Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Book Endures

But, on the other hand, James Gleick in the NYT makes a stirring case for the (upmarket) survival of another dead tree technology, the book.
'What should an old-fashioned book publisher do with this gift? Forget about cost-cutting and the mass market. You won't win on quick distribution, and you won't win on price. Cyberspace has that covered.
'Go back to an old-fashioned idea: that a book, printed in ink on durable paper, acid-free for longevity, is a thing of beauty. Make it as well as you can. People want to cherish it.'
Ditch downmarket - it is the way of the future.


  1. Ditch downmarket - it is the way of the future.

    If downmarket is the way of the future, Bryan, then why would one ditch it?

  2. classics are just that, classics, you want to own them in order to be a part of them. Quality always sells.

  3. I still lament the passing of stone tablets, vellum, and papyrus.

    Reading a book should not merely be an intellectual activity, but a sensual cornucopia, driven by a vibrant interplay between the imagination and the deluge of tactility stimulating the somatosensory cortex. You should be able to feel what you're reading.

    Ultimately, the loss of the sacred in the human condition can be traced to the abandonment of the stone tablet as the primary medium for the transmission of understanding. The stone tablet provided a physical sensation of weight, and this sense of the gravitas of information was lost with the transition to papyrus, and then paper. The rise of digital media is merely the culmination of a pan-millennial process, in which the human condition has been transformed from the concrete to the abstract.

  4. i guess back when books were still rare, they must have had a hint of the sacred to them. i still feel a surge of pleasure & reassurance when, wandering through the shelves of Waterstone's, i see Schopenhauer or Beowulf or what have you.

    i think books can attain some of the substance of stone tablets just by enduring time, by surviving. It's one reason i prefer 2nd-hand books.

  5. You don't need to own them, four or five visits every year to Mainz works wonders, it has for us.

    As a large percentage of published books are unreadable then who says a major drop off in sales is a bad thing.

    Recently bought a copy of The Plan, apparently they print to customer order, not wholesaler, brilliant idea, 3 day delivery. Sell your shares in the publishing houses while you can. I assume everyone has already ditched Watersons and Borders.

  6. The problem with stone tablets is that they hit one's head awfully hard after falling from the top row of one's stoneshelf, and the cleaning lady complains of the heaving lifting involved in dusting them setting off lumbago. OTOH, if every novelist was forced to chisel each letter in stone, there would be very few books that continued for hundreds of pages beyond the point at which a reader could reasonably be expected to maintain an interest in them.

    I love books of the kind Bryan describes, but I wonder if there are more than about half a dozen people left in the country who'd be able to produce them. Care and craftsmanship don't seem to be terms very familiar to publishers these days.

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