A little while back, while I was unpacking a box of materials donated to the ICP Library, I discovered the deceptively modest looking Wonders of the Stereoscope (Call Number: TR780 .J65 1976). The work is composed of two parts: a traditional hardcover book describing the history of stereographic image-making, with sample images; and a matching book-like case containing a stack of the stereographic images shown throughout the bound book on 3.5 by 7 inch cards for use with an accompanying foldout stereoscopic viewer.
Wonders of the Stereoscope is a definite work, with indissoluble form and content. It exists outside the scope of Kindle, the iPad, or Google’s impossible crusade to digitize every book ever written. Thumbing through Wonders of the Stereoscope, choosing a card that corresponds to an interesting passage, and loading it in the viewer to see the three-dimensional effect is a tangible physical experience that cannot be digitized.
I’m not a print purist: I download audiobooks, check out ebooks from the Brooklyn Library, and read newspaper and magazine content online. Often, the platform doesn’t seem to interfere with the experience. Still, there is something wonderful about those books – like Wonders of the Stereoscope – that defy digitization.