Beautiful little paper miracles*

With the extra day in February and an attempt to ensure I blog at least once a month, I’m taking the opportunity to add to the discussion on the future of publishing and of the book. This is a really exciting time of exploration, experimentation  and connection, with thousands of voices interacting with this subject. With so many opinions out there and an insane research interest in this quickly evolving subject, I’ve found that I have my feet on either side of the digital vs traditional argument and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Although there are lots of articles out in the internet ether, the stance often plays devil’s advocate by introducing the proposition that the life of the traditionally printed book is at an end. Of course, a lot of media sources are going to speak in absolutes to provoke debate, however some do focus on the positives on the evolution of the e-book. I found the article “Are books and the internet about to merge?” by Damien Walter to be very interesting in the way he brings new light to the argument by focusing on the technological links between books and the internet as the electronic format is growing and the new way of defining books. “E-Books Can’t Burn” by Tim Parks also had an intriguing position, by exploring the nuances of the book experience.
However, it was the comments on both of these articles that interested me the most. With an engaged audience comes intelligent and at times protective response which opens the debate to much wider subjects such as copyright, generational gaps, the position of publishers and agents, the importance of storytelling, and books as objects.

For me, with my feet planted either side of the debate, what I’m most excited about is what is going beyond traditional AND e-books. The experiments into multimedia storytelling like the next digital project from Kate Pullinger, “Dual”, show us how literature is beginning to move beyond the constraints of traditional novels. On the other side, handmade original printed editions direct from authors and “desirable and collectable” editions from literary publishers are popping into the publishing news and circles, and both enthral me. For example, the new imprint at Bloomsbury, Bloomsbury Circus, will be shamelessly literary in unusually sized printed form, whilst Picador celebrates their 40th anniversary this year with beautiful black and white editions of classics new and old with additional resources and material for readers to explore the texts further.

I realise that the debate on traditional vs digital will rage on for some time, and whilst it does I’d love to hear what you think is the future of publishing and how are you engaging with the future possibilities for either and or both formats. Please leave a reply below!

*with thanks to Chris, a.k.a “nattybumpo” commenting on “Are books and the internet about to merge?“, for the inspiration. And to 47giraffes for post photograph!

2 thoughts on “Beautiful little paper miracles*

  1. I recently weighed up whether or not to buy an e-reader (yep, a Kindle) having handled one owned by a friend. I had been quite anti-e books, but the device, in its natty pink leather case, felt good in my hands, a little sexy even. So I decided to browse the virtual shelves of my local/global Amazon store, from the convenience of my cosy front room – I thought there must be hundreds of titles I would love to own.

    But, oh! What a disappointment! The little slabs of digital media and there standard font descriptions did not excite me, or scream “I am quality” (or even “I am trash and you will love me”) No, there was nothing, just homogenised book products and no nice print smell.

    My husband gave me proper books for Christmas – two of the Orange prize nominees and a departure from the normal smellies – the formats were different, the covers each had their own characteristics, I loved the feel of each in my hands, and their was a joy in stacking them alongside an unread Faulks from the summer and thinking, ” I must make time for me”. If I had piled them onto my device and stuck it in my bag, would I have got round to reading them? I’m not so sure. And I just don’t think you can beat that thrill of entering a bookshop or that seasonal holiday rummage at a beach-side market where you discover a second-hand book stall.

    Yes e-books look like the future, and I grant you they may be that, but for me, I’ll plant my joy in the past – with paper and that lovely smell and the feel of something real which has been made out of solidness. (but when I get the chance – I will read Little Women, downloaded for free on my smartphone – I just know I will)

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