Digital killed the printed-book star

With the digital market on the rise in publishing, and thought by many readers to be a cheaper option, are printed books becoming a collector’s item?

Last week The Guardian online posted an article titled “Would you pay £450 for a book about Gisele?” in which it discussed the rise of expensive special edition books and how they have become a status symbol. A book is no longer to be read, but to be appreciated as work of art in itself.

It only takes a quick browse of the Taschen website to see examples of these high-profile high-price books. Goat is one of the highest priced at $6,000 – each of the 9,000 copies signed by Muhammed Ali and Jeff Koons, and accompanied by a Jeff Koons print. Reading the description of the book, it is undoubtedly a piece of art in itself – measuring 50cmx50cm and containing 3,000 full colour images it is hardly low-spec paperback (considering it is ‘bound by the official bindery for the Vatican’ one can only expect such standards).

Perhaps this is the future of the printed book, to be seen as a work of art not valued by the cost of the materials but by the beauty and form it takes.

The more I research this matter, the more I can’t help but draw comparisons between the book industry and the music industry. Without a doubt the music industry had a digital boom when we all went out to buy iPods, downloading and sharing mp3 files – your personality no longer portrayed on your CD shelf but instead on your iTunes or Spotify. But then vinyl made a comeback – not just by dusting off the LPs in your parent’s loft, but through a new generation of collectors. Vinyl records are now collector’s items, with re-issues of old records coming into the market and more new music sold as LPs and singles.

Just as vinyl collectors now may not have their entire music library on record with only their favourites as physical copies, I think there will be a generation of book collectors who have a library in digital format with only their favourites as printed books. I think that this will also inspire book covers and dust jackets to become more of an art form – just as record sleeves are seen as works of art.

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