The Sense of a Binding by Kathryn Hughes

Kathryn Hughes

The Sense of a Binding


The evaporation of print over the past five years has left many people feeling swimmy. It’s as if the letters themselves had shaken loose from the page, hovered for a moment and then dissolved into the ether. In the new age of e-reading, text has come to feel so insubstantial that it’s as if a light breeze – or a click of the wrong button – might send it scurrying. The Victorians liked to think of the spirit world in terms of ectoplasm, a wispy, chiffony ribbon that wound its way around table legs and along mantelpieces giving a hint of departed dear ones. And that, I imagine, is how Kindle refusniks see electronic text in this frightening new virtual world – as a spectral echo of its once solid self.

Which is why, of course, the pendulum has swung back the other way. Recently publishers have been straining to emphasise the materiality – the scratch-and-sniff solidity – of their books. Beautiful covers, silk bookmarks and thick creamy paper have all become par for the course, at least when it comes

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