Is the Book the Body or the Soul?

J. Mark Betrand ruminates on the End of the Book debate.  I particularly liked this passage:

Book is a shifty word, denoting both the physical object and the content within. As an author, I think of myself as having “written books,” when in fact I’ve typed hundreds of pages of fiction and nonfiction into various word processing files, e-mailed them to my editors, and only much later seen them take physical form. To say all that, however, seems pedantic. To describe myself as, say, a “content provider,” however fitting the term might seem, strikes me as something akin to insult. I write books.

And I’m a lover of books, too, unaccustomed to making a body/soul distinction where the printed word is concerned. The book is the object and its contents, inseparable in my mind. I dwell in a house lined with shelves, most of them bowed by the weight of their printed content. Beautiful books and ugly ones. Read and unread. Objects of comfort, outrage, derision, admiration. Some pristine and others scarred. Some bound in leather, some in paper (at least one in shagreen). Prized and cheap side by side. Tangible things, each with a history. I can tell you where they came from, where they’ve been. The ones I sought out and the ones I discovered unexpectedly. The ones kept under glass in dark bookstores and, all too often, the ones overnighted from the clean, well-lit warehouses of Amazon. All of that will disappear when the book’s body does.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season – oh, and watching golf too).

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1 Comment

  • I too love a book’s body, but when you’re denied that, a hovering spirit on the Internet is so much better than nothing. Maybe the “soul” is in the transaction between the words and the reader.

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