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 Joel's Blog

One Book - Three Editions  

01/07/2015

As someone who collects books on woodworking I am routinely faced with the conflict of Cost vs. Space vs Ease of Use. While many people love their E-Books - and I have a bunch myself, the physicallity of an actual printed book makes the world of difference for me. That being said I have run out of room for books in my apartment and any new volume really has to be worth the space. For me at least, I find that a well made and well printed book is a joy to read and that joy makes assimilating information all the easier.

The Dover reprint of Paul Hasluck's 1908 Traditional Woodcarving has been a staple in our store for years. It's an important book on woodcarving, not so much for the beginner, but for carvers trying to expand their options in architectural and furniture decoration. There is nothing really wrong with the reprint. It's about the same size as the original, The photos are OK for a reprint, but I've never found it engaging. The writing is Victorian crotchety, and the reprint being a modern, even if well made, paperback just doesn't make the connection for me. Before the Internet, and both the worldwide accessibility of the used book market, and Google's insistence on scanning every book on the planet, the reprint was the only game in town.

The Google scan - which is freely available here , when viewed on my ipad is an immediately easier to read volume than the reprint. The scan is fine, but the text seems larger and reading it I don't feel strained. Maybe because the medium is so removed from the original I don't expect anything and it's easier to concentrate on the book. However being able to view just one page at a time, and getting no sense of the volume, or not being able to easily flip through pages, for me is a vastly unsatisfying experience. It might really be just the glass screen that sits between me and the text that makes it appear distant. I am not sure if this is a generational thing and younger folks might not feel this way but I do.

Finally, just arrived, is a luscious original copy, bound in leather with gilt edges, from 1908. It's basically the same size as the reprint, but for some reason it's easy to assimilate. The book lies flat, the photos are clear, but it's not immediately obvious why I find that it just begs my attention. Is it the off white of the paper? The feel of the leather cover? The immediate physiological connection with its history? I don't exactly know but I find myself wanting to sit and read it more than my other copies.

Now I understand the with the availability of the scanned version my sales of the reprinted version will drop, and I know original copies like that I just bought are not readily available. But here's what scares me: Ebooks, no matter how nice, are still read behind glass on a machine full of distractions. Unless you have multiple screens you can't have more than one book open at a time. And for me at least, the assimilation of information is less. A cheap reprint may present the information but but the involvement isn't there. Of course if publisher feels they can't make a profit in print, there won't be nice printed books. And if publishers feel they can't earn enough money from a book, they won't pay much to get it written and the working writer with something to say might need a day job. All that's bad news. My original hardback Hasluck reminds me of what a craft book can be. It's not the best book ever written, but the presentation makes it a lot easier to learn from. I don't know what the future holds.

But here's some great news:


I want to shout out to Megan at Popular Woodworking for the latest issue! In it are two of the best furniture projects I have seen in print in ages. And in the same issue!! An aumbry by Chris Schwarz and an article by Peter Marcucci on how to make a reproduction of an 1898 chair by Charles Rohlfs. Everyone here I showed the issue to wants the pieces, and wanting the pieces is the first step towards inspiring new woodworkers and getting the old ones off their duff. The rest of the issue has great stuff on shooting boards, tung oil and etc. Really a job wonderfully done and I am looking forward to more of the same!! You can get the issue at a lot of bookstores and newstands and through the Pop Wood website here - Although the current issue they show is the previous issue - I am writing about the Feb. 2015 issue.

While I am on the subject of great news. We stock all the books from Lost Art Press. Chris Schwarz, the publisher, understands the important of a book not just containing useful information, but also looking the part. Lost Art Press books are more expensive that typical books on woodworking, but they are hardbound, elegantly done, and a joy to read.
Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions,Historical Subjects
Comments: 6
01/07/2015Tom Buhl http://tombuhl.com
Joel, thanks for sharing your interesting thoughts on books, reading and how you respond to the various media.
01/07/2015Al Phelps 
Thanks Joel! I agree with you 100%, I can't explain why an original book is so much more satisfying than a paperback or e-book. A well made book does stay open to the page you are reading and flipping back and forth between pages is easy.
Besides the Popular Woodworking Magazine, the Blogs by both Megan and Chris are fun reads.
01/07/2015lewis E. Ward 
Thanks for your thoughts on the physical aesthetics of books.
Was it really 41 years ago I found Hasluck's woodcarving book at my local library? When I moved I found the book at my new location. I regularly took it out to absorb the information. A finely crafted book becaise the pictures and print was crisp. The book was stolen from the library 20+ years ago, I've not been happy with my paperback copy. I will be looking for an ex libris copy of the original.
01/07/2015Dan Cottrill 
I agree Joel! I like my printed books and the physicality of them and being able to see 2 pages at the same time. It is also nice to have multiple books open at the same time when I'm studying the details. I also like my mechanical pencil and the physicality of drawing my next project out on paper. I've used sketch up and it is nice when you are working out dimension. It maybe quicker the paper and pencil.
01/08/2015Alan Garner 
My wife reads for hours each day. She says that if a book comes with an on/off switch, she won't read it. I will, bit, Joel, I agree with you. The feel of the book seems to help transmit the knowledge therein.
01/12/2015Gavin 
Hi Joel,
What is known about Paul Hasluck?
He seems to have authored, or at least edited, an enormous volume of technical books.
Each book going into a huge amount of detail.
It seems a huge undertaking for a single author.
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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.
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