Well, here’s where those e-readers get left in the dust. The coffee table book. More decorative element than source of information, it sits invitingly on a coffee table or other easily accessible flat surface, waiting to be looked at. Heavy, glossy stock, striking photography and minimal text make it a truly sensual experience.
David R. Bower, former Executive Director of the Sierra Club, is credited with introducing the modern coffee table book to America. In 1960 he published This is the American Earth, which included photographs by Ansel Adams and was the first in what was known as the Exhibit Format series. The goal was to be able to display images in a size that would allow the eye to move around within the borders of the image.
Since then they’ve established themselves as a cultural phenomenon as well. A classic Seinfeld episode revolved around Kramer’s desire to create a coffee table book about coffee tables.
The subjects most frequently covered in these large format beauties are art, photography, fashion and nature. And not surprisingly, you often can judge these books by their covers.
Sales of coffee table books tend to peak during the holidays. What’s even more interesting is that they are giving some booksellers a new lease on life because they are so emphatically NOT translatable to e-readers. The latest Bookscan figures suggest that sales of individual monograph art books were up 70% last year. As Josh Baker, art director of Taschen recently said, “When you have people over, you don’t show off your iPad library.”
Thinking what a terrific impact one of these beauties could make as a holiday gift? Check out some of the best of 2012.