November 27, 2014
'The Pages Project' Brings the Beauty of Physical Books Online
Ask any bibliophile and he or she will tell you: there is something magical about physical books. Crisp pages. Crackling book spines. Margin notes! Need we say more?!
It's these very physical qualities that graphic designer Erik Schmitt of studio1500 hopes to bring online with The Pages Project, a digital project dedicated to preserving and celebrating the notes scribbled within the printed pages of books.
Though it officially launched in October, The Pages Project was conceived back in 2007, when Schmitt inherited his grandfather's library. While looking through the collection, Schmitt noticed that each book was filled with underlined passages and personal notes written in the margins.
"It was a really powerful experience seeing the thought process and the intelligence of this person that I used to know captured through books, Schmitt told Mashable.
"This is a really powerful thing about the printed page that we don't see anymore."
Looking for a way to save these annotations, Schmitt began cutting out critical pages, photographing them, editing them and uploading them online — a complicated process compared to simply using a scanner, Schmitt admits, but one that he feels best imports physical pages into the digital world.
"There's something that's tactile about it. There's an underline in pencil. Then there's an underline in blue ink and and then there's one in black ink and they're all kind of layered. That's why I photograph instead of scanning. I can light them so that you can see more of the texture of the paper."
From there, Schmitt began soliciting pages from other family members and collecting pages from local used bookstores to add to the project.
Schmitt's reverence for physical books doesn't mean that he turns away from e-readers. In fact, quite the contrary — Schmitt was on the team that created the original Amazon Kindle.
"I was a graphic designer on the project. I was working on the look and feel of the pages, and a little bit on the user interface and the experience," he said.
That was in 2007. Since the Amazon Kindle launched, there has been more than 20 subsequent models released, each new iteration adding a plethora of features designed to hone the digital reading experience. Readers can now use sensors and touch screens to turn pages. They can now highlight and share noteworthy passages online, just like a reader can share notes taken on a printed page.
And for Schmitt, that's a good thing.
"I embrace digital technology wholeheartedly and I love it. [The Pages Project] is not an effort to say books are good and now what we are doing is bad.
It's the realization that something is truly unique about this ancient, centuries old technology."
Whether the digital page erases the physical page is yet to be seen, but until then, The Pages Projectwill continue to offer a stunning homage to all things printed literature.
You can check out more of The Pages Project's annotation collection and submit your own book page to the project here.
This article was featured on washable on November 26 2014 and was written by M.J. Franklin, Mashable's Social Media Assistant. MJ works on the Community Team, posting and developing strategy for Mashable's online presence on a variety of social platforms including Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest. He also helps coordinate MashableReads, Mashable's social book club.