The Future of Books

Text by Nora Vasconcelos

Books and more booksAs ebooks beocome more popular, I keep of having mix feeling about them.

On the one hand, I feel amazed by how wonderful these ebooks are, as you can simply file them in your ebook reader or your tablet and take them all around, as many as you want, without even having any problems with space. This is a wonderful thing while traveling.

On the other hand, I always miss the exciting feeling of having an actual book in my hands, feeling them and even smelling and listening to them as I turn the pages.

I also miss the outstanding feeling of wandering around the bookstores. I remember it was just a few years ago when going to the bookstore was one of the most exciting experiences as I was able to get almost any book I wanted at any given time.

However, this has been changing very quickly and nowadays it’s harder to find those huge bookstores in which everything was around. Now even though the bookstores keep a big selection, most of the time when a book’s not found on the shelves you’re often offered a book order by the same boostore.

So I keep on having these conflicted feeling in which I like ebooks and at the same time dislike them (for taking over printed books), and I keep on wishing that at some point bookstores will find their way to be the amazing places I’ve always love, and I keep on wishing that the Memorable Bookstores I’ve visited, will remain as great as they are.

At the same time, I’m grateful for the digital iniciatives like Project Gutenberg that aim to spread the love for books by sharing with the world thoushands of ebooks.

This kind of digital universal libraries remind me of an essay written by Isaac Asimov called The Ultimate Library, in which the author foresaw in 1980 what was going to be like the library of the future, in which, according to him, everything would be digitalized and people could reach any book just by connecting to a personal gadget such as a TV Set.

In his article, Asimov shows all the advantages of a Global Computarized Library that will contain all the knowledge of books around the world.

At the same time, the writer explained the benefits of the practical applications of the knowledge gotten from those digital books, and said that this wouldn’t be end the publishing business, it only would transform it, Asimov said.

So, while the books world keeps on changing, readers like me keep on trying to adjust fast to these new technologies, and in my case, I keep on treasuring more and more my big collection of printed books.

As for the new generation, the same Asimov said it well, it will be difficult for them how was the world without digital libraries.

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The unexpected adventure of traveling through time

By Nora Vasconcelos

timetravel by NVS
From The Time Machine, first published by H.G Wells in 1895, to The End of Eternity, by Isaac Asimov (1955), Time Traveling has been a subject that has fascinated writers for years and years.

In some cases, the main character has some sort of control regarding the places he or she wants to visit, in some others, it’s totally at random.

In The Accidental Time Machine, by Joe Haldeman, as the title says, the adventures of Matt Fuller started after an experiment he was doing at a lab in Boston began to act funny.

One night, while taking a devise home, he discovers that it has “moved” a short distance from the original place he had left it, after he has manipulated this particular box. Working some equations, he thinks that what he has in his hands is some sort of time machine, so he decides to see how it works.

As it’s a small device, he places a small turtle, with all its habitat (food and water), onto the box, and with the help of a camera, he records what is the first time travel for such a little pet.

As time passes by, Matt realizes that the machine travels are exponential, so with some practice and a lot of equations, he’s able to determine up to what moment in time the machine will travel, however, up to this point, it remains unknown for him where the box goes.

As his experiments continue, and his life turns completely around them, Matt discovers that if he joins the machine with a car, using a wire, he’s able to travel through time as well.

This is when the real adventure starts for him. As he’s able to know for how long he’ll be away, he can prepare some supplies, however, he’s never certain where he will end up, so he has to prepare a bit of everything, “just in case”.

Accidents happen every time he uses the machine, and more people are affected, in positive or negative ways, when he arrives to different eras and places. But somehow, he manages to return to his hometown in Boston, many many years later from the time he started traveling.

Then he has to learn all about this new life, in which he ignores many customs and appears as an expert in some other fields. Currencies are different, although people always speaks his language, with some variations, and clothes vary a lot.

With every adventure, he has to learn how to trust people, and how to let them go as well, but problems always remain in the past, as any time things go sour, he just clicks a little button and there he goes, traveling through time again.

