“Book” frustrates the taxonomist. A quick exercise: take a copy of the Manhattan telephone book, a poetry broadside, an electronic edition of Anna Karenina, the last issue of The New Yorker, an artist’s edition of 1984 where every word has been crossed out by hand, and a guide to repairing the 1983 Toyota Celica. Divide these objects into piles of “book” and “non-book”; explain your reasoning. We’ve been here before. Melville, speaking of the vexing ambiguity of whiteness, might be talking about the problem with the book: we have not “learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and far more portentous—why, as we have seen, it is at once the most meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the Christian’s Deity; and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent in things the most appalling to mankind.” (Moby Dick Ch 42)
Dan Visel is a designer and developer working with writers and artists to construct electronic environments for reading.