Monday, January 09, 2006

January Horn Book

Subscribers should have the January/February issue of the Magazine by the end of this week; as usual, we've posted selected articles on our website. I thought the blog-reading kind of people might find illustrator Jean Gralley's article, "Liftoff: When Books Leave the Page," of particular interest, and the online version contains a link to a neat demo of how a digital picture book might work that Jean has put up on her own site.

7 comments:

shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing said...

What is the matter with you people? Why aren't you taling to Roger? Life is lonely at the top.

shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing said...

That was supposed to be talking not taling. Although, come to think of it, why aren't you taling to Roger either?

Andy Laties said...

I have no doubt the author is correct that technology of the sort she describes will soon be among us. I cannot view it with emotion -- pro or con.

When my children attended a Waldorf School, we had no computer in the house. Later, we had a fullscale multimedia computer and my kids became expert at complex real-time simulation games.

The children liked both options. They still read books actively even though they had internet access and CD-ROMs.

Now: I am professionally curious whether digital picturebooks will displace physical books in the way that music downloading is cutting into the sales of CDs. But I don't think this will happen: CDs and vinyl records have ALWAYS been "tech-heavy" systems. Edison had to "invent" the recording device. You can't engage physically with the optical tracking on a CD. You don't put it up to your ear and listen.

But physical books are DIRECTLY apprehended by the senses.

The author refers to pop-up books and die-cut books. What about board books and oversized books and minature book sets and flip books?

What about the fact that while books are cheap (or FREE, to library users), digital-ePaper reader-machines will either cost a fortune or go obsolete as frequently as cell-phones! (And will probably require subscription fees like audible.com.)

Books are partly furniture!

Welcome, digital picture-book illustrators: you who with ease produce what others labor over. I'll still hold craftsmanlike artmaking in highest regard.

Andy Laties
www.rebelbookseller.com

Roger Sutton said...

Hmmm. As Andy knows, many--most?--physical picture books these days are at least partially created digitally, and for some there is no non-digital medium employed whatsoever. Does such a book become less "craftsmanlike," or is it simply a question of different tools?

This has always been at the root of my problem with the fetish for the "original art" of a picture book. It's the book, mass-produced, that's the art--everything before is just a step in the creation.

Andy Laties said...

You populist, you.

Andy

Andy Laties said...

I shouldn't have ended my post with that dig about digital versus physical craftsmanship: you're right that the distinction at that level is meaningless. I was more interested in talking about the question of the future of the physical book given the undoubted impending arrival of the ePicturebook as a mass medium.

Here is a footnote (below) which I deleted from my book. This is my point: that the increasing incursion of technology into the experiential space now occupied by physical books has meaning which is completely different than the mere "fact" that "new technology is a-comin' soon". And I want to know what that deeper significance is. I don't know what this significance is, now. It's true that my own children seem to "do fine" in electronic environments. But I look at the wider culture, and I wonder about whether as Jane Healey suggests -- in the third or fourth quote below -- we're in the midst of a period of "bland collectivization" and are ripe for totalitarianism. It does seem like a stretch from ePicturebooks to such a place, but this is a continuum we're talking about.

Andy
(see below)

Page 33. The end of books? Thesis: “Publishers are facing a new kind of reader, one who absorbs information from multiple sources simultaneously. As we move from the ‘don’t bother me, I’m reading the newspaper’ generation to the ‘yeah, got it’ sound-bite generation, publishers will have to adapt to a multimedia culture bombarded with information but lacking in knowledge….As empowered members of an increasingly multitasking interactive generation that lives in electronic communities, audiences are expecting unprecedented form and delivery of content and services. Only time will tell if the traditional publishing companies are up to the challenge.”—Chuck Martin, “The Nine Dynamics of Future Publishing,” Blueprint to the Digital Economy: Creating Wealth in the Era of E-Business, Edited by Don Tapscott, Alex Lowy and David Ticoll (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998): 154-155.

The end of books? Antithesis: “It is interesting to note how often a technological development—such as Gutenberg’s—promotes rather than eliminates that which it is supposed to supersede, making us aware of old-fashioned virtues we might otherwise have either overlooked or dismissed as of negligible importance. In our day, computer technology and the proliferation of books on CD-ROM have not affected—as far as statistics show—the production and sale of books in their old-fashioned codex form. Those who see computer development as the devil incarnate (as Sven Birkerts portrays it in his dramatically titled Gutenberg Elegies) allow nostalgia to hold sway over experience. For example, 359,437 new books (not counting pamphlets, magazines and periodicals), were added in 1995 to the already vast collections of the Library of Congress.”—Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading (New York: Penguin, 1996): 135.

The end of books? Synthesis (and new Thesis): “In The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, Sven Birkerts warns that increasing multimedia experiences at the expense of written text risks ‘language erosion,’ decline of analytic and logical thought, ‘flattening of historical perspectives,’ and ‘the waning of the private self.’ Texts viewed as ‘difficult,’ predicts Birkerts, will increasingly be glossed over (which is, in fact, happening as students are both unwilling and unable to grasp the more subtle meanings or attend long enough to read them). As we forget or ignore the complexities of history’s lessons, a bland ‘electronic collectivization’ will render us ripe for political totalitarianism.”—Jane M. Healy, Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds—and What We Can Do About It (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998): 150. Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1994): 128-130.

New Antithesis: “In his book The Religion of Technology, [science historian David] Noble traces the interweaving of the technical arts with the millenarian spirit and shows that from the twelfth century on, technology has been perceived as a tool for precipitating the promised time of perfection. On the eve of the scientific revolution, Johann Andreae, Tommaso Campanella, Francis Bacon, and Thomas More each envisioned a man-made New Jerusalem—a fictitious city in which technology would play a key role. Andreae’s Christianopolis [1619], Campanella’s City of the Sun [1602], Bacon’s New Atlantis [1626], and More’s Utopia [1516] were all versions of idealized Christian communities notable for their use of technology. Today too, champions of cyberspace suggest that their technology will create a new utopia—a better, brighter, more ‘heavenly’ world for all. With contemporary cyber-utopianism, the…technology is digital rather than mechanical, but the dream remains the same.”—Margaret Wertheim, The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace (New York: Norton, 1999): 42-43. David Noble, The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention (New York: Knopf, 1997): 5.

All these, trumped by NEW SYNTHESIS: “Of man only the brain would remain, beautifully encased in a duroplast: a globe equipped with sockets, plugs and clasps….The brain case could be connected to any number of appendages, apparatuses, machines, vehicles….Then…transcepting would do away with crowds and congestion, the consequence of overpopulation. Channels of interbrain communication, whether by cable or radio, would make pointless all gatherings and get-togethers, excursions and journeys to attend conferences, and therefore all personal locomotion to whatever location, for every living being could avail itself of sensors and scanners situated over the whole expanse of human habitation….At this point I stopped and remarked that the authors of these papers were surely deranged. Trottelreiner replied coldly that I was a bit hasty in my judgments…the criterion of common sense was never applicable to the history of the human race.”—Stanislaw Lem, The Futurological Congress, Translated by Michael Kandel ([1971] New York: Continuum, 1974): 135-136.

jean said...

>>Books are partly furniture!<<

Oh, you mean coffee table books?

>>Welcome, digital picture-book illustrators: you who with ease produce what others labor over. I'll still hold craftsmanlike artmaking in highest regard.<<

There's a difference between creating digitally and creating traditionally. Ease is not the difference.