Replay 2012 | Why, For Me, Print Will Never Be Extinct

It’s that time of year again, and I’m not only dragging out the Stuff I Found While Procrastinating Online Gift Guides, but also replaying some of my most popular “self-printing” posts from the last twelve months for those who might have missed them first time around. Today’s replay probably MY favourite post on Catherine, Caffeinated, this year, because not only is about my favorite book, like, ever, but it also got Freshly Pressed, bring hordes of new Jurassic Park lovers to my little blog! It was originally published back in July, just after my L.A. adventures. I’m off to countdown to JP 3-D in April…

Regular readers of this blog and those who’ve kindly subjected themselves to my books will know that I’m a huge Jurassic Park fan. I love the book, I love the movie and even though I’m a total coward who wouldn’t get on a rollercoaster if I was told there’d be a million dollars waiting for me at the other end of it, I braved Universal Studios Jurassic Park River Ride just to see the JP view from the lazy boat ride bit that came before the 80 foot drop.

The first edition jacket design of Jurassic Park.

I love Jurassic Park because it’s one of the first adult books I ever read and I can clearly remember reading it—or trying to; it was 1993 and I was only 11 —in the little caravan my parents used to have installed by the sea. It’s not Pulitzer Prize-winning literature or anything, but it’s a truly great read and reading it was the first time a book really took me away. I re-read it at least once a year, and still have my totally tattered, dog-eared and barely-held-together-by-Sellotape movie tie-in paperback. And if you are thinking What is she on about? Isn’t that book just about dinosaurs?, then I’m afraid we can’t be friends.

And you’re missing out. Big time.

But anyway, my point is I love Jurassic Park. And because I love Jurassic Park, I got a bit teary-eyed watching this TED video in which designer Chip Kidd talks about working on book jackets for Alfred A. Knopf.

I was watching it because I’d heard it was funny and interesting and it was about book cover designs. But a few minutes in, I suddenly realized who I was watching. This was Chip Kidd! The Chip Kidd who designed one of the most iconic book covers in recent memory—the T-Rex silouhette on the cover of the first edition of Jurassic Park! I was transfixed as he described how he bought a book from the gift shop at the Natural History Museum in New York, found an interesting-looking T-Rex skeleton, put a sheet of tracing paper over it and filled the spaces in with pen. Then he added typography to give the cover an overall look of “public park signage”—which, as soon as you hear this, you instantly see and understand. It could be a “Warning: Dinosaurs Crossing” sign, which is of course the kind of thing you’d find in a park of dinosaur attractions.

(Albeit one where the fences had failed.)

A couple weeks back in L.A., I was floating through Barnes and Noble at The Grove on a fluffy cloud of contented delirium when I gasped at the sight of a special edition of Jurassic Park on a table a foot away (and then quickly looked around to make sure no one had heard me gasp).

It was a thing of beauty. Hardback. That thing where the cover is a soft leather and the imagery is embossed into the surface that I don’t know the technical name for. The original T-Rex. Two books in one, Jurassic Park and its inferior but still really good sequel, The Lost World. Silver-edged pages, and on them the original type that I know so well. A map of Isla Sorna (the island from The Lost World) inside, and a red ribbon to mark my place.

I was in love, and I could bring home that love for only $20. Despite my self-imposed rule of no book buying due to no space in my suitcase, I practically ran to the register to pay for it.

On another trip to that same Barnes and Noble, I came across the edition of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth that was made famous by Oprah’s Book Club.

My edition of Pillars of the Earth, AKA The Fugly One.

It really is a stunning-looking book. My edition of The Pillars of Earth is an offensive eyesore that I can only hope was “designed” (ahem) and printed before Oprah picked it and the eyes of the world turned in its direction, because it really is a horrible, horrible looking book.

The pretty US/Oprah edition, soon to be winging its way to me from Amazon.com. You can’t really appreciate this in 2-D; the physical book is all shiny and embossed and stuff.

The gold/cream edition hadn’t been in Irish bookstores and so now, naturally, I wanted to buy the pretty one, replace the ugly one with it on my shelf (or in the boxes I have in storage as I am currently bookshelves-less) and donate the ugly one to a charity shop or something.

Hearing this, my companion said, “But it doesn’t matter what they look like.”

I swear to the Book Gods, life left my body for a second. My heart felt it like stopped.

It doesn’t matter what they look like?

It doesn’t matter what they look like?!!

Are you ON CRACK?!

But then I realized something: this is why some people can love their Kindles without pining for printed books. Because they don’t love the books themselves, like I do. They’re just after the words. For me, the words are the most important bit, yes, but they’re not the only important bit. For others, the format is irrelevant. We’re two entirely different kinds of readers. And that’s fine. That’s great even, for them, because I’d bet they haven’t cleared out their bank accounts buying multiple editions of the same book because the newer one was prettier.

But don’t tell me that a world without physical books will be a better world. Don’t tell me that I’ll “get used” to e-books. Don’t tell me that literature is going the way of music, because I don’t know about you but I never lovingly stroked a CD case (except for maybe a John Mayer’s Battle Studies but that was for, ahem, different reasons…) or held it in my hands, gazing at it adoringly, while I listened.

You only think that people will one day ditch print books completely because you are not a person who loves printed books. You love reading books, which is a different thing. It’s just one component of what I love. And what I love can never be replaced with some HTML and some plastic.

There are readers, and there are readers who also love books. I think there’s enough of the latter to ensure that while we all might profess love for our Kindles, the printed book is here to stay.

