I stopped into Partners & Spade yesterday and had a little chuckle over Andy Spade‘s wall installation of framed clothbound books, which if I recall correctly, was titled something along the lines of “An Argument for Looking at Books Not Reading Them.” Cheeky and so wonderfully in touch with the current book-fetishizing zeitgeist! I noticed the other day while browsing an Anthropologie store that those gorgeous clothbound Penguins designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith which I’ve been coveting for ages had made their way across the pond and were now available outside of the UK. It’s admittedly a tad depressing to see editions of Dickens and Hardy scattered between cashmere twin-sets and shabby chic hand towels at an Anthro store, as it pretty much confirms the crossover of the book from vessel for content to object for display. The vast majority of these books will presumably live out their lives on a whimsically curated antique shelf, their glued spines never to be cracked. However, given the current state of the book industry, I have to applaud any and all attempts to revive interest in literature even if the tactics used are entirely aesthetic.
As further evidence of the fetishizing of books, take a look at these amazing Book Lights by Design Studio MS in the UK. Sadly they are currently only available with UK voltage plugs but I suppose I can always buy a converter. I want, I want!
Continuing on this train of thought, the lovely photographs of book spines by Mickey Smith also come to mind, as well as the series of bookshelf illustrations by Jane Mount — both available on Jen Bekman’s 20×200. Don’t have a bookshelf in your apartment? Just put up some pictures of books and presto! Nah, I’m just kidding. Like Andy Spade’s collection of framed books, presumably this kind of book-inspired art appeals most to people who actually do read quite a bit.
To blather on even further, I was at a charity benefit the other day where limited edition art books were being auctioned off for thousands of dollars. At those kind of prices they’re obviously more investment vehicle than actual thing to be enjoyed (imagine spilling coffee on your $4000 book!), but it really spelled out for me the reality that in the world of books, content has largely become divorced from the object. Kraken Opus, which recently released a Michael Jackson Opus for a relatively cheap $250, quite literally describes their limited edition books as an alternative investment that helps to “diversify your wealth.” I’m sure that while among these buyers of $4000+ limited edition books on everything from Arsenal to Prince will be die-hard fans who just want to own it no matter what, I suspect the majority of Opus’ customers never even break open the wooden crate it comes in and send it straight to their vaults to appreciate in value alongside their Château Margaux. The only time I ever saw an Opus book was under a glass case at Heathrow and that particular edition (Super Bowl XL) weighed a whopping 80 lbs. It takes “coffee table book” to a whole new level. You probably need to be in the NFL yourself to actually turn the page so it certainly is not a book meant for reading. So then what of the mundane task of reading? We have the Kindle and Nook for that!