Convenience comes at the cost of a grave loss: that of the book as a symbol, as an artifact of learning, poise, wisdom and moral fortitude. While this loss may seem trivial, a simple matter of changing times and customs, the symbols we are losing permeate society and have long been shaping the fortunes of publishing.
François Joseph de Kermadec, Publishing needs to build new symbols for the digital age at O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change
What do you think? As we watch the book transition into its fraught future, will the eventual scarcity of traditional volumes mean we can no longer recognize an image of that rectangular thing as a symbol of “learning, poise, wisdom and moral fortitude?” Or will the book as a symbol spring eternal?
Rest easy. With what poor wings I have, I am Unboxed today, fond Writer, to welcome in the spring for you, and with confidence. Take heart. Tra-la. Season’s greenings.
With some care and Campari overnight, I have set today’s post to move at 7:02 a.m. Eastern. That’s 1102 GMT. And that’s 1:02 p.m. atop Mount Olympus, kalomesimeri. It is the moment of the Vernal Equinox for this troubled year in the Northern Hemisphere.
A little punctuality is the least I could do, really. You feel better already, don’t you?
Of course, I’m a lowly, ham-handed follower of Hermes, the radiant son of Zeus and Maia. I’m all too good an example of the astrologically ordained contradictions with which he, like me, is zodiacally saddled. Hermes protects thieves as well as our poetry, commerce as well as our games. No wonder they put him in charge of the Gemini Department. Wait, am I coming or going?
But I’m never sorry when he turns up in nothing but a helmet and those winged sandals to deliver the spring’s flowers, are you? FTD got that right. On the front porch, these are the moments that separate your friends from your neighbors.
My bouquet is redolent with reassurance. I think our articulate colleague François Joseph de Kermadec is incorrect. I think I know why. I think I can pull this off.
First, let’s have a couple more lines from this wonderfully elegiac post. Not the same smart idiom of tech-excellence we usually find at O’Reilly Media, by the way—the good de Kermadec’s mercurial phrases elevate the discourse:
The talismanic value of books extends beyond the frame, as evidenced by our everyday vocabulary, photo galleries of beautiful libraries and our general tendency to keep fetishising the book in contemporary home decor. After decades of encasing “fine books” in glass-fronted cabinets, it could be argued that, for a sizable part of society, the book is first and foremost a symbol of status and a reassuring promise of humanity.
Yep verily, say we. But when de Karmadec comes to the crunch to tell us that publishing now is “visually nude, providing a needed product still, but deprived of the strong emotional triggers that make up much of its strength,” I think I feel a less chilly draft than he does. And not just because I live in the South.