Dishes, Dinosaurs, and Books

Dishes, Dinosaurs, and Books

CBC Radio makes a stimulating background for the evening dishwashing ritual. Last night I heard a re-play of a January Ideas broadcast called “Closing the Book,” produced by Sean Prpick. I found myself going above-and-beyond my usual cleaning regime, once the dishes were washed up, so I could catch the whole program. The commentary in the program contains facts and information, opinions and predictions–all of which has been affecting my daily life, and certainly my career.

The past year has been very difficult in book publishing. O.K., O.K., you may think people say that every year, and it’s probably true that they do. But this past year has really been d-i-f-f-e-r-e-n-t—different! It’s a time of enormous transition. At last, for better or worse, people are embracing eBook technology. The Internet is more pervasive than ever. Bound dictionaries and encyclopedias are going the way of the dinosaur. Teachers seek out free teaching plans online. Most everyone assumes you have a cell phone, at the very least, if not a Blackberry or iPhone. I confess: I don’t.

I remember being slow to get an email address when email became widespread in the late 90s. I had no idea then how hugely important email would be for my work. With email and its ability to send documents as attachments, or efiles, back and back to my clients, I was able to work for Toronto publishers from Halifax, the U.S., England, and Germany with the same ease as if I still lived in Seaton Village in Toronto.

Now, with all the slow-downs in publishing, the tightening and re-tightening of belts, I wonder if technology has gone too far? Will electronic publishing erode the foundations of publishing in Canada, making my career obsolete? I wrestle with these questions every day. On the other hand, I was excited to learn recently that The Wilderness Cookbook is available in eBook form. Similarly, I was thrilled to read sections of Nelson’s grade 12 Biology eBook (the first eText I’ve worked with) while writing teaching notes for video features and informative animations.

I’ll keep soaking up any information I can collect on this topic. When I cited that my career has some similarities to blacksmiths of years gone by, my environmentalist friend quipped, “There may very well be a need for blacksmiths in our future.” There may indeed. For now, I’ll keep washing my dishes by hand and checking in with CBC for some stimulating programming.

For the podcast of “Closing the Book,” click here, and then click the Listen icon.

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