Friday, August 24, 2012

The End of Coffee Table Books?

That was the question recently posed by the Independent.

From the article...

In the past few years, says Tom Tivnan, features editor of The Bookseller: "Illustrated books and art books have withstood the digital decline that the rest of the industry is facing. The 'beautiful' books are the print books that will survive in the digital age. The latest Bookscan figures suggest, for example, that sales of individual monograph art books were up 70 per cent last year."

The coffee table book is a 20th-century creation; hardly surprising, given that the coffee table itself was only introduced to Great Britain in the late 19th century. Until the post-war period, printing such large editions was prohibitively expensive. But as printing costs decreased and middle-class incomes rose, they became an essential fixture in any bourgeois household. Designed to be admired, they favour pictures over words. Typical subjects include art, photography, fashion or the natural world. The coffee table book is the best excuse for displaying soft porn in plain sight. Kramer once spent an entire series of Seinfeld trying to flog a coffee table book about coffee table books.

"Illustrated books are mostly produced in the Far East now," Tivnan explains. "That may cause some ecological concerns, but it's much cheaper for publishers, and the quality is high. So we could be entering a golden age. There's going to be a split between cheap, e-book convenience reads, and the books that people want to live with, put on their coffee tables or shelves."

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