Now kindly all go and read Jurassic Park.

[UPDATE 16.07.12: Woo-hoo—Freshly Pressed! WordPress obviously love JP too. Obviously. I think we should start a book club…]

15 thoughts on “Replay 2012 | Why, For Me, Print Will Never Be Extinct

  1. Sally Clements says:

    I enjoyed these blog posts the first time around, Catherine, and find I’m enjoying them just as much ‘on replay’… I think you’re right, reading is one thing, but the whole tactile, ‘oooh, isn’t it lovely’ holding book in your hand is something else. Both are good!

  2. Elizabeth Anne says:

    I SO thoroughly agree. I literally have to force myself to avoid buying yet ANOTHER copy of Pride and Prejudice or Emma or Little Women (or any classic I adored really) every single time I walk into a book store. And they make a lot of very pretty editions of classics. So it’s really hard.

  3. JF Brown says:

    Catherine,

    LOL! I, too, share a love of physical books. But then, I’m a Baby Boomer. Not sure if the Millennials would ever care as much about “dead trees.” Yes, the words ARE the most important thing. But the tactile feel, the look, the picking up and feeling the heft, flipping through the pages, looking at the illustrations (a poor, pale equivalent onscreen)… All of that is delicious frosting on the cake. And what’s a cake without frosting?

    I must take slight issue with your statement that JP isn’t “Pulitzer Prize-winning literature or anything.” It’s a terrific read, and Crichton is a terrific writer. JP was the first of his books I ever read, and hooked me on his others. As a writer myself, I’m appreciative of his style: multiple POV in short sections that always end with a cliffhanger, moving between POVs, his naturalistic and flowing dialog, the scientific facts that he uses to extrapolate his fiction. All his fiction books are structured the same way. You may want to read his non-fiction memoir, “Travels,” which I recently picked up at the local One Dollar Bookstore — theonedollarbookstore.com. (I always try to be “financially careful” whenever I go into any bookstore or library book sale. I usually fail, however.)

  4. Shirley says:

    How wonderful to find a sister who feels the same! Some books just demand to come home with me, they need a good home. And to just be in the room with them, is satisfying and almost a religious experience. However, I have now taken one step further, I have started collecting first editions. Do you know they increase in value? Best of both worlds.But such an fast way to empty your bank account, but so worth it. Love your blog

  5. Jay Gordon says:

    Sorry, I have never been even faintly interested in dinosaurs. (I’ll pause for you to resume breathing.) I am, however, delighted to read someone whose charming style is reflected with such adorable clarity in her writing.

    As a courtesy … I may even order JP from Netflix. That is a reflection of my loyalty.

  6. Sam Joines says:

    I’m incredibly happy to find others out there who sniff books also. We should have a support group or something.

  7. Amy Knapp says:

    Anyway who uses Kobo knows print is a long way from extinction. The technology is so flawed it’s nuts! Weird formatting, poor image quality, poor user experience of the store, the goes on! Plus that hot Jurrasic Park cover looks like doodoo in e-ink!

  8. Ann Kilter says:

    I still have my copy of LOTR, hardcover, boxed set that I bought when I was 18 years old from the book of the month club. It was $25.00, and they made me pay for it first…since that was quite expensive for someone of my age at that time to purchase through the mail. I love those books… pull out maps, illustrated. All of my kids have read them. Now I have it on my Kindle, but it is NOT THE SAME. You can’t flip the pages back to read something again and again with a Kindle. Pages are hard to find in a Kindle, especially after you increase the font size. 🙂

  9. georgianaderwent says:

    I definitely fall into the “just after the words,” category. In fact I wrote a blog post myself last week, called “Love Words, Not Paper.” http://georgianaderwent.com/2012/12/03/e-readers-and-their-haters-love-words-not-paper/

    As I said in that:

    “When I say that I love books, what I mean is that I love the text contained within them. I love being transported to a different world, or getting a new perspective on the one we live in. I love marvelling at a beautiful piece of perfectly crafted prose, and equally, gasping at a roughly written but breathtaking plot. I love falling in love with characters, falling in hate with characters, cheering characters on or wishing for them to meet a horrible fate.

    Whilst I am doing all this, as long as the text is legible, I don’t care how it’s being presented to me – paperback, hardback, e-book or papyrus scroll.

    To me, people who talk about the sensual pleasures of a book, and literally mean the physical object rather than the words, are massively missing the point. Yes, a beautiful cover and thick pages can be nice, but they are definitely an extra little treat rather than something central to the enjoyment of the text. Thinking otherwise is like going to a restaurant that serves the most wonderful food and complaining that you don’t like the perfectly functional plates.”

    My post was however also a bit of an attack on people who act as though they are somehow superior for preferring “real” books to e-books, and I’m glad to see that you didn’t go for that approach instead appreciating that it’s a simple case of two different, worthwhile opinions. Your post has also helped me understand a little more what people mean when the love the physical book. That Jurassic Park one is certainly very impressive.

  10. Luke Thomas French says:

    Hear, hear! The magic of turning that first page in your hands simply cannot be beaten. As for returning to books – I’ve just finished Coraline, a novel I know I return to many times in the future.

    P.S. A pleasure to be here, Catherine. A friend recommended your book, Self Printed – a fun, witty and fantastic read, not to mention really helpful – it’s helped me loads already to start my blog, and I will reference it to publication day and beyond – thank you for all your hard work in producing the guide.

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