Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Time and tide waits for no one

Blechta again.

I've done a lot of thinking and a lot of reading over the past week about where publishing may be going. There have also been some terrific words said by my blog-mates on the subject too, not to mention one or two visitors.

So, facts and expert prognostications at my fingertips, I'd like to point out a few things.

It's been said (now, where the heck did I put that document so I can cite it?) that when new technology is introduced, it upsets the equilibrium for a time. Dire predictions are made, anxious folk look up at the skies and are afraid. What happens after? The new technology finds its place in the scheme of things, paradigms shift and settle again in new tracks and life goes on. Equilibrium returns.

The radio was going to end books. It changed them. Movies? Ditto? Television? Why that was going to wipe out books, radio and movies. What happened? They're all still around, somewhat diminished for sure, but people are still making money at all of them. Now television is threatened by the Internet. Things shift, times change and life goes on. Heck! The Internet seems to be threatening everything!

So I imagine it will be with electronic readers. When people are traveling, they'll probably have their reader with them. I may even do this. Who knows?

When we're at home, we might use the reader, but I suspect that books will also have their place. I've said elsewhere that there is a special warmth and comfort in holding a fine book. They can be works of art. I doubt if readers will ever attain that status. They are very, very good at holding mountains of information, but they have little soul to them.

I don't know about anyone else, but when I hold a book that has a history: it belonged to my grandfather, or my mother, or it was given to me by a dear friend, or the author signed it, the physicality of the article takes on a wholly different meaning. I enjoy going back to these old friends, not just for what they contain within their pages, but also for having a physical connection to the person or place I associate with it.

I suspect I'm not alone in this.

Maybe the future will hold a scene like this...

Kids sitting on a parent's lap as the parent holds a reader. "Show us the book Granddad bought for you from that old online place Amazon.com!"

The mom or dad scrolls through the index until they come to Uncle Wiggly and the Space Invaders. "Why kids, I remember the day Granddad downloaded this and put it right in this reader. I took it to my room and read it all the way through in one sitting. What fun!"

"People actually read in those days? You couldn't get a story downloaded directly into your brain? How boring!"

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For the month of February, I'm the writer-in-residence on openbooktoronto.com. If you get a chance, drop by. We're also carrying on a similar discussion there.

And for our friends outside of Canada, there's a lot of information on books being published in the Great White North. Check it out!

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