by Mark Rooker
part three

For a good book has this quality, that it is not merely a petrification of its author, but that once it has been tossed behind, like Deucalion's little stone, it acquires a separate and vivid life of its own.

Caroline Lejeune

The Ingredients of SOUL

In part one of this essay, BODY and MIND were given as a way of describing the physical and conceptual components of books. In Part Two, BODY and MIND were defined within printed and digital media, and their benefits as vehicles of literature were explored. In this part of the essay, I will explore the factors that determine how the BODY and MIND of a book achieve significance of SOUL. I believe there are five main factors: Investment, Immersion, Comfort, Longevity, and Appropriateness.


Books are invested objects. This means that through BODY and MIND, books absorb their creators' labor, thought, and emotion and release it back to their readers.

For example, part of the impact of the Pennyroyal edition of Through the Looking-Glass comes from its heavy investment. Its MIND is invested with Lewis Carroll's story of great complexity, imagination, poetry, and humor. Carroll's story, along with its companion Alice in Wonderland, have been described as "...immortal classics of English literature that are among the most widely read, most admired, most studied, and and most often quoted books in the world, relished today as much by adults as by young people" Gardner, dustjacket. This edition is additionally invested with supplementary notes and essays. These make it easier to fully extract Lewis Carroll's investment by aiding the readers' understanding of the language and culture of the author, and the subtleties of his writing.

The images also add to the MIND of this book. Rather than simply illustrating the story, the meticulous, dynamic, and imaginative style of these images brings out the dark beauty and near-insanity of Carrolls' narrative style.

When viewing the Pennyroyal edition and reading its colophon, the immense amount of time and care that went into its BODY is obvious. Barry Moser contributed the 92 woodcuts, whose beauty and unexpectedness complement and enrich the narrative. The text was expertly composed and cast in lead at the type foundry of Michael and Winifred Bixler with additional hand-setting by Arthur Larson and Chase Twitchell. On the title page the word Alice has been hand lettered by G.G.Laurens. The book has been hand bound by Gray Parrott in leather and cloth along with a tray-cased, signed portfolio of Moser's prints. The paper for this edition was custom made by the Strathmore Paper Mills. The printing was done letterpress by harold McGrath. Each of these details are significant because they are techniques seldom used today. Each requires a great amount of time and skill, and there are cheaper alternatives. Their use gives this book the feel of a one-of-a-kind work of art. The books communicate the craftsmanship of the people involved in their production, and the pride they took in their work.

The Voyager Cd Rom of Macbeth is also heavily invested. Like the Pennyroyal Looking-Glass, it too is invested with a story of great complexity and deep meaning. In 1817 William Hazlitt wrote of Macbeth, "It moves upon the verge of an abyss, and is a constant struggle between life and death. The action is desperate and the reaction is dreadful. It is a huddling together of fierce extremes, a war of opposite natures which of them shall destroy the other," Andrews, 189. To the investment of the author, the editors of the Voyager Macbeth have added supplementary notes and essays. Like the Pennyroyal Looking-Glass, these make it easier for readers to fully extract the MIND of the work by aiding their understanding of the culture and language in which the story was written, and the history on which it was based.

In addition, Voyager's Macbeth takes advantage of its multimedia capabilities by including several features only possible in this medium. The CD contains performances and video clips that help the reader to visualize the words through the context that dramatic interpretation creates.It includes hypertextual indexing, glossary, and cross referencing functions that aid reader understanding. The CD even includes a function called "Macbeth Karaoke" in which the reader is able to play either of the principal roles, and participate in the story.

Without this investment by designer and author, a book is a flat, lifeless, thing without SOUL. For example, many of the great works of literature are being converted into digital form through the simple expedient of typing them directly into text-only websites. Project Gutenberg, has volunteers converting classic (copyright-free) books into this kind of site. This is an important effort and certainly has the effect of preserving the MINDS of these literary masterpieces in BODIES that have many of the digital benefits discussed in part 2. For example, these books are a great resource for researchers and writers who need a more fluid medium in which to analyze the text. It also ensures these books' survival into the new medium by getting them into the necessary electronic form. However, the BODIES of these on-line books are so under-invested, and so little consideration has been given to basic design issues such as readability or hierarchy, that it is hard to imagine someone actually reading them for pleasure. It follows, that if no one reads them, books can't achieve SOUL no matter how well-invested their MINDS are.

