Aside from the fact that these are charming images embroidered by New York-based illustrator Jillian Tamaki, the covers of Penguin Threads Classics signal yet another move to define non-electronic publishing as more than a vehicle for communications. Traditional publishers can no longer assume that readers will stay loyal to print because e-books are harder to read due to screen glare, not offered in full-color, crippled by short battery life, limited in availability of subjects and titles, etc. Over the past year, the iPad, Kindle, Nook and other e-readers have proved otherwise, and are getting better with each iteration.
How are printed books supposed to compete? By selling themselves as three-dimensional, tactile objects that people want to own. Most adults of a certain age have probably read all three of these classics in their youth. If not, the titles are readily available for download. The reason you’d want to buy a hard copy of these Penguin Threads is because the sculpted embossed covers reproduce the look and feel of Tamaki’s exquisite embroidery. You don’t necessarily want to reread these stories, you want to hold the book in your hand, feel the paper, the texture, the craftsmanship. You want to own the book in the same way that many of us want to own a beautiful poster we’ve seen online. The pleasure, the experience is different than just looking at it on a screen.
That applies to other printed matter as well, even direct mail catalogs. Ink-on-paper is a tangible medium that appeals to multiple senses. Its physical qualities engage our brains on a more active and emotional level. So it seems that designers need to stop thinking of print as simply an information delivery method, and start taking advantage of the amazing range of advanced printing techniques that make the material more tactile and visually dimensional.