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Ex Libris

In the latest issue of Yale University's alumni magazine, Alex Beam, a columnist for The Boston Globe — and a Yale alumnus, meditates on the "psychology of the bookplate."

"Think of a bookplate as a wedding ring binding the reader to the book, and vice versa," Beam writes. "The symbolism isn't so far apart: ownership, possession, desire."

Growing up, I remember admiring book plates in library books. My mom had a box of them, although I can't remember ever seeing her paste them into any of her volumes.

What happened to the bookplate? It's gone the way of, well, the book, Beam concludes:

The 25-cent paperback took us halfway there; now we have fully arrived. The physical book does not exist, and has no value. The digital book has no front or back covers; there is no place to assert ownership, and there is nothing to own.