Why a Book? (NOT The Missing Marx Brothers Movie)
It’s been a while since my last blog; the title for this was going to be “Pneumonia Sucks.” If you’ve had that misfortune, then you know that, at first, your functionality level peaks at “Law and Order” reruns, and eventually you work your way up to reading and thinking.
Luckily, I’ve just read a fascinating piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s by William Germano, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Sciences at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.
His title, “What Are Books Good For”, summarizes what he wrestles with. No big deal—just the very basic, practical AND philosophical question that anyone who reads has, on some level, been forced to confront. For those of us who toil in that vineyard, it’s become the core question of our work. It’s something our industry was forced to confront the moment that technology developed to the point of raising, even the possibility, of “alternate” forms of getting content to a reader.
Germano does a splendid job, I think, of making the connection between the physical/printed book that has been with us for so long and the newer ways for us to get our content. As he, rightfully, points out—newer technologies do not eradicate old ones. They overlap each other and morph so that they live alongside each other. I think this needs to be pointed out over and over for those who fear the end of the printed book. The tide will certainly continue to shift more towards non-print.
He also not only makes his personal arguments for the continuation of the book, but also lays out the need for a multiple definition of the word “book.” We need to stop thinking of it simply as the physical object we’ve always known, and accept that the definition encompasses that as well as the content within, which may be delivered and read in a different context.
In the beginning, the end, and everywhere in between the important thing is not the delivery mechanism. The keys are someone generating ideas/thoughts and being able to share them, hopefully generating other ideas.