By Salina Christmas
Five Minutes Interview at London Design Festival: “How we store and regulate information plays a huge role in what kind of society we wish to live in”. Kevin Biderman, lecturer and film maker, once told us that it took two centuries for the book to arrive in its final form, and it is likely that the ebook will take time to ‘settle’ on a definite format. Biderman is also researching on the e-book for his MSc in Digital Anthropology at University College London.
Q. What do you think will become of books?
I don’t think its possible for anyone to say what will become of books. History has shown us that useful mediums rarely vanish from sight completely. One could make the comparison with vinyl and physical books and claim that soon printed books will become a niche item of a particular subculture. However the book really isn’t just one thing. There are photobooks, novels, school books, coffeetable books, medical books – all of these serve an extremely different purpose. We may read some books for entertainment and use some for work or learning. We may use some to read text and others to view images. The ebook market seems to separate these uses clearly. No one would claim the Kindle should be used for viewing a photobook and so far very few people really use the ipad to read novels.
I definitely think digitized text makes researching much easier, however I can’t see that the ebook will every fully replace the photo or artist book. I also think that there’s a whole realm of signed books and first editions that can’t be digitized and that certain people like showing off physical items in their homes.
Most importantly, though, I think how we store and regulate information plays a huge role in what kind of society we wish to live in. At a time when education is becoming highly commercialized and driven by economics we need to think about what information we wish to pass down for free and how. Some publishers are refusing to sell ebooks to libraries and others are only doing so with tight regulations. If libraries are the last place in which information can be freely obtained then what becomes of books and ebooks has massive political consequences.
Q. What will audience learn from the event?
The audience will get to hear a variety of creative producers kick around a number of questions, such as: How one can define a ‘book’ and how does this change with the immaterial nature of the ebook? How has storytelling changed with the introduction of digital formats? What new and exciting ways can stories be told? What opportunities are there for creative producers to communicate through new means? What controls are put on digital files which regulate their use? How far can you ‘own’ an ebook?
Q. What is your favourite book? By author/photographer, design or publisher?
When I was five I used to blabber on about nothing for hours on end (not much has changed there). But one day my dad decided to write what I was saying and have me illustrate it with my own drawings. I still have the book now and it’s a crazy, surrealist story about spaceships, giant toothbrushes and people marrying their toes. In and of itself I would not claim its any work of Shakespeare, but to me it symbolizes the creative play that my parents allowed me to have and a time when my mind wasn’t limited by the preconceived ideas of adulthood. When I leaf through it I see the spaghetti stains left from younger years and the strong and definite lines made by a child’s hand. I guess it’s not really about the story or the crafting but about the memories it brings up.
Q. What was the last book you read? Or published!
I was in Wales a week ago and the house I was staying in had a copy of Barack Obama’s book “Dreams of my Father”. I probably would never have read it otherwise as the hype of best sellers often puts me off. However, it really was an excellent musing on race, class and the American Dream. Too bad then these kind of issues can never be fully discussed in his present position.
Q. Finally: Kindle, PDF, HTML – or print?
Kindle for travel
PDF for work
HTML for wide spread communication
Print for when the solar flares knock out all the electricity
On 17 September 2011, Sojournposse will be presenting a new event for The London Design Festival 2011, “Whatever is to become of books?” at the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, Wilkins Building, UCL Main Campus, Gower Street, WC1E 6BT. Tubes: Euston. Euston Square. Warren Street. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. £1 of each ticket sale from this non-profit event will go towards a photobook app project which supports the Japan Red Cross tsunami drive. Please follow our updates on Twitter at @sojournposseF8, following the hashtags #LDF11 and #storyofbooks. We are also on Facebook and Google+.