Tag Archives: future

A discovery.

29 Jan

Just now my roommate-for-the-weekend informed me that both Superman and Batman’s mothers were named Martha.

It’s a shame that I currently have no plans to have children. Because maybe he/she would save publishing.

Thinking about the Centuries

19 Oct

One of my favorite books is Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. I’ve read it many times, but the first time, I borrowed it from a friend in the third grade. She had a hardcover edition that was oversized. The cover shows us Mary in a yellow coat looking over her shoulder while pulling back a wall of ivy. I remember resting it on my lap while I read it. It had heft and weight and smelled of paper and ink and a little of my friend’s house. Even now, though I don’t have a copy of that exact edition, it’s part of how the story lives in my mind whenever I think of it or reread it.

And I thought of that reading experience this weekend after walking through some of the exhibits at the Morgan Library. The museum has a fantastic, if small, exhibit on Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, which includes original art and handwritten original manuscripts. (Undeniably amazing.) But it also has a Gutenberg Bible, letters and original manuscript pages from the likes of Dickens, Eliot, and Hemingway, and a number of illuminated prayer books and bibles. At the end of the summer, I also went to an illuminated manuscript exhibit at the Met which blew my mind a little bit.

Standing in front of a book that’s a thousand years old–a thousand years old–with an eReader and a blackberry in my bag made my brain want to implode. That’s a millenia of ways to read all within a few square feet. And those centuries-old books are so full of craft. People spent years and years perfecting their skills to make those books. The calligraphy, the artwork, the bookbinding, papermaking . . . it’s a work of art. One that you can tell a person, or many people, put care and attention and love into. All books are works of art, even today. Care goes into the choosing of typeface, the layout, design, presentation. Every single detail is taken into account.

The lack of physical presence is one of my worries about ebooks. And that’s not to say that I don’t like ebooks, or digital books, or whatever is currently developing. I think it’s exciting and interesting and part of the future of reading. But have we figured out the craft of creating them yet? Right now, they seem more about convenience and availability, not design or art. A good story is a good story no matter how it’s presented, but a good package makes the reading experience even better. None of the digital readers are what I’d call beautiful yet. (Ok, maybe the iPhone is the exception here.) But I think we’ll get there, so that reading a digital book has the same physical presence, evokes the same sensory memory that reading The Secret Garden–and so many other books–has always had for me.

A-twitter

17 Mar

Over the weekend, I became fascinated by the reactions to the panel on book publishing at South by Southwest. It seems to have caused quite the uproar. Here are a few of the reactions that caught my eye:

http://www.williamaicher.com/2009/03/16/really-new-think-for-old-publishers/
http://yodiwan.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/the-art-of-the-conversation-a-la-sxsw/
http://booksquare.com/new-think-not-so-much/
http://medialoper.com/hot-topics/print/traditional-publishers-crash-and-burn-at-sxsw/

They all bring up interesting and valuable points. Yet, everything seems to focus more on the marketing and selling of the books, rather than their creation. Obviously marketing and selling are important, and I’m interested in both of those things. But frankly, what I’d love to hear and talk more about is how finding and creating stories is evolving. Yes, the new media is connecting books and authors and readers, which is essentially the business of publishing, and we need to explore it more and never stop exploring and pushing boundaries.

But how do editors and authors use all of this new available stuff before there’s a finished product? After all, editors aren’t gatekeepers. Ok, sure, we have to say “no” to things, but that isn’t what we like doing. We like saying yes. We like finding an author, a voice, a story that completely blows us away. I want to be able to help give kids and teens stories that help them live, and think, and cope, and laugh, and have opinions, and make choices. I want to find writers who have meaningful things to say and to help them say it and put it out in the world in the best possible way. I want to help them make their ideas and words shine. I want to read good books. Whatever formats “book” comes to mean. That’s why I wanted to be an editor, and why I love being one, and I think that passion and a critical eye are always going to be valuable commodities.

The stories that I find sparkling and brilliant might not be the same ones another editor is attracted to. And I might not connect with one that another editor finds irresistible. But we’re all working to get the stories we believe in out there, because there are so many different readers in the world. Are new media tools best used by us to find the writers we connect with, too, then?

The conversations about “new think” have mostly revolved around adult book publishing, but I’d love to see more about children’s and YA publishing. After all, that audience is the one that’s truly going to bring in the next era of reading, aren’t they?

For Provoking the Thoughts

18 Sep

I’m off to North Carolina to speak at an SCBWI conference, but here are two articles that have had my gears turning this week.

A sort of alarmist and gloom-and-doomy article about The End of publishing from New York Magazine.

And another look toward the future of media, but this time in roundtable fashion.

Literacy vs. the Internet vs. Books vs. Kids

27 Jul

An interesting article on literacy, the internet, and child/teen readers in the NYTimes today. It’s a tricky debate–whether reading online is as beneficial as reading a book, whether it’s helping or hindering kids.

Obviously, I think that reading books is vital. But that belief doesn’t mean that I think online reading is detrimental. It’s different. I found myself a little irked by one quote in the article:

“Learning is not to be found on a printout,” David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, said in a commencement address at Boston College in May. “It’s not on call at the touch of the finger. Learning is acquired mainly from books, and most readily from great books.”

That seems an extremely elitist position to take. After all, I read this article online. (Okay, yes, I’ll be printing it out to save, too.) Lots of learning is acquired from books. But much of the learning I did in college was from xeroxed articles or printouts from online journals. And I’m sure that current students are relying on those means even more than I did. We can read thought-provoking arguments, debates, ideas, stories in any form. We learn if we take the time to digest and mull over them. And if we can talk them over with other people. What the internet hinders is the time to digest and absorb what we read online. It’s so easy to click onto the next thing, or to become distracted: it’s your turn in Scrabulous! there’s another interesting article! ooooh, there’s a new post on your favorite blog! a friend is im-ing you! But what the internet helps is finding more people to discuss and debate the ideas with. Ultimately, isn’t the internet a tool, and we can use it how we want to? We can’t really blame it for kids reading or not reading books. It may not be the problem, but how we think of it could be.

It did worry me, though, that the teenage girl in the article said she wanted to major in English and be published someday, but didn’t see the point of reading books. The best advice that can be given to aspiring writers is to read, read, read, so they can see how other people are doing it and what works or doesn’t work.

This article, too, talked about what kids read during their leisure time, but in the same breath about testing scores. So are they really concerned with the leisure time reading? I mean, I’m a grown-up, avid reader, former English major, and editor, and when I read in my leisure time, it’s to be swept away by a story.

Also, I was caught by the line about the internet having no beginning or end. Does that make the internet God?

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