Crystallized books: The Crystal World

Photos courtesy of Alexis Arnold

Whether it's the steady decline of bookstores or the countless boxes of used books languishing on yard sale tables, evidence of the descent of the printed book is everywhere. While the information found in books lives on in a digital realm, the physical presence of books is becoming increasingly obsolete.

Inspired by this uncertain future, San Francisco-based artist Alexis Arnold decided to explore other ways of preserving their material legacy in her series "Crystallized Books."

By petrifying books, magazines and other literature in borax crystals and rendering them unreadable, Arnold grants them an oddly beautiful (albeit functionally limited) form of immortality.

"The crystals remove the text and transform the books into aesthetic, non-functional objects," Arnold writes on her website. "The books, frozen with crystal growth, have become artifacts or geologic specimens imbued with the history of time, use and nostalgia."

To create these crystals, Arnold relies on a simple DIY science experiment that you might remember from middle school. By soaking a book in a concentrated solution of borax and boiling water and setting it aside to cool, it isn't long before the borax residue begins to form crystals that encrust the pages.

It creates a remarkable sight:

Crystallized books: San Francisco Phonebook

San Francisco phonebook

Crystallized books: Guia de Vinos Gourmet

Guia de Vinos Gourmet

Crystallized books: Catcher in the Rye

"Catcher in the Rye"

Crystallized books: World Book Encyclopedia 1978

1978 World Book Encyclopedia

Crystallized books: This is water

"This is Water"

Crystallized books: The art of peace

"The Art of Peace"

Crystallized books: Nat Geo

National Geographic

Crystallized books: Hop on Pop

"Hop On Pop"

Crystallized books: All's well that ends well

"All's Well That Ends Well"

Crystallized books: Art in Technological Times

"Art in Technological Times"

Crystallized books: Linux manual

Linux manual

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.

Crystallized books capture beauty of their demise
Borax crystals are used to preserve the material legacy of books.