The Rumors of their Death have been Greatly Exaggerated

 image courtesy of EAT ME DAILY 

Cookbooks have not just survived the online onslaught, they have thrived.

The recession gave cookbook sales a boost by taking us out of restaurants and putting us back in our home kitchens. We had the manic sales of any title penned by Julie or Julia. And then there were the chart-topping holiday sales of both Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio and Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.

Reading on the internet is a skip through cyberspace. We compose our own narratives as we wend our way through Googled results. Those of us who read traditional cookbooks find it unsatisfying because we know that, like a novel, a cookbook has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The author’s voice is in our heads even when there is little prose strung between the recipes.

The internet can serve a vital function for the cookbook reader. Virtually every published title– in or out of print– can be had. You can find recommendations, read reviews and ratings, or post your own. You can join a discussion, a forum, or a book club, communicate with favored authors, and share your own writing. Following is a look at the best of the web for cookbook lovers.

The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf is a collaborative book review site (with occasional forays into film and software) covering a wide range of titles on food, wine, and gastronomy. Registered reviewers have dibs on free and advance copies of forthcoming titles.

Jessica’s Biscuit is a 30-year old cookbook seller that transitioned from a mail order catalog to become a major online presence. With 14,000 titles, most at a discount from the cover price, Jessica’s Biscuit was chosen as the official cookbook store for food world giants like The Food Network, Cooking.com, and Pillsbury.com.

Vintage cookbooks are fascinating artifacts. They provide insight into choices, trends, technology, and household dynamics that go well beyond the kitchen. Vintage cookbook sellers tend to be equal parts historian, collector, and retailer. Cookbooks by Janet Jarvits, Bookseller is just such a place with a collection of 30,000 volumes including plenty of obscure and eccentric titles and rare first editions. The Cookbookery has a small but well-curated selection. The site is easy to browse or search and often provides the provenance of vintage titles, identified by the original owner.

Cookbooker, the online recipe rating community, has compiled a least of (so they claim) every cookbook shop in the world that maintains a presence online. One shop, too new to have made the list, is Singapore’s 25° C. Named for room temperature, this cookbook seller is pioneering a concept known as tryvertising. Shoppers can try before they buy at the adjoining cafe where the constantly rotating menu features recipes from the shop’s selection prepared in its test kitchen.

Both theInternational Association of Culinary Professionals and the James Beard Foundation shine a spotlight on their selections for the year’s best cookbooks.  See this year’s nominees and past recipients on their websites.

Of course no discussion of booksellers is complete without at least mentioning Amazon. The selection is vast, reviews are plentiful, and it’s too darn easy to reach the $25 minimum for free shipping.

Learn about web-cookbook mash-ups that give a technological spin to your cookbook collection at  The Joy of (Online) Cooking.

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2 Responses to The Rumors of their Death have been Greatly Exaggerated

  1. I second that! LOVE cookbooks, always have, always will. Nothing beats the feel of a book in your hand and snuggling under the covers for a read, with a laptop, before lights out, just does not cut it!

  2. Lori says:

    Hear, hear, Janice! So happy to hear some logic about the “death” of print. I love and use cookbooks and will continue to love and use them. Great list, too.

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