Face it, for all their portable, cloud-based convenience, e-books lack the ennobling, physical presence of bound paper. Even if you don’t need to keep a hard copy of every James Patterson novel you’ve ever read, admit it, there are still some special books — real books — that you want close by, in three dimensions, taking up actual space with you in the material world.
Consider, especially, the signed edition. It may be the closest thing we’ve got left to a sacred relic: When an author takes a chunky Magic Marker and scrawls her name on the title page, the book seems transmuted into a semi-magical object. Yes, I’ve seen Nooks and Kindles with autographs scrawled across the backs, but they feel no more permanent than a plaster cast covered with classmates’ graffiti. The signed edition simply cannot exist on your e-book; it cannot ascend to the cloud.
And yet, in this social media age, we still feel the urge to share the joy of our favorite inscribed books. And that’s where a new Web site comes in.
Bound & Dedicated is an online shrine for posting photos and brief anecdotes about literary encounters with authors. Users are invited to upload pictures of signed title pages along with a couple sentences about why this book is special.
The entries so far are few, but strangely engaging. Beneath a signed copy of Louise Erdrich’s “Love Medicine” is a brief tale of how the owner got talked into reading the novel and then found inspiration to keep persevering in life. “Thanks for your healing story,” Erdrich has written on the title page.
Another photo shows a ripply title page from Joyce Carol Oates’s novel “The Accused.” The owner writes: “I only met Joyce Carol Oates, a longtime favorite of mine, for a brief second, during which I made an absolute fool of myself (not that she was paying attention). This book was, a week later, destroyed in a flood in my apartment before I was able to read it. Her signature remains clear and precious.”
While moving into a new apartment, Huggins began sending Eelman photos of some the books by authors he’d met when he was running the Newtonville store. He realized, “We could do something with these.”
Eelman said she loved the idea of “compiling books, not just signed by authors that people had met, but inscribed with purpose and made into an artifact with meaning.”
And so boundanddedicated.com launched with a photo of the title page of “The Goldfinch” signed by Donna Tartt: “For Katie.”
“I wanted to create something that was about celebrating and sharing the joy behind personally inscribed books,” Huggins said. “I pick up my books from time to time and thumb through dog-eared pages, read marked passages and the inscriptions from the signature page, and revisit those memories that are about the book and also the events and friendships and stories that were a part of discovering that book and meeting that author.”
When Huggins speaks of “liking” a book and “sharing” it with a “friend,” he’s using those words in their pre-satirized meaning from a time before Facebook commercialized all our interactions to serve us up to advertisers. Bound & Dedicated doesn’t have any venture capitalists to satisfy. There are no plans to turn a profit. Eelman calls their site “a passion project.” For her, it’s worth it just to “memorialize a tangible item in a digital world.”
I know just what they mean. Thirty years ago, I was crushed when I missed hearing John Updike speak at Washington University. But as I was walking back to the library, I spotted him on the commons and ran up with my copy of “In the Beauty of the Lilies.” His handler blocked me and insisted Updike had finished signing books for the day. “Oh, it’s just one,” the novelist said, reaching for my book. “I think we can do this.” Did you read that? He singled me out; he made an exception just for me. I still have that novel on a shelf right over my desk.
Huggins said, “I liken the inscribed book to going to a farmers market and meeting the farmer in person. Sure, we all need there to be good fruits and vegetables available in many ways and places. Even better if it’s locally grown, maybe organic even. But can’t we agree that having those good things — coupled with having it personally given to you and with meaning — makes it become the best experience possible?”
If that kind of connection appeals to you, click on over to Bound & Dedicated and share your favorite author encounter.