At the end, what might have seemed an ideal situation, turns into something unexpected, what allows Matt, finally, to find some stability and happiness, with a life that little resembles that one that he left behind that uneventful night when accidentally he discovered his time machine.

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The evolution of books

By Nora Vasconcelos

LibraryA few months ago it was announce that the first bookless library had been opened in Texas, USA. This news find a place almost everywhere and it was showed as a spectacular innovation, a sign of the future, but what does it mean for the publishing industry and the printed editions?

Such library, is located in Bexar County, near the city of San Antonio, and it’s name says more about how it works than anything else: The BiblioTech serves the readers through computer screens and it contains no books at all.

The story about this bookless library brought immediately to my mind some of the articles written by the American author Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992), who predicted in his essay The Ultimate Library that at some point in the future “everything in libraries would be digitalized and people could reach any book just by connecting to a personal gadget”.

However, it’s the same Asimov who said that, even with all the advantages of a Global Computerized Library that will contain all the knowledge of books around the world, “this wouldn’t be end the publishing business, it only would transform it“.

It’s this last statement that made me think about the way libraries and bookstores have faced the changes in the book industry in the past 15 years, from the economical crises to the boom in sales of ebooks, issues that have made dealers and librarians rethink their strategies.

For the libraries the challenge is to acquire new equipments that allow them to offer visitor a digitalized experience as well as the regular one. The advantage of digital editions is that it reduces the damages that books suffer while being lent several times to different people, the disadvantage is that economical resources are not always available for libraries, specially because most of them are public and depend on governmental grants.

As for bookstores, the popularity of ebooks has leave them in a complete disadvantage as they’ve lost many customers, specially the younger ones who are more likely to buy e-books.

According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), the total share of ebooks in the trade market increased from 0.6 percent in 2008 to 6.4 percent in 2010, this from a total market of 114 million units sold in 2010.

This combined with the problems in the economy, caused that many book dealers, small and big ones, had to close down their business or merge. So in the past decades we’ve seen cases like Borders disappearing under the Barnes and Noble umbrella.

As for the small or medium size bookstores, about 1% of them have closed down in the US during the first decade of this century, leaving the States with some 10,000 units, after over 1,000 have gone under in this country.

The disappearing of so many bookstores concerns not only the owners, it also worries authors such as James Patterson, who announced a few weeks ago that he would donate $1 million dollars of his personal fortune to 55 independent bookshop around the US.

In a statement, Patterson said that ‘bookstores are vital to communities and that they leave a lasting love of reading in children and adults‘.

Regarding the readers, they hold split opinions, from the ones who swear they never leave their printed editions to the ones who have e-readers with digital editions.

What holds the future for the book business is still an open question. Industry experts have also divided opinions, but the general consensus seems to be that the e-book publishing business will keep growing, but the printed editions will remain current.

Many readers benefit from both of them, as they still enjoy the experience of holding a printed book on their hands, turning the pages, smelling them, listening to them as they move, and keep the reading at their own pace without worrying if the e-reader will turn off or if it’ll run out of batteries.

These readers are the ones that remain faithful to bookstores where they can wander around, look at the shelves, and enjoy the experience of buying a book while having that relaxing experience that is only provided by bookstores.

On the other hand, some readers find in e-readers a useful tool which give them freedom, specially while traveling, because they can have at hand hundreds of e-books in a very light and small device.

For them the options are ample, either if they have a e-reader or a tablet, the access to the e-book market is easy and fast.

So, for all concerned, the challenge is in the air, bookstore owners keep looking for creative ways to adjust their business to this new era, either with café style additions and dedicated services according to the needs of their customers; the publishing industry keeps trying to attend the versatile demand of this two sectors, the same as public libraries.

However, in the end, it seems that the reader will have the last word once they’ve defined their preferences and have decided which world (the printed or the digital one) fits them better, or if they prefer, as many do, to navigate in both of them.

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The long path to be published

Text and Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Endless faith
Endless faith
I recently read in the New York Times the story of Donal Ryan, a young Irish author who had written two novels dreaming for them to be published. But his dream took a long while to come true.

