The fairly recent advance of digital books would make you expect that real books are destined the same fate as buggy whips. Up to now I have felt that art books would be spared this fate as nothing compares to a well-printed art book. High-quality reproductions at a decent size in a book are the best affordable option for someone wishing to enjoy an artist’s work without having to travel to see the original works of art. For me at least, looking at a printed image in a book beats looking at a jpeg on a computer screen.
I have been collecting art books for many years. It’s something of an addiction for me. Even though I have long ago run out of shelf space and have resorted to storing books in boxes in my closet, I recently went through yet another buying binge. I fantasize of one day living in a place with a large room dedicated to holding my art library.
Books are heavy and take up a lot of space, however. I am excited by the recent development of the Google Art Project. They would seem to be adding new images all the time. As an painter, I love being able to zoom in to view famous works of art so closely and seeing all the intricate details. Some paintings in Google’s database are of such high resolution that you can zoom in to examine every brush stroke. To see what I mean, check out this image of the Tower of Babel by Bruegel.