The Future of Books

Last week Miki Johnson Social Media Editor for spoke at the APASF Creative Professional Apple event about the future of books. She covered many different topics and examples of new forms of books appearing on the scene. I was a most intrigued by an interactive book where a viewer can participate alongside President Obama’s career while in office book. All the books she mentioned had some form of connection with social media, which makes sense, that’s Miki’s specialty. She did bring up a very important insight about the anticipated need to own and hold a photography book in one’s hand. Something tangible, something fixed in time.

Almost all photographers would like to see their work published in some kind of book form. It’s a sense of permanence of one’s work. Ink on paper. With the introduction of the Ipad and other electronic base publishing is there any real permanence to a photograph if it is only published in electronic form? Or will our photographs come under the same usage agreement as advertising parlance “Period of use; two years. Seen by millions, then forgotten.”

The other day I was in my garage searching for some odd item when I came across a first edition book published by Aperture The Americas by Robert Frank. My wife bought this book years ago and packed away for safekeeping. What a pleasant surprise. I sat down and went through the book and then went on EBay to figure out it’s worth. Not that I am selling it, but I wanted to know its monetary value. I placed the book along side my other photography books of note. Irving Penn’s Passage, Albert Watson’s Cyclops, John Szarkowski’s Looking at Photographs, to name a few. It’s a comfortable feeling knowing where I can pull inspiration at any time. I do this almost every time I’m about to do a photography shoot of consequence. Spreading out a photography book on my lap and absorbing its contents is one of life’s pleasures. I have friends who have a room full of books just for this reason. I think we call them libraries.

I don’t know what the future may lay for photography books. The newer publishing of book prospects sound exciting, but I hope it is an additive process, where we can still keep the bounded beauty with that smell of paper, varnish and ink. I like books edited with intelligence and a singular voice. There has been a lot of talk about opening up publishing to the masses. Letting them create content and changing it at moments notice. Sounds like blogging to me. Think of the new style of books as blogs. A few will be note worthy, but most will be forgettable. Unfortunately the most relevant topic will be hammered down to the bottom of the page and eventfully delegated to “older post” heading. Will someone be able to accidentally come across it in his or her garage thirty years from now?