, I would lift it up gently and slowly slide the vinyl and lyric page out of its jacket and read the poetry. [Sound of record needle scratching across vinyl goes here] Now we have music downloads so the love of the format is gone, it is mostly about money and distribution now, and not the listener’s experience. Sigh… what follows is a sample from a friend’s bookshelf.


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