The definition of the book is the flux and resilience of its definition. Add to that a capable length since an essay, memo, pamphlet or Tweet is not a book. The flux and resilience is confirmed in assimilation of reflexive narrative and distributed database anatomies.
The book genres of narrative and database or print and screen are frequently considered binaries, but they are only genres of a single transmission method. The authentic taxonomy is apparent in reading behavior where book use is cohesive enough to assimilate all inter-reference and interplay of genres.
Beginning with a lively definition the book is not everything. It is only one species like our own in a wider ecology. Like our own species the book is moving and tumbling in transition from a wild state to a domesticated circumstance and from there to feral behaviors. Steam Punks would be an example or electronic literature or hypertext.
Outright displacement of paper books by screen books or narrative format by database format is hubris. On the one hand print books continue to be published even as some reference books or serial romance have migrated to screen formats. On the other hand, database readership appears to require narrative transaction and extraction. It may yet prove that an interdependence on both print and screen books is needed.
“Utimately I hope to persuade you that setting these two forms of thought and expression into a mutually critical relation – encouraging each to interrogate and explore each other – is probably the most fruitful thing we could do right now.” Jerome McGann, “Visible and Invisible Books”, Future of the Page, 2004.
Bibliographers tend to partition authors from publishers. This frame segregates creation of content from book production. The divide dissolves if we concede the authoring of the material content. Publishers and their printers deserve recognition for creation of the conceptual work. From the beginning of printing to the advent of digital literature, the producers create content.
Evidence of a wider conceptualization of the content of a book is provided in John Johnson’s curious work Typographia or the Printers’ Instructor, 1824. These little volumes minutely verbalize, down to individual motions of the body, the steps and thoughts needed to produce a book. The roles of print shop foremen and warehousemen evidence the authoring of paratext in daily management of production, proofing, correcting and inventory management. Conceptualizations were needed, minute-to-minute, as tracked in Press, Check, and Job book logs. Readers, compositors and pressmen imposed the house styles and paratext apparatus. The choreography and discord of the workmen is vividly detailed by Johnson.
Publishers create the mystique and provoke desire and they know it. Producers conceive books behind a curtain that hides the drama.
The improved wooden press of the turn of the 19th century pictured here must be the one in Alderman Library. It is missing the head block that sockets the nut and conceals the spindle exposed in this VQR picture. (The Richard Nash article on the role of the publisher is excellent.)
There is another omission here. Note an iPad is locked up on the stone. This should be locked up as a pair, side by side, in the opposite orientation. Such imposition would simulate the impression coverage of the wooden press platen that was only one half of the form. The two pulls needed were reduced to one by the more rigid and powerful iron press.
A suggested implication of a double iPad imposition would be that screen books typically display only a single page and not the codex spread of two facing pages. This implication provokes another that the codex reading pace accounts for the recto remaining behind below the verso page on the left with the recto on the right awaiting with its own verso poised below.
Just one more thing; the first page is always an odd recto on the right. All the following odd rectos have a kinship while all the even left (evil, sinister) pages lurk beside these.