Monday, August 13, 2012

A History of Book-Pulping

…and other sad fates for the beleaguered (or so we are continually told) book in its print incarnation. Even innocent, "unsullied" books face the same fate. From dust unto dust and from books unto books…and other fates. 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt hasn’t said what it plans to do with all the copies of Imagine, Jonah Lehrer’s sullied best seller on the science of creativity, that it has yanked from shelves. But most book people agree that the copies will eventually be pulped, or dissolved into a milky liquid and reconstituted as clean paper. In this regard, at least, Imagine has plenty of company. Every year, millions of books are sent to the “cruel machines,” as one young editor calls them, simply because their sales didn’t meet projections. The process is tidily symmetrical: from the vat to the store and back to the vat. 
What eureka moment gave us book recycling?
There is a sense of purpose, contrapasso, to repurposing the repurposer. Not all instances are poetic justice, intentionally or accidentally. Read the rest at A History of Book-Pulping in New York Magazine and consider the future of book recycling in the age of e-books...or the oxymoron of recycling e-books. Where does book art, books as art, fit in here?

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