But is it a Keeper?

By   Zoila Marenco 2 min read

When was the last time you played the game ‘Which books would I rush to save if my house was burning down?’ Or, maybe less dramatically, ‘Which titles could I really not bear to pass on or take to the local second-hand bookshop?’ I mean, really. So, for example, you aren’t allowed to use the excuse that there is something faintly sacrilegious about ever getting shot of physical books, blah blah.

I pose this question as I have been reading Adam Smyth’s wonderful, recently published The Book-Makers: A History of the Book in 18 Remarkable Lives (Bodley Head), which tracks 500 years in the evolution of books through the biographies of people who made significant contributions to their physical form. What he has created is a ‘a celebration of… the printed book as a technology at the heart of human culture’. But more, it also looks at ‘the mutuality of print and digital’, bringing it bang up to date with our current buying and reading habits.

This has got me thinking back to those early months of setting up Whitefox. Back in 2012, with no office but with an early allegiance to strong coffee and making breakfast at The Book Club in Shoreditch last as long as possible, our expectation was that our work would be informed by the then-current digital publishing obsessions. We’d be off creating so many enhanced ebooks and apps. Remember Touchpress and their award-winning ‘living coffee table apps’, from The Elements to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land?

It all seems a long time ago now.

The book club whitefox

In fact, what has ended up obsessing so many Whitefox writers over the years, and still does to this day, has been the beauty of their own bespoke physical books.

Why this should be so, Adam Smyth goes some way to explain. In addition to the information and entertainment included within their pages, books occupy a role in time. They move through us, being passed along and down, in and of themselves incredible objects, products not just of writers but of editors, designers and artists. As the author says, ‘the book always exceeds us’, adapting through time, people, technology and context.

Digital hasn’t replaced print, just as print didn’t replace handwriting. And it shouldn’t ever be seen as some hand-to-hand combat or fight to the death anyway, but rather for what it is. A catalyst for new developments and manifestations of the creative imagination that we squeeze into that simple little word, ‘books’.

Zoila Marenco
Zoila Marenco
Zoila has five years of experience in client management. She transitioned from working in an organisation offering talent management services to a tech startup specialising in behavioural change in teams. Her experience with clients and communities prompted her move to marketing, taking on the role of a community manager to help Whitefox build, expand and oversee online communities.