World Book Day Lecture: Books in the World of Things

The book is our most durable and familiar communications technology. It’s an object that pervades our lives from before we can read and turns up everywhere in our education, our work and our leisure. But we hardly ever pay attention to the book as an object. We’re taught not to from an early age: learning to read means learning to stop looking at the book in front of us and start looking through it.As a result, we miss the messages books send, because we’re too busy trying to decipher the messages they contain.  Losing ourselves in the words on the page, we forget the object that encloses them.  But we use books for a lot of things besides reading.  They serve as badges of allegiance, signifiers of class, focal points for rituals and festivals, tokens shaping interpersonal relationships and more.  This lecture invites us to concentrate on the book as an object among others, and so allows us to examine the ways in which it features in our individual and collective life.