Far from fulfilling its early promise to make the printed word redundant, the Internet has instead made a number of millionaires, as publicity-hungry entrepreneurs exploit this virtual venue for selling books.
Printed Matter: Bound for Glory points out that the development of electronic communication has actually pushed the design of books forward, enabling them to sit comfortably alongside other media channels. It could even be argued that the relative permanence of books, when compared to computer files or soon to be obsolete disk formats, makes us cherish the printed word even more than before.
This book takes a look at a variety of print projects. Its title could be misleading, because as well as books there are CD covers and brochures.
The selection takes in the latest in illustration, photography and typography from around the world. It also makes an important mistake in a book about the printed word: there are hardly any words in it.
Design Week’s Letters page has been echoing to complaints lately, from writers concerned that designers ignore their work, cutting copy to fit spaces rather than convey meaning. Printed Matter: Bound for Glory is not guilty of that crime. It reproduces complete spreads already produced by others. But it does so in a vacuum, giving little or no detail or context.
Each spread contains a title, designers’ credit, country of origin and page dimensions. Some contain a brief work description, but others don’t. Contributions are in German and Spanish, as well as English, so a little more help would be appreciated.
As a preview of how books are likely to evolve and prosper in a new Millennium, the book contains a lot to look at, but nothing to read. As a means of conveying visual material, the Internet is a far more practical proposition than this book.
Printed Matter: Bound for Glory is published by Hearst Books International and Duncan Baird Publishers, priced £30