While most of the publishing world twitters and chatters about the advent of the e-book, Abbeville Press glides through these uncharted technological waters as calmly as a Legendary Yacht. E-reading devices will certainly find a place in the market, but we don’t expect them to rock our boat anytime soon. True, they carry some obvious benefits: they’re compact, environmentally friendly (no wasted paper), and remarkably efficient, allowing instant access to whole libraries’ worth of material. But what they can’t re-create or rival is the book as aesthetic object: a lovable, tangible entity with worn or glossy pages to touch, old or new binding to smell, and of course, boring or striking cover to judge by. The art of writing can survive almost any presentation–great poems can be written on the back of an envelope and enjoyed on a subway ad–but the making of beautiful books is an art unto itself, and that’s where Abbeville comes in.
Frankly, we have a hard enough time squeezing all the virtuoso elegance of a volume like The History of Venice in Painting between the covers of a book, let alone onto a screen the size of an index card. (Even after 496 pages, we had to stuff Venice into a slipcase just to contain its overflowing awesomeness.) Digital books may save trees, but the volumes we produce conserve an equally endangered resource: style. As the publishing business (like the rest of the world) makes an Industrial Revolution-like leap into the future, art book publishers will become like small but necessary throwback towns in which homemade industry still thrives. And the capital of those towns will be a little place called Abbeville.