Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Future of Publishing

I was kicking myself this morning for not getting my blog post done on Friday like usual, but I'm glad I waited considering this week's topic for my class is the future of publishing and where we think it'll be in ten years. I got to see a Kindle2 at work today, and I think that my post might have been somewhat different if done before seeing the Kindle2 and talking at length to its owner.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I don't relish in the idea that books may one day go completely digital. In fact, I've said that I hope I'm not alive to see that day. But, after seeing the Kindle2 and talking to its owner, I am definitely a believer that the Kindle will play a concrete role in the transformation of publishing.

I don't think that everyone will eventually own a Kindle, nor do I think that books will ever go completely away, but I do think that the Kindle will change the kinds of materials that are published traditionally. I can see textbooks going digital, especially since the Kindle2 lets you annotate a text. I can also see periodicals going digital--especially in light of a Business Insider article which details how much money the New York Times could save by sending their subscribers a free Kindle instead of printing a paper version.

More novels will eventually be digital, too, but there are just some things that the Kindle cannot recreate. Imagine trying to read a children's picture book on a Kindle. I don't think so. How about a full-color coffee table book? Nope, wouldn't be the same. While there are books like these that will never transition into digital versions, I think that in ten years it will be normal to carry your novels on a Kindle.

I see the Kindle taking off like the iPod. Ten years ago would you have imagined that you'd be able to carry your entire music collection in your pocket? Probably not. It caught on slowly, but surely, and now it seems as though every other person walking down the street in Portland is plugged into white earbuds.

Increased popularity of the Kindle will give smaller publishing companies a greater chance of survival, especially since there will no longer be expensive printing and warehousing costs. I think that we may be on the cusp of a publishing industry made up of more independents and fewer conglomerates, and I think that's a very exciting prospect.

When I started the PSU publishing program last fall, I had the idea that everything was bad news for the publishing industry. Five months later I have a very different view. Now I see all the changes the industry has undergone as potential. It's no longer grim; it's exciting. I cherish my traditionally printed books, and I'm still not certain I REALLY want a Kindle, but I'm perfectly happy to drool over someone else's and think about how maybe, with digitalization, the publishing industry may flourish once again.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

That "S" Word...Sustainability

Before I moved to Portland, I worked for UC Davis Extension's sustainability and green building program where I learned more about green living than I ever thought I'd know as a recently graduated English major. When I decided Portland would become my new city, my manager looked a little bit jealous, then offered me his map of a biking tour of Portland's sustainable stormwater control system.

I politely declined the map, but it was only a week later Portland was named the greenest city in America. It was then that I began to realize that even though I'd been working in sustainability for over a year, I had more knowledge about what was going on overseas from assisting with my manager's UCD Summer Abroad program in Sustainable Communities of Northern Europe than I did about my soon-to-be new home's growing number of sustainable projects.

Portland's love of everything green and sustainable has been reinforced to me in recent weeks--first, when Portland General Electric came knocking at my door a couple of weeks ago asking me to switch from "traditional" energy sources to renewable, green source energy. Second, when the Portland State University Publishing program's own Ooligan Press, the press at which I'm getting all my hands-on publishing experience, announced that we will begin transitioning into a sustainable publishing company.

Ooligan has received a grant from Portland State to publish our first sustainable book. This will include printing the book in the country to cut down on pollution caused by overseas shipping, as well as printing with vegetable-based inks.

The transition will take time, and money, but how great will it be when PSU can boast that it is not only home to a unique student-run publishing company, but that the same press is also at the forefront of sustainable publishing?

I'm no green living expert, but I'm pretty sure my old manager will be even more jealous of our hip, sustainable city...especially since he's been busy working on his next book.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Secrets of my Childhood, or How I Learned To Love Reading

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder…also known as the book that changed my life. There have been other significantly influential books throughout the years, of course, but Little House in the Big Woods and the subsequent Little House books became a cornerstone of my childhood from the day my maternal grandparents gave me the first one.

My grandparents always sent books as holiday presents. It could always be counted on that there would be a book as part of my birthday and Christmas presents, as well as for Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Halloween. They particularly enjoyed choosing series to send, slowly but surely providing me with a complete set. There may have been series sent to me before the Little House books, and I know for a fact there were series after, but none had quite the same influence on me.

You can’t quite begin to grasp the influence Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books had on my childhood unless I publicly admit to a few things that nobody outside of my family and anyone who knew me during my younger years knows. Here goes:

Little House in the Big Woods let to a significant obsession with all things Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House. This included celebrating a birthday with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s wedding cake, getting taffy stuck in someone’s hair at a birthday party where we tried to make a taffy recipe from the Little House cookbook, family road trips that included visits to every single related site and monument you can think of between Northern California and Chicago, a sunbonnet and nightcap made by my grandmother (worn often and nightly, respectively), and an after-school tradition of watching Little House on the Prairie TV show re-runs.

As you can tell, the adventures of Laura had a great impact on my childhood.

Aside from the obsession, Little House in the Big Woods was the book that really made me love reading. It showed me that a story just didn’t have to be words on paper, that it could be something deeper…that I could take the story and embrace it on many levels.

Even beyond that, it was the foundation of a bond, and eventual common love of reading and books, between my mom and me. While my grandparents sent the books, my mom was the one to read them to me every night before bed. Laura’s journey was a journey we shared, and I can guarantee that if I have a daughter someday, it will be a journey she will share in, too.