A bit late on this, but over the weekend Virginia Heffernan’s column was a consideration of physical books by a professed ebook fan. Jumping from Walter Benjamin’s “Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting,” which rhapsodizes about the the amassing even of books you never read, she writes:
If he says not reading books can be as sophisticated and European as reading them, I believe him, and I will try to think of my books as Sèvres china. But Sèvres china, if I had any, would be for display on its days off, wouldn’t it? So how do I display or otherwise admire all these books I keep buying for the Kindle?
Unpacking my Kindle library, I click “menu” on my screen and find . . . a list. First, the words “The Happiness Project,” the title of a book by Gretchen Rubin, in stout dark gray lettering, underscored by a lighter, less stout line.
This might be depressing. I can’t tell if I’m supposed to consider this underlined title to be the “book” I ordered from Amazon. Maybe it’s more like a catalog listing. If I click on it, I’ll get to the words in the book. Maybe it’s analogous to a book’s spine.
I want to rhapsodize, as Benjamin does, when he remembers the tactics he employed to acquire the book “Fragmente aus dem Nachlass eines jungen Physikers” (Johann Wilhelm Ritter, 1810) after a Berlin auction. But the only memory I have of purchasing “The Happiness Project” is no memory at all….
On a slightly related note, I offered some examples a while back of artists and designers making things out of books in a post on Significant Objects. Two more examples here: the one above by Paul Octavious, via SwissMiss, and the other by Matej Kren, below, via Book Of Joe.