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C08P09 – How you treat your guests

C08P09 – How you treat your guests published on 20 Comments on C08P09 – How you treat your guests

For once, Tama’s big mouth is coming in handy. If these folks at the bottom of the stairs look familiar, it’s because you’ve previously met the Council of Elders and Vena in the last chapter.

Lee of Little Guardians recently shared a very interesting Key Note speech by Niel Gaiman on digital media, books, and the future of publishing. I’ve included the video below, but it definitely gave me a lot to think about. I love books. The feel, smell, and weight of them make me happy. I read books with an aggressive enthusiasm that eventually renders them battle-hardened warriors, their stained, wrinkled, and folded pages held together with scotch tape. My copy of my favorite book, The Deed of Paksenarion by Elizabeth Moon, has been taped back together no less than four times. I keep thinking about getting a new one, but when I see a crisp, clean, untouched version on the shelf at the bookstore, it just seems so wrong. That book was battered when it was handed down to me, and it has seen its fair share of travel, adventure, and handling since. It has taken on a totem-like quality, as though it’s a priceless relic that has somehow withstood the trials of time.

Still, I wonder if I am a dying breed. After all, there are many advantages to the Kindle. It’s lightweight, perfect for travel. When on airplanes, my carry-on bag heavy with the four or five books I’ve tried to squirrel away, I can’t help but look a little enviously at my Kindle-bearing neighbors, with hundreds of novels effortlessly transported in their sleek devices. I’ve heard many older readers celebrate the zoom function, free from the days where bright lights and much squinting were required to decipher type too small for aging eyes.

Is the book, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, a shark – something that was so good at being itself that nothing in nature has improved upon it in hundreds of thousands of years? Or are these glue-bound papers an endangered species, slowly dying out as their territory shrinks in a changing world?

20 Comments

Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

I think books will always be around in a physical form, just not necessarily paper. I’m amongst those that love to have something with pages to turn rather than a button to push myself and while I could see myself using a kindle or nook or w/e for long trips, I don’t think I’d ever be able to do away with having a bookshelf full of memories.
If anything I’d say that they’ll do what they’ve already done once, shift their medium around a bit. The written word has gone from clay, to papyrus, to wood (those old school ‘illuminated manuscripts’ from the middle ages), to paper. What’s to stop us from finding some other material that survives as well as clay but has less weight than paper? If sci-fi stuff really does lend itself to some amount of setting up future developments then maybe we’ll get something like in the universe of Dune where books are written on some kinda fancy crystal. It’d certainly be cool.

It does make one wonder if, prior to the existence of the book, if previous cultures with the written word would have struggled to accept its use. “Why would you want to put it on paper? Stone tablets are solid – permanent – if you get paper wet, it falls apart! Portable, you say? Fhah! Hardly anyone in the world can read. What need do we have for material that is portable?”

This is a question I’ve asked to a number of figures in the new media publishing industry. The general consensus seems to be this: As long as print books require no batteries and are still usable after getting wet, they will continue to exist alongside New Things that, while convenient and fancy, fail to meet those criteria. Time will tell if this prediction is accurate or not, but so far every Kindle owner I know (myself included) still goes and buys print versions of any book they really love.

Also YEAH TAMA YOU TELL ‘EM.

Have I mentioned that I love the direction this part of the story has taken? XD Seriously, Leylines started out with a bang on page 1 and hasn’t slowed down or ceased to keep me intrigued ever since. And after reaching the village things have just EXPLODED IN COOL WAYS.

I’m glad you like the direction the story has gone, Sorrel! I’m glad we’ve had a little time to stay in one place and soak in the culture more. Or at least, long enough for it to get hostile. 🙂

Battery life and endurance seem to be two major points in the book’s favor, but I can’t see that being enough to hold a lead for long. Waterproofing is probably not that difficult, and I imagine they’re working tirelessly at making the battery life so long that most people will no longer care about the occasional need to charge.

Yay! Tama’s big mouth has proven useful throughout this entire arc.

Never, never, never understand why this is phrased as an either/or question. I consume a lot of books. I read and reread heavily. The choice has become “read the same handful of books over and over again because carrying around my entire collection was ridiculous” or “buy a device which allows me not only to get almost everything that I already own in portable form but also access anything I would ever want to read when I want to read it, instead of having to go to the bookstore and support a ridiculous industry that I’m not really sure I like anymore.” But that doesn’t mean I don’t like the books I still have. Those books have memories in them. I remember what I was doing, what I was thinking, what I was listening to at the time I read them. The books I hang on to have more weight, but that weight is made of my life.

It does seem like books and digital readers will move towards having different purposes. For me, there’s a lot of attraction in a digital reader for long trips, or university text books. Any place where the content is intended for limited-term consumption, and the physical object is a hindrance rather than a benefit. However, for the storage of memories, a book seems far superior because its contents are unchanging, while the object itself wears. Something about that permanence/impermanence seems to work better with how the human mind relates to memory.

Time to speechify, Tama! Summon your inner Picard!

re: the death of books. As Ben mentioned, how we store information has changed quite a bit since we first started writing. I think we’re going through such a change now – from physical to digital. I do believe that the physical book is nearing the end of its life, though not necessarily its usefulness. And, as we have let go of clay tablets and papyrus scrolls, we’ll let go of the book in the same manner – with no regrets.

That said, I get wary when people either moan about (or crow about) the death of books. Both sides seem to think it is imminent, as though tomorrow or next year we’ll learn that all the printers have closed. I don’t think the death of the book is that close.

