Currently and probably for some time to come, there is strong debate over the idea that Digital Publishing will eventually take over Traditional Publishing. Starting my final year of University as a novice in the publishing debate left me with very little comment on these issues. I now feel that I am experienced enough to provide my thoughts on the subject.
First I think I should admit that to start with I disliked kindle and other types of e-readers. In saying this; the reason I did not like them is because the majority of the texts I read at the moment are for study. The navigation between introductions; notes on the text; not being able to annotate etc are all things that make a students life difficult with e-readers. As I have learnt more and more about publishing, my thoughts on e-readers and electronic material in general are beginning to be dispelled. Not in the sense that one is better than the other but that there is a need for both. The debate is constantly centered around the idea that to have Digital it will have to take over Traditional. My question is why?
The conflicting views started for me on the first Monday of term when I met with my dissertation tutor and found out exactly what I would be doing. I thought, this is great, I am going to publish something digitally that many people cannot easily gain access to. In a sense I am providing a scholarly service. Most people do not have the time to organise a private viewing in the backroom of a library somewhere; let alone time to be trained in the handling of old books. Most notably; why in a world where almost everything is available to people at the click of a button, would they want to do this? Therefore my justification is that I am providing a simple format for people to be able to view these rare materials instantly. Then I thought…..why do I need to justify why I want to do it? I am not travelling back to 1700 and telling Daniel Defoe that actually he should not have printed The True-Born Englishman: a Satyr on paper, I am just simply making his work more accessible in the modern world. It comes back once more to this common thought that only one format can exist.
Then on Tuesday a couple of things happened to me that sent me in the opposite direction. I walked down a beautiful road into Bath City Center to collect my books from Mr B’s Book Emporium (@mrbsemporium). I arrived, had a nice conversation with the people in the book shop and walked out with two bags containing thirty two books. What I am getting at is, it was a lovely experience; taking a nice walk in cool weather into a beautiful city and returning home with thirty two physical objects that I can feel, hold and smell(if you are into that…..many people are). I cannot get this experience from my Ipad. So here I was thinking electronic material is a shame really. Then that evening I attended the first seminar of my module: Authors Books and Readers in Early Modern England. In this seminar I actually cut and formed my book and even sowed by hand the binding. I thought what a wonderful experience, it would be such a shame to lose this. This was a similar feeling to the justification problem I encountered with the Digital world. These opposing thoughts need not take place in my head!
Alas you can see from the previous two paragraphs that I fell into the opposing forms of publishing trap. I kept viewing each form of publishing in opposition to the other. When actually now I have realised that there is no need for them to oppose each other, there is a need for both. The two different forms have their own benefits, I think it is proper that we embrace both types and let them co-exist for many years longer. As the author Robin Sloan (@robinsloan) said to one of my seminar groups on Skype: “it’s going to be a hybrid world for quite some time”. The printed book is needed for its physical form and its ease of use; its aesthetics make it attractive and much much more. My tutor Ian Gadd once suggested that the printed book is one of our greatest ever technologies, it is so good that no one even realises that it is a technology. The e-book or e-reader also has many uses: you can carry around countless books in a portable way, it has a special use for people with disabilities; it provides access to rare materials that are not always easy to access.
My concluding statement is that we need to start viewing both forms of Publishing in a positive way. They can co-exist side by side for century’s to come. I personally want to be part of the hybrid world that embraces the Digital and the Traditional. Do not fear the death of the book…..Fear the death of the reader.