To sum up, investment is a very simple concept. What the author and designer put into a book determines what the reader can get out of it. Because of this, SOUL is dependent on investment.

Immersion and Comfort

Reading is an active process of imagination and communication. This means that reader-investment is as crucial to the SOULS of books as that of their authors and designers. In other words, in order to extract the investment of authors and designers, readers need to invest books with their own labor, thought, and emotion. Furthermore, the more the readers invest, the more the books' SOULS are revealed. Authors and designers count on readers to exert the effort necessary to decode and visualize what is being communicated through BODY and MIND.

A large part of this reader-investment involves their willingness to be immersed in the work. Immersion, or deep reading uses the readers' memories of their own life experiences to visualize their reading memory of the text. This intimate blending of the authors' words with the readers' memories gives the text a direct path to the readers' souls, and accesses more than just their rational/analytical selves Birkerts,98. This is possible because, through the mental space of reverie, readers have the opportunity to clothe their souls in the authors' creations. In effect, it is possible for the "I" of a narrative, to temporarily become the I of the individual readers. As readers emerge from this reverie, they incorporate whatever "clothes" fit their soul, allowing parts of the text become a part of them in a very direct way Birkerts, 89, 90, 93. A book's SOUL requires that readers be immersed in the experience, for only after reaching the reader's soul does the book achieve impact or significance. No matter how heavily invested a book is in BODY and MIND, if the reader is unable to connect at a deep level with the work, that investment is never fully realized.

Comfort is a key factor in the ability of readers to become and remain immersed in a text. Anything that causes readers to focus on the mechanics of reading interferes with immersion. This can include flaws in the work such as typos or download lag-time, or external disruptions that interrupt the reader like ringing telephones, but more often the reading process is disrupted by the authors and designers themselves.

For example, a designer may disrupt the reading process by creating a BODY for the work that distracts readers from the text. This occurs in many hypertextual works in which readers are constantly required to make decisions and connections which break the concentrated reverie of deep reading. Though the reader may feel focused on the task of navigating through those decisions, immersion is more than concentrated activity or intense focus. True immersion involves the ability for readers to mentally step outside reality and enter the world of the author's work. Often, it even includes the readers' ability to mentally become someone else. The decision-making activity often required in multimedia and hypertextual literature often disrupts this type of connection and keeps the work from achieving SOUL.

The multimedia or hypertext designer of literary works should try to accommodate the readers' immersion as much as possible. A good example of a successfully immersive multimedia book is the 1992 From Alice to Ocean. This book was published as both a printed "coffee table" book and also as a multi-media CD Rom. In both versions, the designer has used photos and text together in a manner that is very conducive to immersion. In the CD version of the story, the author orally narrates her journey, while full-color photographs reinforce the narrative and create a rich multi-dimensional experience for her readers. Enhancing this is the casual, intimate style in which she has written and read the story. Reading her words in the printed version, or listening to her read from the text on the CD, readers feel included and are easily able to imagine themselves with her, or as her. This sensory richness and connection with the author's words is the essence of SOULFUL immersion.

The author or editor may also cause discomfort. For example, allowing too great a gap of time or culture between the author and readers can result in the readers' inability to relate to the work or even understand it. For example, many people find it difficult to enjoy works by authors from before the 20th century. The differential in time, culture and language, requires a higher investment of thought and effort from the reader than many contemporary readers are willing or able to make, so many of these books go unread outside of the classroom.

However, there are certain steps that the authors and designers of difficult works like these can take to make it easier and more comfortable for the reader to extract their investment. In the case of the Voyager Macbeth and the Pennyroyal Through the Looking- Glass, the supplementary materials, essays and annotations that have been added to the text aid the readers' understanding, and close the cultural, linguistic, and temporal gaps between the readers and the books. Though these supplements themselves can sometimes be a distraction and break the reverie, they do improve reader understanding of the text, and reduce the reader's need to consult even more disruptive outside sources of information such as dictionaries or Cliff's Notes.

