Thursday, January 26, 2012

Can books exist only in print media?

I have thought a lot about the question of whether books can only exist in paper-printed media. This is an important question as Sara Lloyd reflects in "A book publisher's manifesto for the 21st century." 

I've always felt a relationship with books - a connection that was real between me and the printed words on the paper.  I have fond memories of going to the library as a child - I lived in a small town and didn't have to be taken by my parents. I found my own way there. The idea of writing my own book has been a deeply held goal of mine for many years. 

 This past Christmas I got my first e-reader and I am enjoying it, despite the fact I really do enjoy the feel of a 'real' book in my hands. My use of the adjective 'real' suggests the book isn't real if it is on the e-reader - I'm not sure that is correct.  I think the 'book' can still exist online.

The idea that I could publish a book online without having to find a publisher to accept my effort is appealing, although I believe that publishers offer invaluable services like professional editors (every writer needs an editor) and marketing - services that many writer's are happy to accept.

Still, I am concerned about the idea of losing the printed version of the book.  And here's why.

Books are a reflection of our society and our culture.  They also are a record of our history. If we want to preserve that, if we want to leave a history of our time for future generations, I think it needs to be in print.  Technology changes.  What if the Dead Sea Scrolls were left on a Memex (Bush - As We May Think p. 44), imagining such a machine could be created in that time,  would we be able to read them today? 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry for the comment fail (above). I'll try again:
    Kim, when you say that books are a reflection of society and culture, it reminds me of Jenisch's article, when he wrote: "The history of the book, in short, is social and cultural history that makes use of the study of books, and of their making, selling, buying, and reading, to study society" (p. 231).
    When the history of the book is looked at in this way - as a means to study society - I think it will blend into the history of subsequent (new media). I like the idea of using any medium - old or new - to study society, as it makes us ask "why do people use this medium" and "what aspect of this society makes this a meaningful medium"? (For those of us in the MACT program, this could easily lead into a Winston discussion!)