This past week, I was presented with an unforeseen dilemma.
While at a discussion on the concepts of Bill Davidow’s latest book, “Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet” moderated by Geoffrey “Crossing the Chasm” Moore, I was presented with an opportunity.
It was a chance to acquire a stack of paper stamped with ink and bound in a hard cover. Yes, an old-fashioned printed copy of Bill Davidow’s work, which he offered to sign. Certainly the discussion had intrigued me enough to want to delve into his concepts more deeply (Article: Are we overconnected?). And surely, obtaining a copy which contained a hand-crafted, original signature by the author himself would make it special in a world of the mass-production printing press.
Yet, didn’t I swear off my paper book habit?
I was conflicted. In the end, I decided to order the Amazon Kindle version after the event. Yes, my palms and fingers still have temporary urges to feel the heft of a thick book. To thumb through pages that were only previous touched by machines. To feel like I was physically exploring new territories.
Alas, only my mind will feel the thrill of adventure as it delves into Bill Davidow’s thoughts.
My digital copy of the book? No different than anyone else’s. No hand-crafted signature. A reproduction of a digital book, nothing more than moving some digital bits through the ether.
Perhaps the loss of “special” is similar to how people felt when the mass-production printing press proliferated: a shift from hand copied books and original art to ink, impersonally stamped on paper.
Perhaps digital books can introduce a concept of badges for the first 100 copies. Or authors can have a special badge they can transfer to your digital copy when you have actually met them.
Or one day, we will forget.
I don’t think the desire for unique objects and experiences disappears. I think we just don’t miss what we have never experienced. If someone handed me a book they hand crafted, printing each letter and drawing each picture, I would experience emotions never reached when I bought a hard copy book from Amazon or downloaded a digital copy.