Not everything we read is “bookish.” The world is full of short, declarative statements, carved in granite, embossed in metal, stenciled on glass or plastic, or else flickering on screens. This is language in its near-instantaneous aspects of signage or spectacle. But the words of a text are another matter, one of duration and absorption, to be sure, but also of an expectancy engaged with another kind of hinge, the page. The absorption of reading arises within a duration of pages, whose successive turnings are slices of time through text. One page starts a narrative, another concludes it. In between, so many parcels of language, each interrupted by the bottom of a page. A text so displayed is inherently partial. Our memory of reading other pages renders each page contingent, bound to other, unseen, pages that open endlessly outward toward the totality of words.

—Buzz Spector

Buzz Spector’s art makes frequent use of the book, both as subject and object, and is concerned with relationships between public history, individual memory, and perception. He has had solo exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago; Orange County Museum of Art; Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC; Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA; and many private galleries and alternative spaces. Spector’s poetry and experimental writing has been published in various journals and reviews since the 1970s, including Benzene, Café Solo, Piecrust, River Styx, and WhiteWalls. In 2012 a volume of selected interviews of Spector plus new page art, Buzzwords, was issued by Sara Ranchouse Publishing, Chicago. Spector holds degrees from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and the University of Chicago. He is professor of art in the College and Graduate School of Art of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.


beech, birch, ash—inmost, vibrant librum, a book is a collection of cells, pages, screens—a tactual medium: archive, spiritual hyphen, touchstone, talisman—matrix, textile, field in vibratory disorder—memory’s lure, & sheltering: historical-existential trace—conversation and conversion, silverbark.

—Julie Phillips Brown

Julie Phillips Brown is a poet, painter, scholar, and book artist. After earning an M.F.A and a Ph.D. at Cornell University, she served as the N.E.H. Post-Doctoral Fellow in Poetics at Emory University’s Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Angels of the Americlypse, Conjunctions (web exclusive), Columbia Poetry Review, Contemporary Women’s Writing, delirious hem, Denver Quarterly, Mixed Messages: American Correspondences in Visual and Verbal Practices, Peregrine, Plume, Posit, Rappahannock Review, Talisman, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Lexington, Virginia, where she teaches creative writing, studio art, and American literature.


A book is a place of knowledge-exchange—and always more expansive than we imagine it to be.

—Bonnie Mak

Bonnie Mak is associate professor at the University of Illinois, jointly appointed in the School of Information Sciences and the Program in Medieval Studies.

My kind of book projects ‘sentence-thoughts’ beyond the horizon of the next sentence and into the phenomenal locatability of the act of reading. A book in context and as context; a translation. That book would be an object for thinking alongside other people’s freedom. It is a possible book which considers the reader as an active, ambulatory, kinetic figure. Such a book would not contain imaginary or creative writing, would not contain models or graphs; it would instead be a companion, an object whose especial function is to change the air around it, and by extension the world in which the reader lives: which is, of course, the book.

—Jared Stanley

Jared Stanley is a poet and artist living in Reno, Nevada. Recent and forthcoming book objects include EARS, Terma, Bewildernessless, and Ignore the Cries of Empty Stones and Your Flesh Will Break Out in Scavengers.

The book (member of the genus liber) is neither flora nor fauna. As a species, it conveys art and information, reproduces asexually, inhabits virtually all regions, and is especially prevalent in libraries, bookstores and the homes of readers. The book’s plumage dazzles potential suitors with an array of colors, shapes and formats, including codices, scrolls, palm leafs and tablets. Chameleon-like by nature, the book can be realistic, fantastical or conceptual. It can speak for itself and others, soar like a bird, traffic in fiction or fact or remain stubbornly opaque. Bred chiefly by the writers and artists with whom they coexist, books are at their best comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Though often endangered, the book continues to thrive.

—Miriam Schaer

Miriam Schaer is an artist and educator based in Brooklyn, New York. She exhibits extensively and is represented in numerous public and private collections, including those at Yale’s Sterling Library, Florida Atlantic University, the Rhode Island School of Design, Harvard University, Duke University, the Tate Gallery in London, and the University of California. A U.S. Fulbright Scholar, Schaer has also earned a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, inclusion in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for the Feminist Art Base at the Brooklyn Museum, and an artist residency at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt. Her series of works, Baby (Not) On Board: The Last Prejudice?, about societal bias against childless women, has been exhibited by the International Museum of Women. She is represented by the Central Booking Art Space in New York and Vamp and Tramp Booksellers in Birmingham, Alabama.

“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

Dan Visel is a designer and developer working with writers and artists to construct electronic environments for reading.

A book is a place for ideas that need to survive and thrive, a mansion of the mind. It makes room for the stories, arguments, and images that deserve to change the world, now and in the future. The publication of a book marks the birth of something utterly original and distinct, but with deep connections to existing knowledge. Books often begin with thanks to those who have sacrificed on their behalf. Books ask a lot of their readers, too. They require our sustained time and attention. In return, the book communicates, entertains, generates, teaches, preserves, and advances knowledge. It focuses the mind. It changes the world by changing what we know.

—Gita Manaktala

Gita Manaktala is the Editorial Director of the MIT Press, a publisher of scholarship at the intersection of the arts, sciences, and technology. Known for intellectual daring and distinctive design, MIT Press books push the frontiers of knowledge in fields ranging from contemporary art and architecture to the life sciences, computing, economics, philosophy, cognitive science, environmental studies, linguistics, new media studies, and STS. Gita’s own acquisitions are in the areas of information science and communication. Until 2009, she served as the Marketing Director with responsibility for worldwide promotion and sales of the press’s titles. In this role, she helped to develop CISnet, an online collection of the Press’s computer and information science titles (now on the IEEE Explore platform. She serves on the board of directors of the Association of American University Presses and co-chaired its first diversity and inclusion task force. She is a regular speaker on topics in scholarly publishing and communication.

Books are the matter of writing in solid form.

—derek beaulieu

derek beaulieu is the author of over 20 books and the publisher of no press. he can be found online at

What a Book is is portable, tangible, burnable Readable-Ness able to command action and/or devotion from humans and machines.

Fine Print: For burnable, read also breakable/transformable. For devotion, read also imprint/addiction or exactitude/rigor. For machine, read also (unwise) intelligence.

—Stephanie Strickland

Stephanie Strickland’s eight books of poetry include Dragon Logic and The Red Virgin. She has also published eleven digital poems. Zone : Zero, a book and accompanying CD, includes the poem slippingglimpse which maps text to Atlantic wave patterns. Two books are forthcoming in 2019: Ringing the Changes, a code-generated project for print based on the ancient art of bell-ringing, from Counterpath Press, and How the Universe Is Made: Poems New & Selected from Ahsahta Press.

To the voice the book is the triumph of its own litotes and is at its best in an era of unreadability. There it flourishes as an architextural form: a sarcophagus for the tongue and larynx, now open and now closed which to the Catholic reader is the confessional we enter to depart.​

—Steve McCaffery

Steve McCaffery is the author of more than 40 books and chapbooks of poetry and criticism. An ample selection of his poetic explorations in numerous forms can be savoured in the two volumes of Seven Pages Missing (Coach House Press 2001-02). English born and a long-time resident of Toronto he was a co-founder of the Toronto Research Group (TRG), the sound poetry ensemble Four Horsemen and the College of Canadian “Pataphysics and since 2004 has been the David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters at the University at Buffalo.​