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'The Book Makers' Reassures Us That Physical Books Have a Bright Future
October 27, 2020  | By Mike Hughes
 


Yes, this is an era of Twitter and TikTok and tiny treatises. Thoughts are expressed in 280 characters.

But there's a flip side to that. "The physical book is alive and well, thank you very much," Mark Dimunation says in The Book Makers, which airs Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET on PBS' World digital channel (check local listings) and then at pbs.org.

He should know; he works at the Library of Congress (as head of the rare books division), a place that has 38 million books. There are plenty more coming, as the film finds, at the CODEX Book Fair.

We meet Peter Koch, who made a book entirely out of lead. He kept it short because he felt 30 pounds was about as much as a librarian would care to hoist.

And Julie Chen. Her books pop with three-dimensional, tactile touches.

And Mark Sarigianis, who provides a centerpiece for this oddly intriguing and beautifully filmed documentary.

He's an artist; so is his wife, he says, and she seems to understand his obsession with traditional, metal-type printmaking. He spent almost two years creating a 364-page edition of the Charles Bukowski novel, Ham on Rye.

It took eight months, he says, to get a shipment of handmade cotton paper, which "costs more than either one of my cars." He also commissioned woodcut illustrations. The book is so big that he had to print half at a time, melting down the metal from the first half to print the second.

Apparently, it worked. One admirer (Brian Scott Bagdonas, writing the Fiddleink blog) called it "truly a beautiful monument to the poetry of the everyday struggle that Bukowski is celebrated for."

Through his Prototype Press, Sarigianis only made 52 copies. There are some available for $3,500. The paperback version of Ham on Rye was listed at $16.99 but didn't have the beautiful printing.

Unfortunately, many of us don't have a spare $3,500 to buy something or a spare two years to make something. But Book Makers offers a reassuring view that people still savor books.

We meet authors. They include Dave Eggers, who wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and Daniel Handler, who uses the pen name, Lemony Snicket.

And we meet artists. Christian Robinson was raised by his grandmother in a one-bedroom home with six people. "My childhood was a little chaotic," he says; art was "the one thing I could have control over."

Now he's drawn for Pixar, Sesame Street, and books. Robinson has won Caldecott and Coretta Scott King awards. At 34, he seems to prove that, as Dimunation said, "The physical book is alive and well, thank you very much."

 
 
 
 
 
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