Don’t try to tell me you don’t inhale.

March 6, 2010

In this week’s New York Times Magazine, Virginia Heffernan considers her Kindle collection and explores how it stacks up (pardon the pun) compared to retronymic “traditional books.” She finds it “curious” that one thing people claim is missing in the experience of e-books is the scent, and goes so far as to “suspect that those who gush about book odor might not like to read. If they did, why would they waste so much time inhaling?”

Let me assure Ms. Heffernan, some of us–probably most of us or all of us–who profess a love of the smell of books love to read. Scholar that I am, I can brandish my literary theory to ponder how e-books present an interesting opportunity for the words of a book to stand on their own (an idea hinted at in the Times article), but this intellectually interesting idea can’t compare to the total experience offered by a physical book–with pages and ink and spine….

One of the lovely things about a freshly letterpress printed book is that it smells of ink, sharp and heady, a solid and assertive smell that easily to outdo the weak, powdered, flat odor of warm plastic and electronics.

Trust me, when you order and receive your copy of Moby Dick Made Me Do It, you will receive an experience worth every cent you paid for it.

The paper for the interior of the book has been selected for the way it feels in your fingers, the way the page moves when you turn it, the weight of the complete volume in your hands (and yes, the smell). The paper for the cover of the book has been made by human hands (David’s and Ray’s) specifically for this project–the color and weight tailored to enhance the text.

Each letter has been hand-picked and carefully placed, the typeface and layout considered for maximum visual delight and to best reflect Felicia Zamora’s carefully chosen words. The shade of the ink is unique, and it is lovely. You can feel the letters on the page if you touch them gently with your fingertips. Each page is produced with an inherently physical, sensual process (letterpress printing is totally mechanical, and just ask David, it involves the printer’s entire aching body). Your copy of this book will smell like paper and cotton, like ink, like beeswax and thread, like type metal, like my apartment and the Inter-Ocean Curiosity Studio, like human hands and bodies, like frustration and success and salt and whales and wood. And don’t worry, it won’t distract you from the words. It’s part of them.

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3 Responses to “Don’t try to tell me you don’t inhale.”

  1. Tasha Says:

    Beautifully said.

  2. Kate Says:

    Thanks Tasha!

  3. Susan Says:

    I am, with great pleasure in the anticipation, “waiting to inhale.”


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