It’s been a week full of economic woes here in New York, so the good folks at New York magazine have decided to cheer us up with an article heralding the death of our industry as we know it. It’s hardly the first such article to appear recently, and the doomsday scenario is pretty familiar by now. It seems that in the next few years people will stop reading physical books entirely, and assuming they read at all, will walk about with their eyes too glued to an e-reading device to notice that greedy, nefarious Amazon has swallowed up every publishing house in existence. Meanwhile, Malthusian food shortages will precipitate a Darwinian struggle for survival among the world’s nations as ominous alien warships throng the skies.
Well, perhaps. There’s no doubt that the industry is undergoing a major shift in the Internet age, and the fallout, though impossible to predict, will be damaging to many. Still, as we said in a post long ago, what the digital reader can never fully re-create is the beautiful, well-made book—the book with lavish illustrations and cloth binding and glossy smell—and around Abbeville that happens to be our specialty. Even an attempt to reproduce one of our volumes in electronic form would be the book equivalent of the Uncanny Valley: the result would be so freakish and disappointing that you would long for the genuine article. We’ve heard it smugly prophesied that books will soon become mere decorative items, no more tied to their original purpose than modern-day candles are used to light the home. To which we say, first of all, “Not without a fight,” and second, if that dark future ever does arrive, Abbeville will be right there with it, still turning out the most beautiful “shelf ornaments” money can buy. (And hey, future generations: if you’re bored one day you might even enjoy what’s between those beautiful covers, too.)