SOUL depends on the reader's ability to connect with a book at a deep level. The reader's ability to become immersed in the work--to let go of conscious thought and be drawn into the author's words--allows this deep connection. Since this immersion is a fairly delicate process, comfort is an important factor in immersion, and by extension, in SOUL as well. If immersion is abetted by comfort, and if reader, author, and designer, have made the necessary investment in the book, then its SOUL will follow.


A book's ability to affect readers across time, while still reflecting time's passage, also helps to determine its SOUL.

A significant portion of a book's longevity comes from the ability of its MIND to remain relevant to readers across time. Some of the greatest works ever written--Hamlet, On the Road, The Dead, Notes from Underground, The Bible, Brave New World, etc.--speak clearly about problems and issues that are universal and timeless. As Samuel Johnson writes of Shakespeare, "His persons act and speak by the influence of those general passions and principles by which all minds are agitated" Andrews 187.

The best of these works also speak clearly about the cultures in which they were set and/or written. Whether it is Shakespeare's renniasance Denmark, Kerouack's America of the mid-twentieth century, or Huxley's vision of America's future, the authors of these works bring their setting to life and allow their readers to know cultures long past or imaginary.

The BODIES of printed books also reflect time's passage. As they age, books' materials show time's passage . Like human faces, on which time and life-experience write a peoples' histories, books' histories are visible in the condition of their covers and pages. Books show whether they have been well cared for or abused, read repeatedly or forgotten, printed yesterday or a century ago.

The value of this relationship between material and time is proven by the value people place on antique books. Old books seem to be charged with the same power that inhabits old or historically significant buildings like the Colleseum or the Alamo. This power or presence creates a feeling of connection between the viewers and the objects. Through a sense of history carried by the materials, the craftsmanship of the physical objects, and their importance, this presence makes that object more than the sum of its parts. For example, when the Gutenberg Bible is seen in person, it communicates its spirit (its age, obvious craftsmanship, historical significance) in a very palpable sensation of presence to its viewers.

Digital books are at a distinct disadvantage in longevity as their lack of physical BODIES has the effect of severing the book's material connection with history. While the MINDS of books retain their longevity across media, digital books are as yet incapable of showing time's passage through their BODIES. For except as their programs become dated and obsolete, or through a record of how many "hits" they have received, digital books have almost no ability to show time's passage.

Also, a sense of presence seems difficult to achieve in a digital medium. Just as the sense of presence is absent if printed books are viewed in photographs, some essential part of presence is lost if the book is in non-physical, digital, form.

However, both the Pennyroyal Through the Looking Glass and the Voyager Macbeth show how digital books, and recent print books are able to reference time and history through their visual design rather than their materials.

For example, the Voyager Macbeth uses Celtic knot motifs in its borders and title pages to reference the artistic and architectural traditions of medieval Scotland. Also, video clips from film versions of Macbeth aid in the reader's ability to visualize the costuming and setting of the period, while the annotations aid the reader's understanding of the culture by contextualizing the story and explaining unfamiliar references.

Pennyroyal's Through the Looking-Glass also uses its' annotations in this manner to aid the readers' understanding of the story's cultural and historical context. More significantly however, the designers and producers of this book have made a connection to history by using the design, materials, and production techniques of the 19th century. Hand and machine set lead type, letterpress printing, woodcut illustrations, and hand lettering, are all techniques that are associated with the past, especially with the century in which the story was written. This means that even though this edition was produced recently, it has an antique aesthetic with a sympathetic technological connection to the period it represents, that it couldn't have if it was produced using more modern technologies and processes. Indeed, Pennyroyal produces an offset reproduction of the letterpress edition, and though it is superficially identical, it lacks much of the original's impact.

