Word for Word: Books as beautiful objects of art
Bringing new thinking to old-school publishing
Danielle Ryan: “Books now need to be well - produced, beautiful, covetable and , visual, and with an attention to detail; they must be a possessions that the consumer will want to display proudly on a bookshelf, or to leave open on a coffee table for their guest to peruse .” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Danielle Ryan: “Books now need to be well produced, beautiful, covetable and visual, and with an attention to detail; they must be possessions the consumer will want to display proudly.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Who would start publishing beautiful books these days? I just have.
When I decided to start a publishing house as part of the Roads Group I was aware of the challenges, but they did not put me off. I agree with Stephen Fry that “books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators”.
We can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend that digital technology is not changing the way we read. Ereaders are useful and convenient, and anything that encourages reading should be welcomed. They cannot replace the printed book, however. To claim the demise of the book is imminent does not make sense.
Volumes collected over the years are what lend your home its personality and distinguish it from a hotel room. Like the art you choose for your walls, the spines on your shelves are the markers and makers of your tastes and interests. The dog-eared novels that meant so much to you are passed on to your children as an extension of your personality.
But advances in technology mean that readers, quite rightly, will turn their noses up at poorly produced books, with sloppy editing, cheap paper and cliched covers, when they compare the price tag with that of the digital version.
Books now need to be well produced, beautiful, covetable and visual, and with an attention to detail; they must be possessions the consumer will want to display proudly. Although we cannot divorce the book entirely from the act of reading, we can acknowledge that it is an object and a product and remains separate from its digital cousins.
Roads Publishing’s first project was the creation of a series of designer classics. We had many discussions before we arrived at our final selection of 10 irrefutable classic novels. We wanted to include male and female authors, authors of different nationality, and to have a broad range in theme and tone.
The titles had to have universal appeal, so they would resonate with a modern reader while providing insight into the time they were written. We still ponder issues of science and responsibility that Mary Shelley does so gruesomely in Frankenstein; one can feel the same pangs of boredom and meaninglessness as Emma Bovary did in 19th-century France; and the dangers of obsessive vanity are as present in TV documentaries as in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Having taken on 10 wonderfully written pieces of fiction, it seemed a mammoth task to present them in a way that would do them justice and appeal to a modern reader. They would be modern and elegant, individually striking yet a cohesive and beautiful set: classic but original. The paper, the font, the colophon: every aspect was considered. We imagined a gift you would be proud to give and grateful to receive.
We are so proud of the results, and have received such positive feedback, that we are looking forward to unveiling more titles next year.