Play the man, Master Ridley…

In the latest episode of the Media Hacks podcast, Mitch Joel and the team debate the future of books as we know them and the publishing industry.

And that got me thinking about books and their relevance in this increasingly digital, on-demand world of ours…

Books are not meant to be interactive in the digital sense and yet they are fully-immersive experiences. And the interaction between a reader and a quality work of fiction (and even in some cases non-fiction) is more intimate than any interaction between you and a screen. You’re not separated from the author. You’re in direct contact physically with the information. But the main reason for this intimacy is that you are responsible for the quality of the experience. Because while the author is responsible for the narrative, it’s your own imagination that adds colour to the details…and nothing beats an experience of your own making.

There’s even something romantic about 2nd hand books (fiction and non-fiction) and the history they carry with them. Dedications, glosses, bent corners of pages…all of which are stories in their own right. Something you can’t get from a Kindle (as great as they are and yes I want one if only to store all my marketing books on and Santa I’ve been a good boy this year…).

And unlike the Kindle, the PC, the Xbox, the PSP (and so on) books don’t need batteries. They don’t need electricity. They work out of the box. No plug-ins. No upgrades. No compatibility issues. No programmed obsolescence. No bugs (except maybe silverfish). And that makes them great for storing information to be disseminated in places where batteries and electricity may not be widely available…

I’ll concede that with the advent of the green movement, books may face an uncertain future. In anything though, I imagine they’ll become collector’s items, where only the very best of the best make it to print and become status items… Or we’ll find a new “paper” that lasts and lasts and doesn’t promote slash-and-burn forestry tactics.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that a world without books is a world without a soul. As the German poet Heinrich Heine (1797 – 1856) once wrote, “Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.”

ADDENDUM: The title of this post is an extract from a quote by Bishop Hugh Latimore. The full version is:  “Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”  Latimore is reported to have said this to his friend Nicholas Ridley, as they were both about to be burned as heretics for their teachings and beliefs outside Balliol College, Oxford (16 October 1555).

The statement also quoted by a character in “Fahrenheit 451” – a book by Ray Bradbury about a dystopian future where books are illegal and we consume all our information via “wall-screens”…


3 thoughts on “Play the man, Master Ridley…

  1. Very true, nicely put.
    Only thing is that timber itself is a green product, provided it is sourced from a reliable point that conforms with standards set out by the FCS, ensuring that adequate replanting, and replenishing of the soil is undertaken.
    Just FYI.

    • Hi Kerrad
      Thanks for the comment, mate.

      It does raise the question though: is there perhaps a place further up the product line for a paper source that isn’t tree-based?

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I like this page soo much, i love it. it´s ve.y great of you of organizing such a great thing and letting other people join it.

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