I think, especially in our current age, when new and improved devices are on the market every season, we forget just how long it takes for fundamental changes in society to occur. The first telephone appeared in 1876, but by 1918, telegraphs were still in wide use. We’ve had industrial robots since the 1950s, but even today, many factories (and sweatshops) employ human laborers despite the fact that robots are more reliable. (Personally, I think the rise of the robot and the end of slavery in all its forms goes hand in hand – we will not get the latter until we embrace the former wholeheartedly).

Similarly, physical books will remain for some time. By the time the changeover finally happens, I expect that ebooks and their readers will have matured, and be as reliable if not more so than their physical counterparts. I doubt you and I will live to see the end of the book. Our grandchildren however, will.

You make an excellent point about the rate at which books will “die.” It will probably be a very slow process, and they may never die out completely. At the very least, it is unlikely to matter much to me, and I will definitely pass on the tradition of books, should I have children. I find that a very comforting idea, actually. 🙂

My husband and I talk about this a lot- I have a kindle, as it was a gift for Christmas one year, and it has been useful for unexpected hospital stays and long trips, but I don’t LOVE my kindle. I do, however, love my books. I have them in/on every room, every closet and shelf and flat (or semi flat) surface available. There is something special about a physical book, and I intend to pass that on to my son, who already enjoys being read to. So…at least if they DO go away, we’ll have a hold out in the next generation.

To answer your question from nearly a week ago…(sorry, got sidetracked with the sleep training thing) What I missed most about my webcomic to be has been the freedom and the ability to see what’s in my head come to life on paper. I’m not a terrible artist or anything, but I have a long way to go. Still, seeing improvements is pretty darn awesome on a low day.

I think the best thing to focus on in art & writing is improvement. We’ll never be perfect, but we can get better!

Having heard people’s thoughts on this topic, I’m now leaning towards the idea that books and digital readers will probably co-exist, but with very different purposes. Digital formats are great to convey content and information. Books are better to contain something greater than just the words, but also the memories and feelings associated with their contents.

First, as I tweeted, I love that last panel. Don’t mess with the old ladies! I actually like the one on the right who looks timid but I can hear her saying, “Yes, I’m very sorry, please forgive me, but you are *not* going to treat our guests and priestess like that.”

As for books, I used to have a collection I really loved and was proud of, but because we move so much, I began to feel like the books owned me and not the other way around. 95% of my fiction books and 98% of my comic collection went to the local library. I miss the physical books, but I don’t miss packing, moving, and unpacking them over and over and over (not to mention the 7 wide Ikea Billy shelves needed to fit them).

The weight issue is definitely a problem. Neil put it really well with the idea that BOOKS are portable, but LIBRARIES are not. And for people that love reading, it’s hard to avoid growing a personal library. We go through quite the cycle these days of a periodic book purge, where we’ll collect books that didn’t grab us much and take them to the local used book store. It helps keep the library from getting too big…except for my ever-expanding graphic novel collection. 😉

Well, at least everyone in the tribe knows what’s going on.

I think books are going to go the way of special editions and collector’s items; kind of like how people still by records even though we have mp3 players. People who want quantity are going to go digital because it is easier. However, you can’t get that embossed leather, visible ink, smooth paper feeling with a Kindle the way you can get it with a book. Also, paper is way easier on my eyes. One of my favorite books to read is my copy of Paradise Lost with all the classic engravings in it. That just wouldn’t work as well as a digital edition. What I don’t like though, is paper-backs, they fell like they’re going to fall apart. I like hard-covers, they fell solid.

What’s interesting is that I prefer digital comics to print ones. The minute everything becomes text though… I want a book.

I recently got several leather-bound books of some of the classic stories that were put together. Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, etc. There’s definitely something important and special to that texture, smell, color, and look. I love just running my hands across the cover, enjoying the embossed gold lettering and the feel of the leather. It adds a whole new dimension to the experience of reading the stories. With books like that, publishers are already trying to capitalize on the collector item mentality that you pointed out!

Literary material in a physical form, from base advertising to grand time spanning literary works, will always have a place in the world. Some will choose it for its perceived permanence. In some situations it will be cheaper. The anonymity and reduced traceability of clandestinely produced subversive literature will always be an option in a world where the tracing of electronic statements is only steps behind those hiding from the trackers.

That’s a really fascinating perspective that I’ve never heard before in this kind of discussion! What an excellent point! Particularly as privacy becomes more difficult to maintain (whether by choice or by legislation) the only things that become untraceable by electronic means are physical objects that can be traded. At most, the original purchase can be recorded by receipt, but if paid for in cash, no identifying information would be available. Let alone if the book was purchased used, or passed on. What an interesting idea! Thank you very much for sharing!

When I was bought my Kindle for Christmas, I was extremely resistant. To me, nothing could replace a book. A book has smell and texture. Now I use it all the time and I realise that is has a lot of advantages. However, I still enjoy reading from books. And I doubt the book will ever be completely replaced.

You are not a dying breed. The sense of smell is a key part of retrieving memory; a paper book has accumulated many smells over its lifetime, and when you read it, all those smells become potential triggers for the memory. An electronic device also has smells, of course, but with so many things associated with the one smell I doubt it works as well.

Kindles are GREAT for travel, especially when you read as fast as I do – for me it’s not three or four, it’s usually at least a dozen, plus sketchbooks. But if I’m anywhere near home, I prefer the physical version.

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