Five Minutes Interview at London Design Festival: “Novels, romances to the fore, have taken the step from codex to ebook without a hitch.” Paul Duguid, author of “The Social Life of Information” and adjunct professor at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, on what’s to become of books. His research interests include the history and development of trademarks.
Q. What do you think will become of books?
That depends, as my colleague Geoffrey Nunberg would tell me, on what you mean by books. The United Airlines pilots’ manual, until recently a 40lb book, has just been transformed into an iPad app. That ‘book’ disappeared. I can’t think of many who will lament it. Novels, romances to the fore, have taken the step from codex to ebook without a hitch. Many readers seem to prefer them that way. Others, Coetzee’s “Diary of a Bad Year” as a prime example, use the codex form imaginatively and will be hard to ‘migrate’. (But I hope this means that before too long we will have authors using the new material supports as imaginatively.)
For myself, it is scholarly books that are failing to cross the divide. I have an iPad stuffed with them, and access to numerous such books through various kinds of ebook software, but none allows me to read as I think a lot of us have to read, not from front to back, but by ‘random access’ starting at the index, skipping to the third chapter, holding a finger in the notes and a thumb in the bibliography while writing in the margin of the introduction before turning back to chapter two. Until someone can rival that versatility, I think the book, if by that we mean the codex, will survive a while.
Q. What is your favourite book? By author/photographer, design or publisher?
To choose “one”? Too hard to do in five minutes.
Q. What was the last book you read? Or published!
I’m in the middle of the unabridged “Clarissa” (which literally keeps me pinned to my seat), Gleick’s “The Information”, and a biography of David Hartley by an author whose name escapes me. Last published (as an editor) was a collection on trademarks. Before that a co-authored book, but that was 10 years ago – ancient history.
Q. Finally: Kindle, PDF, HTML – or print?
See 1 above.
On 17 September 2011, Sojournposse will be presenting a new event for The London Design Festival 2011, “Whatever is to become of books?” at University College London. 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+.