Sunday, February 13, 2011

A book: The cover is a door to an amazing world

I'm a voracious, you might say carnivorous, or certainly an omnivorous reader. And I've been thinking about books, and in particular, hardcover books. I don't cotton to ebooks frankly.

I've been thinking about why you like to own them, hold them, shelve them, loan them, wrap them up with a bow to give as a gift, cuddle up with them, stay up all night reading them and how there are some things you can do with a book which you can't do with an ebook.

Look at the shape of a book. Look at the front cover. It opens like a box, or if you think of it, like a door to a house where there's a party going on. The cover of a book is like a little door into an amazing world. Readers who love reading know this. The common wisdom suggests "don't judge a book by its cover" and they are right, you can't imagine from the door of a house what weird, wild, wonderful things might be going on inside.

No e-book lets me open a door as a real book does. And once inside, there is ink and paper. Not important you say? Well, I think it is. As a writer, I feel the connection with other writers when I see ink pressed on paper. You may say all books are now written on computers and few people write with pen, ink and paper. That's true, but ink and paper are suggestive of a person pouring their blood, sweat and tears into a manuscript. Ink is the connection to the blood and heartbeat and FEELINGS of an actual living (or once living) author. Ink may be black but it is liquid like blood and the ink in a book is the brother of the ink in the inkwell on the desk of a writer. It flows. It lets words flow. It spills. It spills the emotions. It is not digital.

Take the word "manuscript" -- notice the origin of the two parts of the word too -- "manu" hand and "script" written. A manuscript is written by a person's hand. It's "hand-made." The hands of a writer touched paper, that paper was sent to a printer, who in the old days made type with their hands -- hot lead type -- and pressed the words into the bed of soft paper. Think ink and paper, think about a signature, something totally unique, written by the hand of a person, identifying that person, a manuscript, too is made by hands, holds an author's unique perspective.

The door of a book, the cover, opens and there are people inside who say, "Come in, we'll tell you our story." It's an amazing invitation. Open that door. Go in, listen. And if you leave that enchanted place, remember you can always go back. You'll recognize the door.

Picture Credit: Amazing book I'm reading now: Enchantment, by Guy Kawasaki, Penguin. Go here to learn more.