We bookish folks currently live in a funny and expanding universe. Funny and expanding because much of it, for many of us largely takes place virtually. Well, #followreader is one prime example. And, chatting about books and publishing outside of #followreader with fellow Twitter bookish tweeps is another. As are: all the groups and fan sites and friends of a bookish feather we hang out with on Facebook. Did I forget to mention book blogs? Perish the thought! Bookish blogs are a big virtual stop for many of us.
Added to this is the increasingly (again, for many – not all – of us), digital nature of reading itself. Ebooks and ibooks and book apps and whatever will electronic reading gizmo or format will come out in the seconds it takes me to finish typing this sentence — many things about the lit life have gone virtual.
So, it’s pretty fabulous to consider the flip side of all this online activity — it can lead to some wonderful real world interactions with real world books. Consider if you will: I’m in Cambridge a few weeks ago. I casually tweet about being in Cambridge. Not moments later, my Twitter buddy @ConMartin (whom I have never met in real life), direct messages me back, and asks if I’d like to meet for coffee. REALLY meet. For REAL coffee. Well, how cool is that? Long story short, we did meet (real coffee was nixed in favor of real frosty adult beverages). And Constance gave me one of the best tours of Harvard Yard and Harvard BOOKSTORE (definitely worth a visit) that anyone could ever hope for.
In addition, we have a really great conversation, and I learn more about Constance’s own love of books — real booky books– and “in real life” book clubs. I, on the other hand, was able to impart to her some of the reasons I’m crazy about e-reading opportunities and online reading communities.
This is but one example of a bonding with virtual book buddy in the physical plane — another being, just last night I got to meet @susanmpls for the first time in real life for a real dinner at a real restaurant. (more accurately: a really fattening and delicious dinner at a really fabulous Italian restaurant). We talked a lot. A LOT. Almost entirely about books and publishing, but also about chocolate, and family, and – come to think of it, it was mostly about books and publishing.
Begs the question, if virtual relationships can manifest in the real world, what of the connection between physical books and ebooks? I’m not one of those alarmists (I use the term with a tiny grain of salt – please do not take offense all you alarmists, you) who worry that the paper book will be obliterated from the planet. I think paper and plastic will co-exist nicely for as long as we flesh and blood readers remain more real than virtual. But, I have also been running into a lot of cool things happening with booky books lately that make me more and more excited about the book as a real life object. One is visual search, which is a technology that allows the physical to be married to the virtual via smart phones ( QR codes for example, only, visual search ot less bar code-y and a lot more seamlessly integrated into your day to day life).
I’m working on a post over at my day job (Tools of Change) that will offer a glimpse into just how cool this technology is, and how rapidly it’s evolving. So, go over there and check it out tomorrow. (Fingers crossed it will be up tomorrow — I swear, Jamey!).
I’ve also run into some booky-bookish touchstones lately that while are not in the least bit high-tech, do a fabulous job of blurring the lines of what a book is and what the physical book as object means to us as flesh and blood readers. Another story for you: Last month I’m frantically running around BookExpo America, and I have the good fortune of meeting up with the calm, cool and collected Nick Ruffilo of BookSwim.com. We catch up (in real life, for a change) — Nick telling me some of the very interesting things that BookSwim has in store in the near future, and before parting ways, we decide to do the proper IRL thing and exchange real papery business cards. In my usual uncool, uncalm, uncollected manner, I fumble through the black hole that is my purse, looking for one undamaged and mostly legible business card. Nick, on the other hand, reaches calmly into his messenger bag and pulls out an old, leather-bound book:
How odd, you might think – as did I.
But, Nick is full of surprises. Turns out his book is no mere book. His book hides many secrets.
Yeah – that’s cool. As a hobby, and side-gig, Nick takes old, damaged books and converts them into really cool bookish artifacts-with-a-purpose.
It’s interesting how the virtual and the real worlds of books and the bookish tend to collide. Interesting in a good way, I think.
p.s. – Check out Nick’s etsy store. He creates his secret compartment books on request. I might have gone and gotten one. And I might love it to death and highly recommend getting one yourself, if you’re so inclined.