Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Covering Book Covers

For some people, a personal library is a collection of works they find valuable or meaningful. For others, books are meant primarily to match the decor. It isn't quite as horrible as it sounds; some of the designers and customers really do take taste and subject matter into account, including biographies of artists with works the customer owns, regional history guides, and other smart people content. And then there's the fun stuff:

The designers of the new Bowlmor, on West 43rd Street in Manhattan, envisioned the place as a TriBeCa loft — minimal and modern — and asked for a collection “that was young, fun and hip.” Ms. McKibben said she procured “100 feet of brightly colored books on music, film, cars, games, retro-themed fun and, of course, bowling,” though the blizzard last month interfered with installation.

But no, it's not all great. This is pretty much what I was expecting:

Not all of Mr. Wine’s clients, who include hotel designers and high-end builders, are so fastidious about content. For the spa in Philippe Starck’s Icon Brickell, the icy glass condo tower in Miami, he was asked to wrap 1,500 books in blank white paper, without titles, to provide a “textural accent” to the space. He chose mass-market hardcovers that flood the used book outlets — titles by John Grisham and Danielle Steel, or biographies of Michael Jackson, he said — because they are cheap, clean and a nice, generous size.

Why did that have to happen?

It hadn't occurred to me to view my own collection of books as a real collection until recently, during my new Acquisitions class, when I found out some people indicate they want their books donated to a certain library when they die. Often these book collections are moldy or stained or falling apart. Looking at my bookshelves, I can see a lot of bent and creased spines, some from the second hand store (half my Roger Zelazny books smell a little funny from the second hand bookstore and have spines that are maybe two-thirds white from cracks), but there are a few decent volumes. I'm not sure how wanted they'd be in even ten years time, though.

I'll admit to having one specification about the appearance of my books: I don't much like hardcovers. My bookcase was custom-made by a handy neighbour and it was built to house as many paperbacks as possible while making use of a small space. The oversized paperbacks aren't much better. It gets a little annoying at times: I still haven't read Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest because it's not out in paperback yet.


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