review of Emma Smith’s book Portable Magic

Over the past year or so I've become more fond of reading physical books than ebooks. There are some practical benefits—it's easier to flip back and forth through them quickly, they let me 'unplug' and be less distracted by electronics, they perhaps take more advantage of the brain's ability to remember spatial organization—but mostly it's an aesthetic preference. Aside from occasional differences in font, every ebook looks pretty much like every other ebook; their appearance and layout are determined more by the user's settings than the publisher's decisions. By contrast, physical books come in many shapes, sizes, textures, designs; each book is a unique sensory experience.

So, reading this book about the physical form of books was a self-indulgent joy for me. It has lots of interesting historical tidbits; here are a few: