Friday, February 18, 2011

books: the future, not the past

Tonight as part of our date night (what, are we married already? date night? that's something that old, married people do...) Braeden and I went to the closing reception for the University of Iowa Center for the Book exhibit at the Main Library on campus.

I had been told about it by my supervisor at work, Kristin, and it sounded interesting: there were 4-5 presentations by UICB colleagues in the Pecha Kucha style. The final presentation was done by Matt Brown (the head of the Center for the Book with whom I exchanged a series of stressful emails over Christmas break so I could register for just one class this semester) and it was the perfect response to the seemingly ever-present question: what is the future of books in this technological age? His answer? First of all, people have been asking this question for at least the last 20 years, and guess what? Books still exist. Secondly (and this was my favorite part of the answer), people asked the same question about oil painting when the camera came along: what will happen to oil painting now that we have the camera here to record life for us instead? What happened was the popularization of photography freed up oil painting to do much greater things than just portraits and landscapes: Salvador Dalí? Pablo Picasso? Vincent Van Gogh? Claude Monet? Heard of these guys? Yeah, all of their work was done after the flash-bang of photography, an event that was supposed to make painting a quaint thing of the past.

It will be the same for books. Now that we have computers and the internet to take care of things like phone directories and encyclopedic references, it will be easier to make books into works of art, beautiful things to look upon and to touch and to experience in a totally new and artistic way, not simply a utilitarian day-to-day, hum-drum functionality.

My friends, we are not living on the precipice of the death of the book, we are living in the future.

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