ON THE “DEATH” OF BOOKS: THE MADRID BOOK FAIR 2018

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Beautiful graphic novels at the Astiberri Edicones stand:  a mix between a comic and a traditional novel, graphic novels are an increasingly popular way to tell important stories while still
attracting new, young readers. A new experience for lovers of the traditional
novel. Stunning illustrations to accompany solid writing

Madrid Book Fair 2018 poster

By Marylyn Gafford
Photos: M. Gafford unless stated otherwise 

With the invention of the e-reader and the e-book not so long ago, many mourned the eventual downfall of trusty paperbacks and glossy new hardback books. But is the traditional book dying? You wouldn’t guess it based on the number of Madrileños who crowded the stalls of the Madrid Book Fair on a rainy Wednesday morning.

Books on poetry with their cover art at the La Bella Varsovia Editorial stall

The book fair, which began on May 25th, will remain until June 10 in Retiro Park and features several hundred booksellers and an incredible variety of genres including history books, comics, children’s books, books on social theory, and even good old-fashioned romances. As an avid lover of physical books, I went to the book fair with one question in mind: how is the Madrid Book Fair responding to the technological changes that are happening around us? Instead of finding a stall selling downloadable e-books, I found a different response.

Physical books have now become an art form. Of course, you can still find the old paperback romance novels with mediocre illustrations of princes and knights on the cover, but it seems as though that outdated style is slowly phasing out. The new trend is books that are a thing of beauty, with well thought out cover art and aesthetically pleasing color schemes that catch the eyes and imagination of potential readers. A simple glance into the more popular stalls will tell you that these days presentation is of the utmost importance. And this doesn’t just apply to new books: old, beloved classics are also being published in gorgeous new editions that make you feel as though you might really need to buy that new copy of your favorite book.

Spiegelman’s MAUS, the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize

Something that was also evident from my stroll through the book fair is the rise of the graphic novel. A mix between a comic and a traditional novel, graphic novels are an increasingly popular way to tell important stories while still attracting new, young readers. Reading a graphic novel is a new experience for lovers of the traditional novel, as stunning illustrations accompany engaging stories. But don’t let yourself be fooled by the term “illustrations”: while there are graphic novels for all ages, there are also many popular graphic novels for adults that contain solid writing and take on serious topics. For example, Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel MAUS narrates and illustrates Spiegelman’s father’s experiences during the Holocaust.  

It’s a rainy Spring in Madrid, much more than it usually is. So it was when the Feria opened. But that didn’t keep the Madrileños away

So, to those who say that books are dying, I say that they are changing. Books are no longer simply the words that fill their pages. They are objects of beauty that can be read and enjoyed, and then displayed proudly on a bookshelf or coffee table in one’s home. This is clear walking through the Madrid Book Fair, as thousands of beautiful books lay waiting to be brought home by book-loving Spaniards. Regardless of the rise and fall of the notoriously volatile book markets, if publishers continue to innovate and create products that offer more than a simple e-book can, I do not believe we will live to see the “death” of books.  

 

Ref.: https://www.theguardian.com/books/datablog/2017/mar/18/the-fall-and-rise-of-physical-book-sales-worldwide-in-data

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Images
Book Fair poster by Paula Bonet (The poster is the artist’s tribute to female writers)
Maus, fair use