Sunday, July 5, 2009

Winners of Canada’s first national book-collecting contest not threatened by Kindle e-book reader

The Afterword, a books blog maintained by Canada’s National Post newspaper, has an awesome series of Q&A with the three winners of Canada’s first national book-collecting contest. The contest, which was seeking Canada's best book collectors under the age of thirty, was sponsored by The Bibliographical Society of Canada, the Antiquarian Booksellers of Association of Canada, and the Alcuin Society.

Charlotte Ashley won the contest and $2,500 for her collection
“The Works (and Quirks) of Alexandre Dumas pere.” Vanessa Brown finished in second place and won $1,000 for her collection “The L.M. Montgomery Collection in the Forest City.” Naseem Hrab finished in third place and won $1,000 for his collection “The Complexities of Ordinary Life: Autobiographical Comics and Graphic Novels.”

While each of these three collectors answered a series of fascinating questions (Do you remember the first book you ever bought? What's the oldest book in your collection? How'd you get into [author]?
What's your favorite of his/her books? How do you organize your books? What's the prized book in your collection? What's the one book or edition you still haven't added to the collection?
) this was perhaps the most interesting question: "The Kindle and other e-book readers threaten to render book collections' obsolete. Do you
think you'll ever trade in your books for a Kindle?"

Here is how the three winners responded:

Charlotte Ashley: “Ha! The Kindle might threaten new book publications, but it offers absolutely nothing to the collector. The collector values the form of the book; its age, binding, paper, rarity, provenance and place in history. An e-book has none of these things. Similarly, an art collector isn't about to give up all his paintings because he can download a .jpg.”

Vanessa Brown: “I work at an antiquarian book store, and this topic is hot amongst the staff. On a recent trip to New York, I wished I had a Kindle for convenience. I'm a luddite usually, and it's just the electronic toy for me. It would be handy, and I'm attracted to all the free classic titles. But the Kindle only substitutes for a paperback. If it trims away the fat from book publishing, that's fine with me. People will still always want beautiful hardcovers and rare editions. The Kindle makes room for fine presses and encourages publishers to make books beautiful as objects unto themselves. No more of these crappy glued bindings, please! If the Kindle helps things move that way, I'm all for it. I kind've want one, so I can have all of Montgomery with me all the time. A good analogy is the way that music collectors still buy vinyl, and bands that aspire to making lasting contributions to music still issue vinyl for those collectors. No one worries that iPods will kill the collectible vinyl industry. It's the same thing with books.”

Naseem Hrab: “If I read a lot of novels, I'd jump at the opportunity to get a Kindle. But I'm not sure that comics and graphic novels really lend themselves to e-book readers. There's something to be said for looking at illustrated books the way the authors and illustrators intended. So many graphic novels are simply beautiful objects and I'd hate to see them disappear.”

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