Why are books important?

I’ve been struggling with the idea of why books are important. I know why books are important, but with the attraction/distraction of available technologies, I’m not sure everyone does.

I’ve been selling my work at craft shows for about 6 years. Only in the last year or two have I heard the following reason why people won’t purchase one of my photo albums, even if they clearly like and/or want it:

“I keep all of my photos on my computer. I don’t need a photo album.”

Sure I have lots of pictures on my computer, just like everyone else. Do I ever look at them – no. But this isn’t just about selling books. It really makes me sad – there is such an opportunity lost here.

I see books as a way to bring people together – through their stories, through the act of sitting down together, reading, or looking at pictures. I don’t see myself sitting down with my grandchildren and breaking out the computer to look at family pictures. It’s cold and impersonal. If you put your pictures in a book, it shows that you care enough about your memories and your life to put them in a special place.

It may sound corny, but that’s how I feel.

This past weekend, I spent a lovely day outdoors with someone close to me and took lots of pictures. The next day, I took a batch of the pictures and put them in an accordion book so she could remember the day with her family. Making the book was my way of saying to her this time was important to me and I want to commemorate it. She seemed to appreciate it so much. It was really heartwarming. That’s enough of a reason for me to keep making books.

Hopefully it’s enough of a reason for people to use them.

2 Responses to “Why are books important?”

By tulibri - 21 August 2008 Reply

… important because there rarely is another medium which is so durable, flexible and can carry so many words fused together to contain meaning and complex stories which all easily unfolds by just opening it and immersing oneself in it (without batteries or electric current!).

With regard to photo albums – I also can’t imagine once sitting together with my grand-children in front of a computer. And what about the scraps and ephemera of former times, would you go digitize them?? Surely not. But well. Who knows.

Already today, I find it difficult to share even my holiday pictures. Meeting with friends in a cafe and setting up the laptop for a slideshow isn’t really comfortable … putting pictures somewhere on the internet is time consuming, not to speak of inviting, managing rights if you don’t want to let just *everyone* see your pictures …

But my major point is that most people aren’t aware of how volatile digital storage media is. Most don’t do regular back-ups and I can tell that hard-disks do fail really easily. CDs or DVDs are — although they don’t look like it — prone to decay. The older ones can start after about 10 years, some manufacturers meanwhile promise a durability of about 50 years. Not a lot for a society where people easily reach an age of 80 or 90!

Plus technological change is so fast you can’t be sure to still have the required reading devices in 10, 20 or 30 years time. Remember floppy discs, stiffy disks – already today, most of us don’t have a reading device for these anymore. Remember music or video tapes – gone a pretty fast time. And what a hassle to have data converted to ever new storage media …

How about that old black-and-white photos from our ancestors? We can still look at them today, even when they’re more than a hundred years old. For sure, CDs won’t be readable in hundred years anymore, maybe except for in scientific institutions.

If one really wants a long life for their pictures, quality prints on acid-free paper and keeping them in a box or an album still is the safe way.

My two cents 🙂

By elissa - 23 August 2008 Reply

Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply! I agree with everything you’ve said.

I am a computer geek, in addition to being a book geek, and I agree that there is a danger in relying on the longevity of digital media. I see computers as useful for digital storage and as a backup for hard copies of photos. I just don’t see a computer as an acceptable medium for presentation.

Recently I had an experience where someone showed me some historical family photos on a computer. The photos were amazing, but I found myself getting impatient and squirmy staring at the screen. There are so many reasons in my life why I have to look at a computer screen. I disliked having to stare at one to have a shared family moment. It just bugged me.

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