Regarding Friday's post on spellbooks...
Additional thoughts have been percolating in my brain. Please allow me to share.
The first thing that occurs to me is that any "problem" I have with spell books is only really a problem when it becomes a problem. Me worrying about it ahead of time is...well, silly. Except of course that if the physicality of a wizard's tome is important, then I want the players to worry about it, too (i.e. 'How am I going to lug this thing around?'). Requiring players to think about such real world issues...similar to having them think about issues like light and food and encumbrance...helps with the immersive experience of the game. But for the game itself, it's not all that important...unless it suddenly becomes important (due to a particular book-wrecking situation during play). Whether or not the character has the book in her backpack, or safely hidden outside the dungeon only otherwise matters if you're allowing wizards to rest and recuperate their spells in the Underworld which is a sketchy stance to take as a DM for a variety of reasons.
A second thought about why the size, presence, or need for spell books matter is that it directly ties to how magic-users acquire spells in one's game. Can players steal enemy spell books and add their pages to their own? Can the players' own books be stolen? Spell books quickly become the most precious treasures in a wizard's hoard. Does a lich need to study a spell book? Sakartha, the vampire lizard king needed one...and it proved quite a valuable find to my players back in my old AD&D days. On the other hand, B/X magic-users only know as many spells as they can cast...taking an enemy's spell book certainly hamstrings the caster but adds nothing to the player's own store of knowledge.
Which leads me to my main (if not final) "thought of the day:" it seems to me that one could interpret the wizard's spell book as something largely symbolic, a talisman the mage requires in order to use (and re-use) her spell knowledge. A talisman is nothing more than an extremely personal (and, thus, magically invested) object that is sacred to the spell caster; losing a talisman denudes the character of her magical abilities...capturing a talisman puts the wizard at a person's mercy (and destroying it severs her powers completely).
I could wrack my brain for other examples...it was a common plot element of the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, requiring the protagonists to recover some ring or wand or amulet in order to restore a wizard's lost powers. The magic hat of the the magician character Presto would certainly count as a talisman by my definition.
Would Sauron's ring count as a talisman? Probably. So might the matrix stones of the laran gifted in Darkover or the medicine bag of a Native American shaman (which seem to me an inspiration for the former). Would Stormbringer qualify as a talisman for Elric? Maybe...but Elric's a special case in a lot of ways. But you could probably count Princess Eilonwy's "bauble" (from the Prydain books).
The point is, there are a lot of things that can serve as a talisman, all largely symbolic. A spell book need not be different: it represents the work, thoughts, and accumulated knowledge of a mage in a world that (presumably) has a fairly low rate of literacy. It need not actually contain "magic spells" but, rather provides the same sense of security and comfort and pride as the phallic power represented in a staff or wand.
[isn't the wand thing kind of a big deal in the Harry Potter books? It seems to me that there's a lot of wand stealing and wand breaking plot points in that series...if memory serves]
Changing the magic-user's spell book requirement to a talisman might make the character a little too similar to the cleric class (whose "holy symbol" amounts to the same thing)...on the other hand, that might be a good thing. How does one's magical power grow, exactly? The gods gift the cleric with power as she gains experience in their service. The wizard...needs to find (or create or steal) spells?
Far easier (and perhaps more interesting) to make the different spell-casters all "magic-users" of different schools. Mechanically (i.e. rules-wise) they're still interesting: clerics have (mostly) different magic, lesser in some ways, but powerful in others. Wizards have more variety and raw power (perhaps), but don't have the support of a church or followers...it's still the path of the outsider and individual, even those who belong to a particular magical order.
The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. I'd even consider something like the theft of one's talisman resulting in a diminishment of power (say one-half level?) rather than a full loss of spell ability. The 14th level wizard without her staff is still a potent force, but with it she can literally move mountains. Well, hills anyway (using the move earth spell).
My final thought on the subject is this: a fighter who loses her weapons can still fight, a thief who loses her lockpicks can still perform other thief skills, and (in both cases) acquiring replacements are a small cost to the player. Same holds true for a cleric's holy symbol (assuming you require the symbol for clerics to use their abilities). Placing the magic-users power in an encumbering stack of paper...very, very expensive paper...feels exceptionally punitive to me. And I'm not someone who is particularly about "making life easier" for the players.
Anyway...still thinking about it.