Sunday, September 13, 2009

everything changes

This weekend MimiKo is visiting. Today she swam with Orion and played DDR and patiently watched Full Frontal Fashion while I plugged away at writing that was absolutely and unquestionably due t o d a y.

I've begun the second painting for the art show, and the armature for a sculpture that is taller than myself.
I like working on art that's larger than me. A lot.

I rested and read yesterday. One of the few magazines I read from cover to cover is Wired. Aside from the articles, it's filled with little bits that the geek in me enjoys. There were a couple of articles on subjects I've wanted to mention here. Both addressed the move away from paper. The first was a article advocating the end of cash for transactions. Obviously, cash---both paper and coins---is expensive to create and to maintain, not to mention dirty, clumsy and arcane. One of the more interesting points was the possibility of a system for trading goods and services---barter--using technology for transfers. The element that wasn't mentioned in the least was the question of security.
Not that a lot of people hide wads of bills in their mattresses(or that this practice is secure in any way), but a global system for 'flash' exchange via cell phones would be even more vulnerable than the electronic systems we use now, wouldn't you think? The other thing that occurs to me is, when paper money is no longer attached to a value, what will happen to it? Will we be able to make stuff out of it? Will it become eBay fodder?

That was one bit to think about. But the other article is one that I think about on a regular basis. It was about publishing, and books.
The fact is--and we all know it--that books are going away. Maybe not today, but they will be gone. I get it. I accept it. Books will become collectors objects. Reading will not go away. Publishing and readers will evolve. I see the benefits of not printing books on paper, just as I see the benefit of losing paper money.
But I don't love paper money.
And I love books.

One of the writings I worked on today begins with, "Growing up, there were always books around us, lined up on shelves, with broad ones in stacks. None of them were dusty. We were readers."

But as books go away, so will the people who love them. Children will start out with electronic books.
The smell of the bindings and the crispness of the pages will fade just like home churned ice cream, horse carriages, jesters and parchment scrolls. They will be meaningless to those who didn't live with them.

All that said. Does the idea of the end of paper books affect your reading?



Benton Warren said...

I for one don't find it comfortable to read books on the computer. But that seems to be a hardware problam and maybe someday the experience of reading things from a screen will be even more enjoyable than reading a book ever was. Life comes at you from strange directions sometimes...

Syd said...

Lisa asked, "Does the idea of the end of paper books affect your reading?"

Buddha on a bicycle*, YES! Reading is, for me, not just about the words on the page, it's an entire multisensory experience. For example, Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale: not only did I thoroughly enjoy the story and the plot and the characters and the author's writing style, the book itself was a joy--the dust jacket had an almost satiny feel which contrasted in a lovely way with the embossing of the title and author's name; the marbleized endpapers complemented the colors and design of the dust jacket; the paper had a pleasing hand, and the typeface was simple enough to be easy to read yet ornamented enough to be visually interesting.

Not just a good read, in other words, but a beautifully designed read. On the other hand, I picked up a book at the Bodhi Tree on Melrose that, for months if not years afterward, smelled of their incense when I opened it.

I may have to transition to an e-reader at some point simply because they've stopped publishing books in paper form. I'm sure the technology will continue to improve to the point that will overcome some of my objections (screen brightness, pictures/illustrations--how can you get the full effect of pictures of recipes, for example, or of art-level photography, on a screen the size of a trade paperback?)...but I will likely not buy for the e-reader something I own in print. You will have to pry my bound books from my cold, dead fingers.

Other than that, I don't have much of an opinion... :)

*Stolen from Diane Duane's Dark Mirror.

spacedlaw said...

I am a paper addict.

Drinne said...

I have an Iphone with the kindle app. I did not buy the kindle but Apple puts sensory input into their usability design ( I am not a platform snob - I have mac, pc and linux).

The new macs with the glass touchpads feel a little like magic, slide your fingers in somatic patterns over smooth glass and wonders appear. So while I was not looking forward to electronic books I did try the Iphone version of the Kindle because it already felt good to use it. (Chose Karen Armstrong for the first real book, she always helps me understand things I might be resistant to).

I liked it because it still let me have the sensation of turning the page with my hands and the readability was above par, and it relates in physical pages. If apple makes a tablet, or other people hire hedonists to make their machinery, I think I will be OK.

But there will always be some paper books. the same way they declared LPs dead but now there is a new niche market for them with people who never needed an LP in their lives. It became associated with art.

That's how books used to be not too long ago. It's a breif spurt of history that we can each be surrounded by our personal libraries like wizards in their studies. Even the printing press allowed each family to have a few books instead of most families having none until the victorian era. Books and vinyl become art because they are physical and maintain their content in their very being.

It's why we know so much about victorian recreation, there is a surfeit of books. Future historians will know a great deal about the early 20th century and get more confused as time goes on because there are SO many books it becomes difficult to generalize about a society based on it's literature.

But there will always be paper, it will not sputter as much as vinyl because the people who make words and publish them are tactilely attached to the page.

But I'd like to thank the snake at Apple who created the sensual glass touchpads that let me know I will still be able to get a sense of contact reading electronically.

The WV is pertan - what you say in Main when something pertains to the discussion

Miss Bliss said...

