|SCROLLS IN THE LIBRARY AT ALEXANDRIA|
A thought-provoking meme came my way this week: Ten Things that Will Disappear. It goes on to say that they’ll disappear “in our lifetimes”, but I think this one was originated by someone very, very young. It predicts the demise of, among other things, the post office, the check, the newspaper, and the land-line telephone. Well, that one went out years ago at our house.
Of the several things that really bear discussion, the one that concerns me most, in both senses of the word, is The Book. Fewer and fewer books are printed these days because ebooks are becoming more and more popular. This is what the meme says:
“You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book. And think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.”
Yes, this has to have been written by someone very, very young, and someone who, it seems to me, has had limited exposure to books and culture in general. Playing devil’s advocate here, I’d say the meme author was correct as far as most current fiction and other books that come out in paperback editions. The author was trying to condense the idea into a brief paragraph. To me, the paragraph misses something.
There will always be a market for the beautiful books: the coffee table books, the art, architecture and photography books, the luscious cook books, the oversized children’s books, the special editions and the specially bound books. So: I doubt the news of the demise of the book “within our lifetime”, as the meme declared. William Morris, founder of the Kelmscott Press, would be rolling in his grave. In the future, I’m fairly sure we’ll see many boutique book publishers join the ranks of boutique suppliers of items from craft beers to recreations of historical cuisines.
|PENGUIN DROP CAPS|
The people at Penguin Books, yes, those folks who gave us some of the first inexpensive paperbacks, have morphed a bit into printing some extraordinary books. Look at these: Penguin Drop Caps, Outside the Lines, and Deluxe Editions. This publisher, among several others, will insure that wonderful books will be printed.
Just before I was ready to post this piece to my blog, I came upon this article from the BBC “Did technology kill the book or give it new life” The article bears out my own ideas. See that?
If nothing else, books are beautiful and, even though their information can be digitized, they hold the wisdom and knowledge of our history in the forms contemporaneous with the writings: books handwritten or machine printed, scrolls, and tablets (from where did you think they borrowed that word for an e-book?). Books are part of what makes humans civilized. Books will always be – just be.