But first: My thoughts on kindle, technology, and the demise of the cheap paperback.
I love my kindle. My husband gave it to me two years ago as a Christmas gift, and it has revolutionized reading for me. The fact that I can walk around with something that weighs about the same as a paperback, that contains my own personally curated library, is thrilling to me as a lover of words. Much care has been given to craft a device that feels comfortable on the hands and the eyes, and I appreciate that. I think e readers will eventually (rapidly) replace paper for most uses, like the digital camera replaced the film camera. I still have the Pentax K1000 my uncle gave me when I was an art student taking photography 101, but for most uses can’t afford the film and developing costs. I felt incredibly bittersweet about the demise of film photography (as the prevalent medium of choice) but thrilled by the new opportunities afforded me by digital photography. With every revolution comes the irreversible loss of some element of the old technology, and I think what I’d be able to sacrifice, not without some sadness, is the cheap drug store paperback as a vehicle for literature. We’d save a heck of a lot of trees that way.
I don’t think paper printing will ever go away, at least it would make me very sad if it did. I have been a print graphic designer for the better part of two decades so my affection for the printed medium will not fade that easily. In fact, the actual programming and designing for web has proven difficult for me personally adapt to given how entrenched my print design skills are. This is one reason why I love WordPress, because I haven’t mastered Html.
I’ve witnessed with the advent of desktop computers for graphic design. I was among the first generation of designers to use the computer exclusively for a living, and one of the last to be exposed to now-defunct hand techniques in school. Quickly on the heels of that change was the change from film to digital cameras. I’ve seen the internet evolve and am now watching the transformation of the role of the website due to the invention of social media.
A similar thing is happening with our printed materials, and it is an inevitable extension of what has happened to the field of graphic design. The way we read has not only been transformed forever, but so many new mediums have been invented. We are literally changing the way we tell stories. Think about it, the full arc of human storytelling probably started around a campfire in a cave and has now culminated in the YouTube video and this blog post. I say culminated, but it won’t stop here; we will continue to find ever new and engaging ways of telling our stories.
Here’s what I hope happens: I hope paper books become rare and valuable, perhaps not as inaccessible as they once were when they had to be copied by hand by monks, but enough to give us pause and pay a bit more attention to the artistry of the object in our hands. The average home will have maybe a shelf of printed books, expensive, high quality printing and richly illustrated. On this shelf will also be at least one or two such books self-published by someone living in the house, or received as a gift from a loved one. Libraries themselves would contain small collections of such books that wouldn’t get checked out, for library use only. Everything else would be available on an eReader. I really like the way Seth Godin talks about the library of the future, but here I’d like to stress the use of libraries as repositories of the finest quality print books, to be appreciated in much the same way as one does a piece of art hanging in a gallery. There could even be openings celebrating the arrival of new printed books.
That perhaps is the biggest revolution of all…the ability of the average person to have access to the publishing process.
Let’s try to use our new superpower wisely.
Sorry, I guess we won’t get around to my personal book list this post, it turns out my prelude became a post in and of itself. That just means I already have a topic for tomorrow’s post. This seven day challenge is a bit easier than I thought it was going to be.