After receiving more than 40 letters of rejection, Ryan perservered looking for a publisher, until he finally got magnificent news, his two novels, The Spinning Heart and The Thing about December, had caught the eye of a publishing house and the author was finally offer not only one, but two contracts!

The Spinning Heart tells the story of what was like life in a small Irish town after the financial crisis that affected Ireland not so long ago.

In 2012, the novel was awarded the Book of the Year prize at the Irish Book Awards, and its currently longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, to be announced in October 15th.

This story of perseverance and faith made me remember other writers who had to wait for a long time to be published, facing constant negatives from the publishing houses, until they found one firm that believed in them.

Writers like Jane Austen, Dr. Seuss, John Le Carre, Isaac Asimov, Agatha Christie, E.E. Cummings, are some of the authors who walked this long path to be published.

Ryan’s story also made me think, about the courage and strenght that writers must have to keep on trying, even when their dreams are clouded with letters of rejection.

Even now, when self-publishing is becoming more popular, the task of transforming a manuscript into an actual book and then letting people know about it, is a hard thing to do.

It’s faith in themselves and in their work, as well as confidence on their skills what makes them go on with their dreams.

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Isaac Asimov: An imaginative mind without limits

Text and Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Infinite Horizons.
Infinite Horizons.
Last year around this time a unique book came to my hands, The end of Eternity by Isaac Asimov, captured my mind since the very beginning, filling my mind with vivid images about how the Eternity could look like, with all its different eras, and the “headquarters of the “eternals” who took care (and some times determined the faith) of the life of the “non-eternals” as to prevent any major changes at any given era that could affect or impact the prevalence of eternity.

However, this big bosses of the eternity weren’t counting on their plans falling apart for one factor that throughout history has usually caused unexpected turns: love. So, as it happened, one eternal, who was meant to be a key element on the creation and preservation of Eternity, fell in loved. 

It was the internal fight of this eternal who fell in love with a non-eternal that made him break the rules and go against all he had ever believed in. This love and his assumptions that he had been betrayed made him become one of the elements that caused “the end of Eternity”, to leave instead, the beginning of Infinity.

Although I finished this book in a couple of days, it’s impact in my reader’s mind has lasted up to know, admiring the way Asimov mastered the art of writing combining in his book elements of suspense, romance and science fiction.

I’ve also found more and more elements in this novel that seem to have become a reference for sci-fi book writers and screenplay writers focused on time traveling stories.

As for me, one year later, I still feel honored that I had the chance to read such magnificent work. So many thanks Mr. Asimov, wherever you are from here to infinity! 🙂

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Simply… Thankful

The essence of life.
Anyone could wonder why I’ve chosen this photo among so many to represent with an image the world Thankful.

The answer comes from a deep feeling of completion that I got while standing on this amazing place, over there at the North of Ireland, when I had the chance the walk for about 3 km along the shore of the tip of the island only to see the magnificence of this rock formations that have become the meeting point between the earth with the sea waters for hundreds of years.

So, now, with this image, I have the chance to put together in this post three of my strongest passions in life: traveling, writing and reading.

Although I didn’t physically have a book with me that day on the shore, books are always with me, both in paper and in my head. So, now that I’m thinking about how thankful I’m for all the wonderful things that these three passions have given to my life, I thought I’d also add to this post the titles of some of the books I’ve year and for which I’m absolutely thankful for.

So, from the list of my dearest books, I have to start with two stories that marked my childhood: One and Thousand One Nights, The Travels of Marco Polo and The Miser by Moliere.

While growing up, I added some other titles to my top list, such as the works of Oscar Wilde; Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne; Love in the Time of Colera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle, and the works of Charles Dickens.

Recently I’ve increased my list of dearest books with The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov; The last Dickens by Matthew Pearl; Final Theory by Mark Alpert; The Broker by John Grisham, and the collection of books written by Debbie Macomber around Blossom Street.

It’s hard to keep me from prolonging this list, but the books that I’ve mentioned have giving me so many moments of reflexion and enjoyment, that it’s something to be thankful for.

As for my trips, I have to say that there’s not a single one for which I’m not absolutely thankful and amazed for.

Cheers!

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