I agree with Drinne, I don't think paper will disappear unless we lose the ability to make it for some reason I don't want to try and dream up because it would make me very sad. I too am a book lover and almost never sell or give my books away because usually I have enjoyed my experience with them and like to revisit that experience upon occasion. That said, I received a Kindle II as a gift and I love it. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT. Except for the little detail where you don't actually own the content. Ya know? So what I'm buying when I buy an eBook for the Kindle is the right to look at the content on the Kindle for a really long time. Which, for a certain type of reading, is just fine with me. But for books that are meaningful to me...I want to own them, I want them and their content to be mine and not be vulnerable to anyone being able to take them away from me without me being able to do something about it. Now that might mean that I purchase books in electronic format and then purchase them again in paper...yes I am spending twice for the same content but for me...that is worth it.

The Steampunk Marchioness said...

I'm comfortable enough with technology of all sorts that I can imagine enjoying reading an electronic book without getting my knickers in too much of a knot.

That said, Syd is dead on. Reading is a multi-sensory experience. There is something about the heft of a book, the feel of the pages, the way you lift the page in anticipation of turning it because you can't wait to find out what happens next...

And in the way olfaction tugs at memory like no other sense, can I ever forget the smell of the library stacks at college? Or the sense of getting wonderfully lost in the epic maze that was (is?) 57th Street Book store in Hyde Park, Chicago?

I like to think Drinne is right. There will always be a niche for paper books.

As I gaze around at my shelves of old friends who have traveled with me longer than most relationships, I'm glad we have made it this far together, even if they are very heavy.

Ed said...


I share the feeling with all previous comments. I'll have to adapt, in the sense I'm still mainly a paper reader (in more than one sense haha). I'm already adapting (iphone many reading apps, from books to comics. I have all of lovecraft always with me! How cool is that, hahaha =D), and I most definetly LOVe my paper books, and I must truly have the books that are meaningful to me. And I also agree that there always will be a niche for paper books (Hey, Capt. Picard has a nice collection).

But this question takes me back two years, when I lost my prejudice against audiobooks. Yes, I confess. Until recently, I saw audiobooks as something for people who don't like reading, lazy people, or, in what I thought to be the only good reason for their existence, for people with impaired sight.

Wow. How wrong I was.

It was a new world of delight to me, hearing lots of my favorite books in the voices of very skilled narrators (it's an art, indeed!), and sometimes, the authors are GREAT narrators (Mr. G is THE perfect exemple). It's a different kind of experience, and it's definitely not a substitute for reading it in paper (it's still #1 for me), but I really learned to enjoy a good audiobook. Maybe because I'm a very frequent listener, as I am a frequent reader.

Indeed. Life comes at you from strange directions. Some, quite incredible.

The money issue scares me a little.

K said...

When they come up with an e-reader that can be safely dropped in the bath, then I will believe paper might be under threat!

No, I know what you mean. But I will not be going over to e-books as my main source of reading. For a start, nobody is likely to steal my tatty paperbacks, and I'm not going to lose them to a software crash, or the DRM arrangements changing.

I'm an archivist and one of the things we are dealing with in the profession is the evanescence of born-digital records. Paper is remarkably durable, even bad paper. 0s and 1s are not. While there's a lot of 0s and 1s that are worth keeping, we are going to have to make a real effort to do it, at the records-creation stage - and it's the same for books, I would have thought.

I wonder how copyright libraries deal with e-books? I'll have to find out.

Arwenn said...

I would miss how in used books and library books you can sometimes find traces of prior readers. I love getting old books from the library and seeing the cards - evidence that people were holding this book generations before I was born. I also love finding a postcard or shopping list that was left behind as a bookmark.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Wow...I have had this conversation in person and on blogs sooo many times and it is so great to see it so elegantly laid out is also heartbreaking to me personally. Because I agree with you, books as we know them will one day be the thing of collectors. I think there will still be publishers that produce limited edition items, but that will not be the same thing. Not at all.

I am so glad that you mentioned scent, because both the scent of books and the tactile sensation of the having them in my hand are things that no kindle or computer or ipod or any other such device will replace. And for me those are as much a part of the reading experience as any other. And I like to have books around me, surrounding me, being a part of my decor.

Now perhaps I am lamenting something that won't really effect me. In my lifetime I'll probably always have books around, even if they become published less and less. What saddens me is that future generations will never know just what they are missing. They won't know the pleasure of sitting down on a rainy day, or a sunny day, and curling up in a comfortable position to read a book...and I mean truly read it, which involves turning pages, tacking a peek back at the cover every so often, checking out your bookmark placement whenever you take a break to see just how far you've come and how much of the book is left to read. You won't get any of that even with the most wonderful piece of technology.

Not having books in their current form MIGHT affect my reading. I certainly am not a fan now of reading novels on the computer and given the choice of things to do online I would probably be doing more web surfing or playing games or watching you tube than I would be reading the latest novel. I equate tech with those things, not with getting lost in a good book.

The reality is that not all progress is good, and in the world we live you often take the good with the bad. Hopefully, if books in their current format have a quicker demise than I believe they will, I'll find myself rich enough to collect these suddenly rare objects to my heart's content.

As for the other news in this post, I am excited about your larger sculpture that you are working on. I remember the one you worked on around this time of year a few years back that you posted progress on. It was fun to see your work materialize in a much larger format.

Beez said...

*laughing* This makes me remember- Berke Breathed said it for me once:

Pretty much my take too