Normally I wouldn’t find a fuck to give about Lauren Conrad if you told me where to look, but after seeing this post by Rebecca Jones Schinsky, I find myself on Team Lauren Conrad. What has she done to earn my sympathies, you ask? She pissed off the worshippers of wood pulp and ink, is what she did.
The bookish internet exploded last week when, in what one report called “the worst craft idea ever,” Lauren Conrad (star of MTV reality shows and author of teen novels) cut apart a set of Lemony Snicket books and used the spines to decorate an otherwise plain box. The outcries were variations on the theme of, Nooooo, not books! That bitch!
During the brief but passionate storming of Conrad’s castle, I couldn’t help but think, “Really? THIS is what book people have become?” I had just watched the same tempest hit a smaller teapot one day earlier when a photo posted on the Book Riot Facebook page of a ring box carved out of a book resulted in an unexpected and heated battle between Team That’s So Romantic and Team OH NO NOT BOOKS. The protests in both cases came across as absurd and overblown (when it seems they were intended to come across as evidence of what good bibliophiles the protesters were for decrying the destruction of books). And one has to wonder if the torch-bearing villagers were actually upset with Conrad, or if she was just the latest convenient scapegoat for the pervasive and unnecessary fear that the transition from print books to digital will spell the end of literature as we know it.
Yeah, THAT happened.
She goes on to quote book authority Rachel Fershleiser (when you’ve been an author, bookseller and publicist, I think you qualify as a book authority), who informs us that institutions carry out far more aggressive assaults on large numbers of books that fail to fly off the shelves. By comparison, using books as craft supplies is an act of rescue. Fershleiser goes even further and points out that some books are, shall we say, not worth the time they take to read, in fact their contents are so superfluous that the copies are only useful as inert stacks of paper. Some books had no reason to be printed in the first place. It’s a far better use of the dead trees to slice and dice them into decorative or useful objects.
I think Schinsky makes a valid point when she makes the connection to the print vs. digital wars. Here’s the thing: using books as crafts is nothing new. Drunken preachers have been hiding flasks in hollowed-out Bibles for, oh, I’d say a couple hundred years now. We wouldn’t be wringing our hands over the preciousness of hardcovers if we didn’t have the encroachment of e-readers. We would be able to maintain some perspective about the utility of “real books” if we didn’t have the digital books against which they were compared.