Just after Christmas I promised there’d be a big announcement coming in the new year. Well, a month in and here it is: The Late Age of Print is now available in paperback! Yes folks, that’s right. If you’ve been holding off buying the book because it was available only in hardback (and, ahem, free digital download), now’s your chance to pick up a copy all your own.
I’d be remiss not to mention that the paperback contains a new preface, written by me. It offers something like a theory of the relationship of printed and electronic books, constructed around a distinction the Canadian media historian Harold Innis once drew between “time binding” and “space binding” technologies. It also tries to walk the fine line between simply celebrating or bemoaning these different types of books, which is one of the recurrent themes you’ll find in Late Age. Here’s a little taste from the preface:
For Sven Birkerts, printed words possess “weight, grandeur,” while their electronic counterparts suffer because of their supposed “weightlessness.” Could it be, though, that the turgidity of printed words, and hence the paper vessels containing them, quietly persuade us to settle for less authoritative, definitive, and elegant books than we deserve? Grandeur, perhaps. But if history teaches us anything, it teaches us that complacency follows all too easily in the wake of humankind’s most majestic accomplishments.
The challenge, it seems to me, is to find ways to ensure that we continue living in an expanding culture, which is to say, one that strikes a suitable balance between time- and space-binding technologies. This would be a culture in which neither printed nor electronic books exclusively ruled the day. Instead, it would be one in which the “p” and the “e” mingled promiscuously
If I get some time in the coming months I may try to redesign this site. The look seems a little stale to me after two years, plus it would be nice to reboot The Late Age of Print blog on or near the occasion on the paperback’s release. If there are things you like or dislike about the site or would like to see added, shoot me an email or leave a comment. Since my goal isn’t just to make the site look better but to make it more reader-friendly, I’d appreciate your input.
Speaking of input, I’d also love to hear from those of you who’ve read the new preface to the paperback edition or, for that mater, from any of you who’ve read and want to discuss Late Age.