A book's SOUL depends on its ability to affect the reader. If the book is to do this for more than the generation in which it was written, it has to have the quality of longevity--the ability to remain relevant to readers across time. This can occur through the timelessness of it's content, or its ability to communicate the period in which it was written or set, through the design of it's BODY, or even through its presence, but it must occur if it's SOUL is to endure.


In design it is often counter-productive to argue whether design solutions are "good", as there are few traditions, and even fewer rules that can be relied upon to create and evaluate "good" design. Instead, it is more effective to discuss designs in terms of their appropriateness--the compatibility of the content and the form. Appropriateness is in essence a measure of the symbiosis of BODY and MIND, which leads to SOUL. Evaluation of appropriateness also helps bypass criticism based solely on personal taste and ugly-is-bad/pretty-is-good oversimplification of form. Investment, Immersion, Comfort, and Longevity all rely on the principal of appropriateness in order to maximize the potential SOUL of the work.

For example, the BODIES of books have to be designed to allow the amount of immersion that is appropriate to their MINDS. So, in a mathematics text, where little immersion would be needed, the use of hypertexting or animated diagramming could be appropriate. On the other hand, if the work was a contemporary novel it would need a great depth of immersion and therefore as few distractions from the text as possible.

Similarly, appropriateness of design style and textual temporal/cultural references may need to be considered. For example, the form of the Grabhorne Press's Macbeth adds to the SOUL of the book through its appropriateness to the play's setting. Its text was set in Bibel Gotisch, a typeface that looks as if it might have come directly from medieval Scottland. This is combined with woodcut images by Mary Grabhorn which she created in a primitive, brooding, energetic style. The result of this is that the typography and images reinforce the content, illustrate the period, and set a mood of suppressed excitement consistent with the story. This appropriateness of form to content (BODY to MIND) create a symbiosis in which resulting SOUL is greater than the sum of it's parts.

One important and overarching question of appropriateness comes from the fact that books, whether they are in printed or digital form, are a strange symbiosis of two works of art. It is a strange symbiosis because though they are two aspects of the same object, the writers or editors usually complete their work before the designers even begin. This leaves the designers with the task of deciding the most appropriate way to treat the text. In other words, the designer has to decide if the text is a complete and precious object that simply needs a "crystal goblet" to contain it and give it a transparent form, or is only one ingredient of many to be mulled together and served in an ornamented chalice. This question has been troubling designers and authors from the beginning. Both works of art can have SOUL, but often the SOUL of one comes at the expense of the other. Indeed, it is this centuries-old debate that is the core of the controversy surrounding digital media, because digital media offer designers even more ways to "mix the wine," and "encrust the chalice."

So, how do designers invest this symbiosis with maximum significance and impact--maximum SOUL? There are really only two options. Designers can make one work of art completely subordinate to the other and squeeze as much SOUL as possible out of the dominant work, or they can compromise between the two, to the possible improvement of both.

The exchange of one medium for another is mainly a change in the vehicle through which the content is communicated. Quantitatively there is no reason why the text of a book cannot be translated verbatim from printed form to a Book on Tape, or a film, or a website. The author's words can remain exactly the same. However, qualitatively, this change in vehicle in turn causes changes in how the content itself is perceived, which in turn affects the content's ability to affect the reader. BODY affects MIND affects SOUL. It is similar to translation between languages. A sentence can be translated verbatim, but vagaries in vocabulary or grammar may render the sentence meaningless or worse. In order to translate the sentence properly, the meaning, in addition to the words, has to be translated. Translation of books between media carries this same burden in BODY and MIND. However, designers have to understand and respect the integrity of the original texts, and try to interpret the authors' intentions while translating the BODIES of books. Adding digital features such as hypertext, sound, video, etc. that the author may not have intended, fragmenting and indexing an author's text, adding to it, editing it (or giving the reader the ability to do so) radically alters the nature of that text and society's' concept of authorship, and has the potential to butcher the work in translation. However, if the changes caused by the switch from printed BODIES to digital can be controlled, then the SOUL of print should be able to be accomplished within the vital new digital media without being diminished by that translation.

