➻ With the industry changing all around us, I begin this Friday by looking at the changing definition of the word “hopefully,” as the AP Stylebook is now accepting it’s common modern usage, It Is Hoped.
Linguists and grammarians the world over may weep into their Manuals of Style, but the march of progress continues: as of this week, the AP Stylebook has altered its definition of hopefully. As they tweeted, “We now support the modern usage of hopefully: It’s hoped, we hope.”
(Previously, the accepted definition was, “In a hopeful manner.”) [...]
Naturally, the decision has been controversial. While some have heralded the AP’s flexibility, others, like editor Rob Rheinalda, take a dimmer view, opining, “It’s lazy and it’s subjective. The speaker presumes that everyone shares that hope.” The WaPo piece had generated 680 comments as of this writing. Is Rome burning? Or is language simply in perpetual flux?
We are reminded here of the immortal words of Ken Kesey, who, in his Paris Review interview, remarked, “As you get older and hopefully wiser, you find that blame and punishment beget only more blame and punishment.” Amen.
All of this begs the question… well, maybe it doesn’t beg a question. I don’t want to open up that can of grammatical worms.
➻ It’s just another example of how language, grammar, and typefaces are ever evolving, which is one things that makes looking through old, antiquarian books so fun and fascinating—which you might find an example of on one of the many Bookmobiles of the World.
➻ And the book covers! From the gilt lettering on calf boards of yore, to the wonderfully varied designs of early modern paperbacks and the Chip Kidd covers of today, who amongst us doesn’t love a well-designed book—even if we don’t judge its contents on the cover alone? So it makes you wonder, Has Kindle Killed the Book Cover?
A digital book has no cover. There’s no paper to be bound up with a spine and protected inside a sturdy jacket. Browsers no longer roam around Borders scanning the shelves for the right title to pluck. Increasingly, instead, they scroll through Amazon’s postage stamp-sized pictures, which don’t actually cover anything, and instead operate as visual portals into an entire webpage of data (publication date, reader reviews, price) some of which can also be found on a physical cover and some of which cannot.
The abstract idea of the cover remains, though, as it does for album covers. Book designer Carin Goldberg remembers when she would sit in her room as a teenage girl listening to Joni Mitchell, holding the record in her arms. Since then she has designed hundreds of covers—among them are the 1986 edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, books by Kurt Vonnegut, and Madonna’s first record. The cover “functions as an emotional visual touchstone,” Goldberg says. “It’s still something that we will always visualize in our heads as what that book looked like. It definitely becomes part of the experience.”
I would go further and say that it’s more than part of the experience—it’s a ritual. Pulling a book from the shelf, out of your bag, or off your nightstand, finding your place in it, sharing physical space with the object and being able to pass it on to others you know and love is a beautiful thing—something that enhances the physical memory of what we’ve mentally imbibed. It reinforces one’s appreciation of the material, just as records do for music. And the serendipity of discovery while trolling the shelves at a book or record store, or through the collections of friends and relatives you share passions and a world view with, just can’t be replaced by digital files that most will simply delete from existence when they run out of room. I don’t like to think of what some of my favorite places, used books and record stores, are going to look like in a generation.
➻ But, most likely, I’m overreacting. Jason Epstein at The New York Review of Books took a look recently at How Books Will Survive Amazon.
Few technological victories are ever complete, and in the case of books this will be especially true. Bookstores will not disappear but will exploit digital technologies to increase their virtual and physical inventories, and perhaps become publishers themselves. So will libraries, whose vast and arcane holdings will soon be available to everyone everywhere. E-books have been aggressively marketed for five or six years in the United States. Yet despite rapidly acquiring market share they show no sign of displacing actual books, with which they will comfortably coexist in the digital future.
And while writing about how Amazon [isn't] destroying publishing, they’re reshaping it, the Guardian‘s Nick Harkaway wrote about why competition is important:
Because it drives not just lower prices, but better products. And let’s face it, the products we have are ho-hum. E-readers are uninspired. They’re slabs of plastic with fiddly controls and display a badly-formatted, typographically impoverished rendering of a paper book. That’s not the electronic book I want. I want a gorgeous physical object, with paper pages, that can transform into any story I choose, perfectly presented on the page. I want a device from a fairytale, not a bargain bucket. Although, sure, I’d like it to be affordable, too. And that will not happen if one company controls the market. Why should it?
That fairy tale is far off, and while nothing much is happening in the meantime, while the debate just keeps spinning in circles as Amazon escapes the all-seeing eye of government and keeps expanding it’s market share, they’re are small publishers and record labels popping up everywhere, and all the time. Amazon, I fear (or hope), is moving in the direction of producing cheap products for the masses while the demand keeps growing on the edge for niche products for the passionate. And all the while, Frodo makes his way closer to Mount Doom.
➻ Exploring the scholarly side of the equation (always a niche market) Joseph Esposito looks at E-books in the Academy—A Story of Limitations and Affordances.
➻ Whatever happens, I hope Dr. King was right when he proclaimed that “the arc of the moral universe is long but … bends toward justice,” and I hope that it bends toward freedom also, even if it has to be given away, even if it’s a motherless child. The publishers of the world’s books have historically been at the forefront of spreading ideas that led to expanding and increasing justice and freedom, and I hope they remain at that forefront—regardless of who those publishers are. And regardless of what the word means, hopefully we’ll all pitch in to help.