As eBooks Grow, Will the Printed Book Become Art?

Book art by Lisa Occhipinti

Think back, if you can, to a time when you might have learned calligraphy. You know, that fancy formal type writing that went out with the advent of the typewriter. I know I loved writing that way, but only for special notes or letters. It took too much work. Printing or cursive was faster. Plus, calligraphy had taken on airs. It felt it was better than everyone else. It was art.

Will the printed book slide into this pretentious slot? I think it very well might.

Think about it. Printed books won’t vanish. In the near future, at least, they’ll be plentiful. A fellow writer of mine just had his backlist bought up by Amazon. I asked if they would create ebooks, and he said no. The backlist is all Westerns, and these are older readers who still prefer print.

Yet as the generations march on, much of the printed books may vanish. Leaving splendid coffee table tomes and specialty volumes to remain. These will become aesthetic icons.

Even flimsy paperbacks will be enthroned in museums. We love nothing better than the deification of pop culture. Think I’m spinning a yarn? It’s already happening.

Look at this art installation for the 2012 Olympics in London by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo. New and used books were stacked up in this shape of a fingerprint (the late Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, to be precise.)

Jan Reymond is another artist, who lives in the small Swiss village of Romainmôtier. He’s created multiple installation pieces where he suspends used books to create sculptures. Here he created a tree called, Le Thésarbre, in the courtyard of an abbey.

Finally Lisa Occhipinti is a mixed media artist who creates art projects out of books. Below is “Circulation” which binds together some rather beaten volumes.

You need look no further than your local Anthropologie store. Their window displays make copious used of old dusty books.

These may be the future of books. I certainly can’t see anyone preserving ebooks in the same way. Someday there might be artists who create art from the copious ereaders we use. But there’s something so tactile about a physical book. I’m fascinated by it and would gladly peruse art installations that showcase the tome.

Tim Kane

How to Burn Books in the Digital Age

I have to be honest with you. I have burned a book. It’s something I can never live down and it haunts me.

I was somewhere in my early teens. Either middle school or high school. I was a big D&D nut and loved watching The Evil Dead series. I purchased a copy of the Necronomicon. Now I realize how harmless this book is, but at the time, it seemed stunning and real to me. As well as to my dad.

He freaked. He’d had a bad experience with a Tarot deck years ago. For him, it was round two. He couldn’t take the book being in my house. He convinced me to dispose of it. I wish I had said no. I should have. No book deserves this. It’s what people with small minds do to ideas.

I was young. I capitulated.

The barbecue fired up. The book thrown on. I couldn’t watch the whole process. I left.

It seems like people will be burning books forever. Or will they? Recently, there have been a rash of book burnings for Fifty Shades of Grey. Do I think this book is worthy of great literary merit? Hardly. Yet it certainly doesn’t deserve burning. These people bought the book. Thus more money flows to EL James.

It got me thinking. Would we still have these burnings in a decade or so? With the advent of ebooks, we might face a time when there are no print versions of a book to burn. What then? Will people burn their Kindles and Nooks? How silly would that be?

Perhaps they would all press the delete button at the same time. Yeah, cause that would send a message. How anti-climactic.

Maybe future book Nazis will create viruses to attack and delete books. A clever concept, though it might be beyond the scope of their intelligence. Also, deleting other people’s books is tantamount to setting arson to a bookstore.

We all know that there will still be print books in some form in the future. After all, people still print out photos despite the plethora of ways to use the digital pictures. It brings up the idea that a clever author might be able to circumvent the mad book burners if he or she knows the book will be controversial. Future authors could simply print their book only as an ebook.

Although a truly brilliant author would want the book to be burned. There’s no better publicity than setting a book aflame. If it weren’t for the repulsiveness of the act, it’s be a great publicity stunt.

This writer is curious as to how people will take out their wrath on future books. I’m certain they will find a way. Hate always does.

Tim Kane

Why I Need Two Copies of Certain Books

Sometimes I need more than one copy of a book. Usually fiction. Almost always when it’s an amazing read.

