“The Future of the Book is the Blurb” – Marshall McLuhan

By: pattihenderson

May 16 2010

Category: Weekend Adventures

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As I write this “blurb” I’m struck how prophetic Marshall McLuhan was when he wrote this “McLuhanism” well over 40 years ago.  Yesterday I attended a mind-expanding day of delight at U of T, Book Camp 2010.  This was a day run by and dedicated to those of us who either love books, work with books, or in the case of this day, what the book is morphing into.  The working title for the day (or “un-conference”) was “Book Publishing is Going Digital, Now What?”  For those of us in the publishing industry this is a good question, and in a day filled with thoughtful discussions, debate and dialogue, I have returned home with a renewed sense of excitement in the future of sharing ideas through media (notice I didn’t say “book”…).  And yes, I will share with you shortly why today’s post features a candle…

For those of you reading this who were not fortunate enough to attend this year (hint…it is free and well worth the visit to U of T for the day – plan ahead for this time next year), I can share some of what I took in.  Such as an engaging session with Kobo VP, Michael Tamblyn who fed us ideas, did on the spot research into reading habits, and obviously understands how to ensure his session in a day packed with sessions sticks with his audience through weaving in wine-tasting along the way.  I give him style points for understanding his audience and I will now check out Kobo and suggest you do too. 

I also enjoyed a session by Neil Stewart (Anstey Book Binding) and Aurelie Collings (Folded and Gathered Press) called “Obscure Objects of Desire” promoted as “a session on all things paper, printed, bound and beautiful.”  At first glance, this session may seem out of step with the conference’s digital theme, but in fact, it provided the perfect backdrop for discussing the tangible advantages of the printed word while also expanding our understanding of what a book is and does, as well as its place in our future.  For any of you who love the touch, feel, and even smell of books, please visit Neal and Aurelie here and here.  I also owe Aurelie a big thank you for letting me take a picture of the “book-scented candle” (see above) that she brought to illustrate with great wit and sense of irony, what I might invest in someday soon when I break down and get my Ipad, and miss the smell of books…:)

I also enjoyed a session called “E-Books:  From Structure to Typography” led by Joe Clark (no, not that Joe Clark…) and Scott Boms.  I enjoyed it initially because Joe and Scott had a rogue Ipad in their hands, adding to my desire for it…but I really started to appreciate this session when Scott talked about his work with the Marshall McLuhan Estate, and their challenges to bring McLuhan’s printed works to the e-book stage.  Most of you know McLuhan’s now famous line “the medium is the message” and after learning what a challenge it is, both technically and philosophically, to translate his rich works into a digital reality, I am wondering what McLuhan would say about the Ipad, and how his ideas should best be represented in this medium.

On a final note, while researching McLuhan further for this post, I learned that he was quite the punster (instantly endearing him to me)…Did you know that his book was actually titled “The Medium is the Massage?”  Apparently this was a typo but he thought it was such a grand illustrative pun (a play on “mess age” and “mass age), that he insisted the typo stick.  If you enjoy stories like this one, please check out the official Marshall McLuhan site here.

Happy Sunday everyone!


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