Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nothing Grows in Consumption Gap

20100818 typecast pt1
20100818 typecast pt2
From my 1943 Hemes Baby
Hermes Baby, c 1943


deek said...

It is sad, but...

I travel both paths. I have times where I love my "stuff" and others when I want to really be a minimalist.

I love the act of reading and writing. I sometimes love the convenience of accessing a page, an article or a book out of thin air and reading it right when I want and then let it disappear when I am done with it. Sometimes I love to sit in bed with a book in my hands. Feeling the texture, turning the page, resting the spine on my body.

I love to be able to write on a noisily clacking typewriter, or write in a notebook, memo pad or looseleaf paper with a pencil, pen or marker. Other times I love being able to jot down notes on my smartphone, a laptop, AlphaSmart of DS XL...

If I gave up everything, I would still be happy. Happy to produce content or take it in by whatever means I can. I could find myself very happy going to libraries and bookstores and doing all my reading on-site, for free.

If I gave up everything, eventually I would want the convenience of having a few things close by. And those few things close by would grow into more things and eventually, I would question why I have so much clutter and then want to parse down to the minimum.

And then I think, regardless of the medium, its the content that is important to me. Its sad when a content distributor goes out of business, because those are real people losing a livelihood...but, if the stories are still readable, accessible and available, then they are still alive, regardless how many books get shoveled into a flatbed.

Enjoyable post that really has me torn. I feel like I want to do something about this, but I also feel privileged to be in a world where access is prioritized above content and I am charged with finding my own treasures in the vast sea.

Anonymous said...

The remaining indie bookstore just closed here as well. I'm glad I wasn't anywhere near it in the couple of days following, as just reading about the shovel-men made the bottom fall off my heart.

Mike Speegle said...

On the one hand, I must agree that the tactile sensation of a book in one's hands, and the immediacy of a physical object are far superior to brightly glowing liquid crystals.

On the other hand, as an aspiring author, I'd not likely turn my nose up an any media format that a publisher chose to shoehorn my work into. After all, I'd rather see a book deleted from a hard drive than shoveled into a dumpster.

Of course, there are other considerations to be taken into account when taking sides in the physical vs. virtual conflict, the least of which may just be romance.

Raigne said...

I can understand the sadness at seeing unwanted books in the trash. I refuse to toss any of mine, even if I'll never read them again. Including all my picture books from when I was little.

But the truth is that happens every day. Books unsold by big box book stores are stripped of their covers and pulped.

I'd be more concerned if they weren't recycled than that they weren't bought. As for the indie book store, I suppose that's the nature of capitalism. Especially right now. I enjoy my books, but ebooks are cheaper. Even cheaper than the library, because I can never remember to return my books on time.

mpclemens said...

It didn't look like they were shoveling them into a recycling bin, but I hope I'm wrong on that. This was a used-and-new-book store, so I doubt that any of the dumped titles were stripped (covers removed) and returned.

This was place that I'd gone to often on my lunch breaks, often to browse and sometimes to buy. A number of the books I own came from there or places like it. I think the owner was very anti-chain and anti-Amazon, and the final "farewell" emails from the owner made it clear that management was not happy with the changing book market. It is evolve or die in business, though, so I can't lay the blame of their demise squarely at a dot-com's feet. This entry from Andy Ihnatko on the ethics of book buying is worth a read.

We cycle through books in our house, donating the surplus to the library or selling them at used-book places. And then four times a year, we can be found at the giant library book sale, buying back everyone else's leftovers. I love that my daughters' room has a seven-foot tall bookcase, jammed full of books. Can you imagine trusting a two-year-old with your Kindle? I can't, yet I don't flinch when she walks over and pulls out an armload. At what point are we supposed to "transition" kids to a screen?

@Deek: content is the rule, for certain, and maybe digital dominance will allow more niche titles to thrive. I personally think the publishing industry is due for a major transformation, though we're long from being done with editors and the content-creation pipeline. I'm hoping that print-on-demand machines (P.O.D.) become widespread enough that crazed holdouts like myself can still get a non-battery copy of a title that we really want.

