March 5th, 2007
the future of the book


i was in a restaurant last week and saw the sign above. the “room” had worn away, it looked almost as if someone had peeled it. and i thought ‘how wonderful’, a sign telling me to rest. i instantly thought of creating a bunch a stickers to that affect and posting them all over town. just a small reminder to take a breather.
i suppose that is what i am doing right now, though my life is full of too many practical things that needed doing, (which include fixing plumbing. i do not shy away from doing these things myself.) my hands currently smell unpleasantly of metal, and my hair damp from a dripping tap.
this weekend i put the internet away for a time, and focused on the real world. I say the “real world” because i do not consider this networked environment to be the stuff of real living. which involves smelling the earth and trees and fresh air, and sometimes other smells that are the product of our animal existence. i just finished the novel “Veronica” by Mary Gaitskill and she describes summer smells in New York (or any big city) perfectly, “It sent up a mighty stink to carry all the little smells that played in and out of it–flowers, dirt, cars, garbage, piss and food.”
you may have noticed that i am always in tune with the smells of a place. now i can add sounds to that, after my class with Pauline last season. two days ago i stopped over a sewer grate and listened to the dripping sounds for quite some time. i notice that i am much more able to hear changes in a sound, and connections to other sounds in the environment.
last week i saw a fascinating lecture by Bob Stein, director of the institute for the future of the book. while at first i found myself feeling protective and upset about this medium (book) that i love so much evolving (into a more interactive/all encompassing format, incorporating all mediums, but more specifically moving towards something more wiki based, where the readers have some interaction/influence with the piece), over the course of the evening I realized that this intense emotion is exactly the thing that gets my creative juices spewing in new directions. sometime during the night my fearful thoughts changed to excitement. excitement at the possibilities of experimenting with a new medium, not necessarily as a replacement but instead as a completely new medium altogether. as an artist i have a chance to ‘shape’ it in some way if i choose.
“Books may become like rivers, continuously moving.” ~Bob Stein
i did not sleep much that night and spent some of the next day reading and taking notes, and feeling new ideas flow in.
after reading the interview with Alan Kay who mentioned taking a historical look at technology, i was reminded of Jane Jacobs, who suggests in “the life and death of great american cities” that if you want to create a city that works, you must first take a long detailed look at how and what people do in/with a space. she recommends sitting at a busy street corner for hours at all times of the day and just observe. to quote marti guixe, a designer that I am fond of, “I’m interested in our habits, in the relationship between the body and our actual environment.” somewhere in here lies the solutions to what form the future books will take.
all of these things are roaming about my head these days.

Mar 5 2007
4:14 pm
Sabine writes:

The thought of no more books scares me. The fact that they don’t change, that they are permanently set in print for us to read and ponder, makes them so comforting. However, as you said, if there were a future sort of book that became an entirely different category of media, without replacing the book, that would be very interesting indeed. Almost like an interactive computer game? I’m looking at Bob Stein’s website, trying to figure out exactly what they mean… I think I’d like to explore this a little more. Thanks for posting this, it is very thought-provoking. :-) I see why you stayed up all night thinking about it.

Mar 5 2007
10:46 pm
Jay writes:

Where have you been all my life!?!?!
That sounds terribly exciting and romantic, doesn’t it?
But really, what a rich source of creativity you have here. Can I move in?
I love the things you’ve created. I mess around with my own stuff, and have attempted some of these projects – the difference being, you have real, raw talent. My eyes are so happy right now!

Mar 5 2007
11:56 pm
Brianna writes:

The thought of no more books scares me, too. Love that quote, though.

Mar 6 2007
8:29 am
m writes:

yes I don’t like the idea of a future without books but I do like a future with books, blogs, websites, and other media. Can’t they all live along side each other?

Mar 6 2007
10:05 am
Serena writes:

Truly interesting thoughts. Odd how near the beginning of your piece my heart started beating just a bit faster at the thought of a changed book and, by the end, I could sense the excitement at new possibilities.

Mar 6 2007
11:27 am
Jazz writes:

NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! I don’t want books to change! Their immutability is exactly what is brilliant about them. I don’t want to be able to add my input to them…
Of course, with the advent of the internet they said books would disappear within 10 years. Not so. At least not yet…
Totally off topic, I’ve been a reader of your blog for the longest time. Yesterday, I went to pick up the March/April copy of Somerset Studio and there you were. Congratulations! I loved the piece.

Mar 6 2007
12:09 pm
rama writes:

just writing “rest” is restful.

Mar 7 2007
9:16 am
Lindsay writes:

A friend once referred to the opening of a book as a one person performance. If a physical book had several covers that could be opened simultaneously, would it allow for a 2,3, or 4 person performance? It would give new meaning to “reading together.”

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1:27 pm
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Mar 8 2007
3:51 pm
shelley Noble writes:

I’ve also been experiencing a surge of inspiration lately too, Keri. Thank you for such thought provoking links.
You know, as you described your new process for creating new forms of books, with my typical inability to grapple with modern changes, I mis-read your excitement to be about new interactive formats for “coda” books themselves, rather than new technological iterations of them! Ha.
After visiting Mr. Stein’s site, I see better what you mean.

Mar 9 2007
12:58 pm
ccw writes:

Hi Keri, just popped back for visit after a while and i just seeing the products of your project.
Have you seen this? http://www.atelier-v.ch/index.htm
A sort of similar ring on ex-corporation or what you named “unbranding” – your “skin” examples are definitely more whimsical and welcoming! :)

Mar 10 2007
11:08 am
Marilyn writes:

So much to comment on here…love witnessing your ideas evolve (within the limits of what you share here). Sounds…I realize reading this that I can be quite good about tuning everything out…especially at work, where I easily fall into my own private world. Sometimes I realize people have been standing there saying my name over and over…and I’ve had no idea they were even there. I’m sure they must wonder, Where IS she? ;) Some good food for thought here.


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