The Future of the Book

Today I read a blog post by author Sam Harris titled The Future of the Book.

“Writers, artists, and public intellectuals are nearing some sort of precipice: Their audiences increasingly expect digital content to be free…Where publishing is concerned, the Internet is both midwife and executioner. It has never been easier to reach large numbers of readers, but these readers have never felt more entitled to be informed and entertained for free.”

While the article focuses largely on the financial and sales impact of the Internet on the publishing industry, it was the title that made me read it. I am intrigued that over my life time, the primary information medium of print – be it books, newspapers or magazines – has been overtaken by pixels on a screen. Digital is often cheaper to produce and more immediately accessible, but can’t be handled like a paper book.

In the past, the printed word in books has been culturally elevated to a cannon of societal truth, but as information changes so rapidly, the production time-frame of print is not longer compatible with the rate of knowledge. Books seem to be passing into decorative curiosity and a nostalgic artifact.

This is perhaps the ideal space for the artist to reclaim the book, when others turn to the digital space of blogs and Kindle. It is an opportunity to share and keep and also places this project in an interesting space: artists using the internet to birth a book.

Yolunda Hickman

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  1. #1 by Gabrielle Amodeo on October 12, 2011 - 7:59 pm

    I must confess that, for the purposes of travel, I have defected. I hang my head in shame, but I am a Kindle owner, and I will read my way around the globe without breaking the 20kg weight limit (at least not because of books), resorting to airport paperbacks, or suffering the wretch of having to leave a good book behind.

    Curiously, my partner observed that with the Kindle illustrations there’s this lovely anomaly that the illustrations look best when they’re from a hand-drawn source or old photographs (pre-digital photography). Something about how the screen works is much more sympathetic to the line than the pixel, and when you look at digital images on the Kindle they look dreadful.

    I really like that idea of artists using the Internet to give rise to a book, and reclaiming paper and print and binding in the looming face of pixels. But is there, inherent in it, the risk in the retrieval of the ‘analogue’ (particularly in artistic practices), that it exacerbates it as a curio implying that print/books do not have a place in ‘regular’ society – sorry that phrase is awful – making it a nostalgic pursuit for artists? Or does it have the potential to force it into a swift popularity, similar to drawing’s resurgence in the last 15 years, that will make it’s decline even sadder, as it will be its second decline? (not even art could save the poor, poor print…)

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