I am so sorry I haven’t been around this week, guys! I’ve really wanted to be posting, but my laptop was acting up, and then my borrowed laptop was acting up, and I’m still having issues and it’s super terrible. Anyway, today I wanted to talk about a very pertinent issue, at least for me: what does it mean to objectify books? And is it a problem?
So first, let me be clear. What do I mean by objectification? Objectification has a variety of meanings, but it essentially means—to me—that a thing which is more than an object—like, say, a person—is reduced to the qualities that make it like an object, or physical qualities. This is definitely a negative thing when it comes to people, for everyone wants to be seen in a way that goes deeper than how they look, but does the same go for books?
Books are objects. They are physical objects that sit on your shelf. They are digital objects that live in an app or a kindle. They are objects—but through them, people interact. Books share ideas, nurture passion, foster discovery, and teach people about both themselves and other people. Yet here we are, only buying series if they match or being intrigued in a book just because of it’s cover. The point of covers is, of course, to attract the intended audience of the book, so if you’re buying a book because of that, it’s not really a problem in the publishers eyes. I think that books are pretty (ah ha ha, get it?) awesome—I run a book blog for goodness sakes!—but sometimes I worry.
Because to me, a book is an object—but it’s more than an object as well. It’s about stories that are important to tell, important to hear, stories that can change lives, not the publisher’s graphic design (and, let’s face it, marketing) budget. Books are about connecting people, hearing minority voices, empowering each other through the simple power of words, words, words, not the age of the medium those words are transmitted to you by. It shouldn’t matter if a book is ugly; it should matter if it makes you feel and think ugly things. If we focus on the object of the book, how it looks, then we may miss better, more important stories that don’t come in such a nice package.
But I’m a hypocrite, because I love to own actual physical books, and I can’t deny that covers have drawn me into a story multiple times. (remember, books are supposed to be judged by their cover, even if they are more than their cover). Books may be able to change how you think and feel, may even give you that most essential tool of empathy, but the reason books are more than objects isn’t because of the paper pages or the shiny covers, or the inked words. The reason books are more than objects is because of people. People make books. They write them and edit them and design covers for them, and blog about them. People care about books. People remember books. Books are just one medium of storytelling, and as much as I love them, I don’t think I have any grounds to say that they’re the best ones. Books are my favourite way to access stories right now, but that could change. The reason that the books that sit on my shelf or my kindle are meaningful to me is because I have read them, I have written about them, I have made memories attached to them. Or maybe it’s not me, it’s my parents, or my siblings—but that doesn’t matter.
For me, books are just objects. They are objects that I want to own, objects that I love to spend time with, but objects nonetheless. I want to—I should—attach less import to their physical appearance, and more to their personal significance—what they mean to me, right now. Books are many things, and they’re precious to me. But I don’t want to get caught up in their beauty—for that’s entirely subjective anyway. I want to be captured by stories and their tellers, not by objects and their designers.
Do you think there’s too much focus on how books look? Have you ever had #laptopdrama? Tell me in the comments!