@Speegle: that's a cool article, and expresses that same dis-ease I feel about our Low-Stuff accolyte -- a digital lifestyle is an isolated lifestyle. But as a content producer, I would say it's crazy not to offer it your work digitally. And I'd even go one more step and offer it DRM-free, but that's the crazy techno-hippie in me.

@Raigne: I used to have the same problem with overdue books until I discovered that my library supports email notification. I just got an alert that I book I put on hold is now ready, and another I have out is due in four days. They've come a long way since an index card jammed in a pocket in the back. If they start getting P.O.D. machines in-house -- and I'd love that -- then I may never leave.

Anonymous said...

OK, why did you not pick up loads of books and mail them to me? I would have paid for shipping! I mean, only $11 for a flat rate box! It's so unfaaaaaaair.

Anyway, I don't like THE GAP, and I despise anyone who thinks reducing thier carbon footprint by only having a computer is good for the environment. I mean yea, it is, but what a boring lifestyle. Not to mention how fickle electronics are. Books don't spontaneously combust and loose every single thing on the hard drive, they don't get hacked and lose all your money, they don't suddenly decide not to turn on and you have to call costumer service and be parades around with phone tag only to find the battery is dead an now only lasts 5 mins unplugged.

I say to hell with The Gap. We can't worry about it, because there are many people like us, and the humble book will soon have it's revival like the humble typewriter, and once again, they'll be amazing.

Or the computers will finally take over the world, and the rest of us have to live underground and read out books by homemade light bulbs and whatnot. I don't know, but I don't like thinking about it.

Strikethru said...

My kid was frighteningly good with the ipod touch by age 2, is all I know about kids and screens. She still looks at books in bed every night though. Whew.

You talk about something in your post that gets on my nerves too: the smug eco-austerity of people who claim to be paring down all their possessions and living with less as some sort of lifestyle statement, but in fact, all of their crap is now just on expensive digital devices that are bad for the environment and incite frenzied upgrade cycles. I am on my third iPod, and let me tell you, I drag my ass about upgrading stuff. The other ones just stopped working. This isn't austerity, it's just a shift in the kinds of crap we consume. I am fond of technology, but people need to stop congratulating themselves for the mere act of consuming it.

Adwoa said...

I'm torn. On the one hand, I discovered typewriters because I wanted to get away from the relentless upgrade cycle Strikethru describes, and I wanted to find a solid, dependable technology. However, I am still plagued with constantly wanting to find a *better* machine, whatever that means. Which is how I ended up with 30 of them...

Anyway. Before typewriters, I did purchase a Kindle. And, I do appreciate the convenience. As I no longer live in an English-speaking country, it is amazing to be able to buy newly-released English books at regular prices, and not $35 apiece. I'm not opposed to the form factor either, so win-win.

Growing up in Ghana, we used to buy secondhand books that, in retrospect, were probably overstock from bookstores in the States. Some even had the cover pages ripped off and I suppose they should have been pulped, but they somehow ended up in our hands. We loved getting our hands on these books. Much of the developing world still reads books the old-fashioned way. Who knows, perhaps the cast-offs from your indie bookstore might end up benefiting someone after all. Slim chance, but still.

Teri said...

I've lived 8 years in an Airstream, 3 years in a Silver Streak. Yes, it's nice to have less junk to deal with, but you put a lot of energy into trying to keep things pared down. I do still feel that your possessions own you to a certain extent and it does free up your life to deal with less. Since I bought yet another typewriter and now own a great wheel (spinning wheel) I guess I won't be living in small spaces again any time soon.

Lara said...

love this! when I read that dude's article I didn't know what to think. I think: YES, less is more, but a little more feels better than a computer screen. There's nothing better, than after spending an unsatisfying day on the net, to pick up a paperback book. And surely theres nothing more cluttering than books anyway.
The fact that you typed this on a beautiful but nearly obsolete typewriter confirms this.