To accomplish this, designers have to understand the needs of the content they are dealing with even more than when designing for print. Digital media open up options and dimensions not easily available within print, and not all of them are appropriate for every text. These options need to be carefully evaluated within the context of their impact on a work's MIND before they are used.

Also, the appropriate point in the continuum of graphic/textual dominance needs to be found if the digital work is to have maximum impact. Immersive text such as that found in novels, requires a crystal goblet sensibility to keep readers looking through the text instead of at it. The words have to be run over lightly, read without really noticing them, so that the reader stays immersed in the author's imaginary world. As the design begins to dominate the text, it also has to carry more SOUL because readers are less able to clothe the writer's words in their own experiences. This distances the reading memory from the personal memory in a way that keeps "I" from becoming I. In short, for immersive literature such as novels the design aphorism "Less is More" is crucial to developing an impactful SOUL that showcases the art of the author's words. However, the designer also has to avoid under-investing the work as in the example of the text-only sites described earlier. The metaphor is "crystal goblet" which implies a high level of subtle craftsmanship, not "mason jar".

The Barnes & Noble edition of Gulliver's Travels is a good example of this. The text is set in a plain but well-crafted way that makes reading easy. The typographer does not distract the readers or break their reverie with unskillful noise or self indulgence. The illustrator has also contributed a number of beautifully crafted and printed images, that enrich the experience of the text by helping the reader visualize key scenes. However, these illustrations are also few and isolated enough not to overly interfere with the reader's imagination. In short, this is a well invested book that is comfortable to read and encourages immersion, because the appropriate balance of design/textual dominance has been reached.

Some texts, however, allow for more interpretation through typography and image. Indeed, text that is looked at instead of through is capable of great impact, but the design and text should be carefully paired to avoid ultimately reducing the text's effect on the reader. For some texts, such as short texts, or texts where the idea is more important than the actual words used, full graphic interpretation in the manner of a graphic performance could be the best option.
Warren Lehrer's book French Fries is a good example of this kind of graphic treatment. In it he uses typography to visually interpret a conversation of several people. Each participant's words are given a distinct typographic treatment creating a "voice" for each (including the jukebox). The result is a typographic composition of complex overlapping rhythms that is almost musical. However, like a lot of music, it is easy to appreciate the artistry of the (typographic) performance and ignore the words themselves.

A compromise approach similar to that used in Books on Tape would also work well for bringing literature originally written for print into a digital medium. In a recorded book, a lone performer reads the text aloud (giving it an audio vehicle) but verbally interprets it only minimally. The performer gives each character a voice and also gives each voice appropriate inflection and emotion, but usually the readings are not full performances in a theatrical sense. The readers (listeners) are still fully able to clothe the narratives in their own experiences just as if they were plain text. In typographic form, this would mean interpreting the texts only enough to enhance and guide the reading, and stimulate the imagination through image and sound without simply illustrating the story.
The Rooker/Herbert edition of O.S. Card's The Porcelain Salamander is a good example of this approach. In this book, each main character has been given a distinct typographic voice, and the story has been broken up and paced out to create scenes and acts, while also keeping the typography quiet and readable enough to encourage reader immersion. The images, instead of simply illustrating the text, offer a prequel that tells a story of their own. This approach avoids simply visualizing the story for the reader, and interfering with the readers own interpretation.

Though at first Appropriateness seems an odd concept to list as a determining factor in the SOUL of a book, much depends upon it. For while Immersion, Investment, Comfort, and Longevity can be seen as the building blocks of SOUL, Appropriateness is the tool used to fit the blocks together, and measure of their success.


A book has an afterlife or SOUL through the impact it has upon its readers. This SOUL is carried and created through its BODY (form) and MIND (content). There are, of course, many things that are specific to either literature or design that determine whether a book is well written or well designed. However, SOUL is more than a matter of good writing and design. A poorly written and designed book can achieve SOUL with certain readers, while a great book fails to impact others. Significance of SOUL is instead determined by the connection that is made between author, designer, and reader. So, the factors determining the nature of that connection, determine SOUL. These factors are: Investment, Immersion, Comfort, Longevity and Appropriateness.

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