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Coming Not-So-Soon

There’s nothing like the excitement when your favorite author announces the pub date of their next book. You can hardly wait! A year, or a year and a half, sounds so far away! You imagine yourself springing out of bed on pub date, running to the local bookstore, seeing the long-awaited cover sitting there on the NEW RELEASES table. Or maybe you set a pre-order alert online and then you’re crouched over your e-reader at midnight, eager for the new file to blip onto your screen.

Well, for Margaret Atwood fans, and the fans of other to-be-announced authors, that excitement is not to be. A library in Norway has announced a new, carefully curated collection of books affiliated with a newly planted forest. The books in this collection will be published on paper coming from the trees in the forest…starting in 2114. That’s right – a hundred years from now!

trees Margaret Atwood, always adventurous in her fiction, is excited to be a part of this experiment, loving the idea of the distance of time between her and the critical reception of the book. She noted, “When you write any book you do not know who’s going to read it, and you do not know when they’re going to read it. You don’t know who they will be, you don’t know their age, or gender, or nationality, or anything else about them. So books, anyway, really are like the message in the bottle.”

But this is most provocative part of this program to me: Its funding grant includes provision for the library to invest in a printing press, to be sure they’ll have the technology to print the books when the pub date finally arrives, next century. Which struck me as a little bit odd – isn’t the important part of a book the story itself? The words, the plot, the characters? If, (a BIG if) in a century, printing presses don’t even exist, and books don’t even use paper…but people are still reading, and still excited for a collection of books from last century’s great authors…isn’t that just fine?!

What do you think?

Is it important for libraries or literary organizations to preserve the technology of physical books printed on paper if society is outgrowing it?

How would you feel if your favorite author were selected for this collection – excited that they were so honored, or upset that you would never get to read this particular work?

How would you feel if you were invited to participate as an author?

 

2 Responses to Coming Not-So-Soon

  1. D C DaCosta says:

    My first question is: how am I going to get paid for a book not to be printed until a hundred hence?

    Ultimately, publishing only works if someone makes money. If the author is paid now, how can the publisher calculate the size of the fee? He’ll be carrying a huge Account Receivable into the future…which his firm may or may not be able to realize when the time comes. What if the book doesn’t sell then? What if the forest burns down? What if the publisher fails in the meantime? Who’s going to keep track of the heirs of the author, should the book become a blockbuster and more royalties are due, or should the publisher wish to re-sell it?

    Who’s going to want to read a book with a 100-year-old viewpoint? (Be honest. How many books have YOU read that were published before 1915? And what percentage of books retain their appeal and interest that long?)

  2. D C DaCosta says:

    This only works if the books to be printed are the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare.

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