A book is a set of structural affordances wrapped up in paper. Much like a door has to fit the doorframe to be useful, a novel has to fit the book as a frame if it is to be read, understood and enjoyed. In return, the book’s affordances give the novel a readymade structure that it can hang on to, refer to, and build upon.
The author can break these affordances, but with that they signal to the reader their intent to break away from the form. The reader can break them as well, but in doing so they have to actively deform or destroy the book, clearly veering away from the reading experience the book affords.
A few of the book’s qualities:
- Each page can only be viewed next to the page opposite and they have a clear, set, and bound order. Rearrange the pages and you have a different book.
- Each book holds a specific set of pages. Switch the pages and you have a different book.
- Each page holds a specific piece of text. Change the text and you have a different book.
Think about the structural definitions of novels and other book genres. Textbooks rely on the embodied nature of memory. A piece of information read is a physical property of the book: it exists on a specific page which lies in a specific place within the book object. Structuring the text into unchangeable page divisions means that references have to be footnotes if the reader is to experience them in the referring context.
Every act of change to a book is either destructive (i.e. clearly not a part of the author’s intent) or a new book.