The Beauty of the Printed Book – New York Times – Alice Rawsthorn
Anyone who wishes to be reminded of quite how beguiling old-fashioned books can be should visit “The Printed Book: A Visual History,” an exhibition running through May 13 at the Special Collections department of the University of Amsterdam. Drawn from the university’s book collection, which is among the world’s finest, the exhibition traces the evolution of book design through some of the most compellingly designed books of the last 500 years.
Even the bibliophiles at Steidl expect e-books to continue to grow, largely at the expense of printed books. For starters, they are incredibly convenient. Just think of the hundreds of e-books you can pack on to a single digital device. They are environmentally responsible: saving trees from being felled to produce paper, and fossil fuel from being burned to transport boxes of books. Interactive books can also dazzle their readers with sound, film clips, animations and data visualizations as well as words and images. And if their readers are puzzled by a word or factual reference, they can check it on the Internet within seconds.
Yet so far, the design of e-books has been disappointing. Most of them look suspiciously as though their publishers have simply shunted their contents from print on to the screen. But some of the newer titles are more promising, largely because their designers have explored the technical and aesthetic possibilities of the new media.
Yet there is still something very special about an adroitly designed printed book, perhaps because it is so simple and devoid of technological trickery.