AN E-READER ANNOTATION MINI-MANIFESTO

I start everything now as an ebook, though back in the days of long commutes, the audiobook ruled. When the narrative is crisp and alluring, I need to mark it up. Dissect it and see how it ticks. It’s the analytical mind in me. Sure, my Nook lets me highlight words and phrases, but it’s not the same. I need to dog ear pages. Scribble in the margins. Basically mess with it.

That’s when I purchase a second copy. I’ll zip around to spots I remember. My goal is almost always: “How did this writer pull this off?” Was it a subtle nuance of the narrator’s voice? Verb choice? Sentence length? I need to know. I circle and scribble all over the thing.

I recall once (and this will date me) when I had the notion to write a screenplay for The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells. This was about a year before the Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando version hit theaters (they beat me to the punch). I had taken a pencil (because this was a treasured version of the story) and went to work blocking scenes. Now I wish I hadn’t because I have plenty of erasing to do.

The one book I have in nearly every form is The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. I started with an audiobook. Then bought the paperback (to mark up for a college paper). Finally, I chanced upon a hard bound copy heavily discounted. All I need now is an ebook and my collection is complete.

Am I alone in this? Does anyone else out there snap up multiple copies of books?

Tim Kane

The Nook Makes Me A Better Reader

While attending a young adult workshop at the SDSU Writer’s Conference, I gleaned an interesting tidbit. Someone in the audience brought up the idea of a protagonist in his early twenties at college. Our presenter nixed it. College bound folk are inundated with textbooks and studies. Often, they don’t have time to read.

That was the case for me. College killed my reading instincts. Before that, I read like a fiend. Afterward, I hardly picked up a book. Magazines drew me in, mostly because of the brevity of the articles. I remember distinctly my first serious novel that I read form cover to cover: The Alientist.

I continued to write, yet my reading suffered. Finally audiobooks came to my rescue. I read, or listened, while commuting. This worked well, but I yearned for that actual visual experience. (Try writing down a clever quote from a spoken text. Not as easy as it seems.)

Then my wife purchased an iPad for my last birthday. I checked out the ebook options. There were limitless. Trouble was, the iPad as so heavy. (I have and iPad 1, but even the iPad 2 is weighty.) Meanwhile, my reading had picked up. I am addicted to several young adult series. My latest favorite is Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

Much like other YA books, this one is a tome. Reading it makes my arms hurt. I tend to read in bed with the book held above me. So my mind drifted back to ereaders. I checked the whole spectrum. I didn’t need all the fancy web-browsing and apps. (I have an iPad, after all). What I wanted was a basic ereader that was very light. Enter the Nook.

I adore this product. The eink is amazing. It reads just like my paper book. The buttons make page turning easy and my arms never grow tired. Finally, it’s created a renaissance in reading for me. Just as the iPod revitalized my love of music, so has the Nook spurned me to be a more voracious reader.

Long live the ereader.

Tim Kane

Will the Codex Lead to the Demise of our Precious Scrolls and Reading?

I’m sure you’ve all heard of this new invention: the folding book. Recently certain sects have developed this new format where, instead of our beautiful papyrus scroll, the text is scribbled onto tiny pages. One after the other. Plus, these people write in recto and verso, on both sides of the paper!

Personally, I love strolling through the library and choosing just the right scroll from the stacks. I know where to start reading and where to stop. The scroll is simple. You unroll as you read. Need to take a break? Then simply leave the scroll at the point you stopped.

You can’t do this with to codex. Instead you need some sort of tool to mark your position. Additionally, readers can skip around the text, going from the middle to the start and then to the end. Insanity. The author did not intend for that sort of haphazard reading. You might as well cut up scrolls and toss them on the floor.

Obviously, reading will decline. Scholars shall not tolerate these hard bound, page flipping codices. Our precious knowledge, stored up for centuries on scrolls, will slip away. Readers attention will decrease, tempted as they are by the ability to skip to the end of the story.

I say we do whatever we can to halt the codex in its tracks. Bring back fine papyrus scroll work—the only method to publish a scholarly work.

Think this is absurd? Look closely at what’s happening today with books. Manuscripts have survived from scrolls, to codices, to paper books. Words are ideas that cannot die, no matter the publication format.

Tim Kane