Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mama Don't Take My Paperback Away

Recently, Kodak filed for bankruptcy. I felt a tinge of sadness at the news. I had studied photography in college, and spent many years selling Kodak film while working at Henry's and Black's. Paul Simon's popular song was my mantra. I even sold stale-dated Super 8 Ektachrome to Sting and Andy Summers when they dropped by the store way back in the Eighties before they were famous. I have boxes and boxes of slides and photographs recording every moment I thought was beautiful and wanted to share with everyone.

While at college, I not only honed my painting skills, but also learned how to develop film and print my own photographs in a darkroom. At first, the process seemed complicated and very mysterious. First I had to expose the film or photographic paper to controlled light, either through a camera or enlarger lens. Then I immersed the film in a developing solution for a set time, then switch to an acid bath to stop the process. By the end, I had a photograph to put in a frame or an album.

A hundred (or thereabouts) years ago, photographs were exposed on sheets of metal coated with silver. A photograph was expensive and a really big deal. It was the next big thing after portrait painting. Kodak introduced the Brownie camera, making it even easier for average Joes to record their moments and keep them forever, or at least as long as the paper lasted before fading.

Kodak first came up with digital cameras, and yet they are failing to adapt to the changing landscape. Instead of developing new equipment to capture "Kodak Moments" they stuck with printers and paper. They concentrated on the end result but didn't think about how the medium was first created: through the mind's eye.

Publishing is going through a similar change. Our mind's eye creates a story, but the way we bring that medium to the masses is changing. Remember typewriters? Pens and paper? A pack of monks illuminating Mediaeval manuscripts? We brought our art to fruition through a painstaking process.

Now, it's so easy. Yay for computers! Well... easy to get it down in physical form. The writing part is still hard. But today, publishers are struggling with getting the final product to the masses. E-books are becoming more and more popular and paper costs are rising. Publishers are still hanging onto the concept that physical books are the only way to go, and are struggling to stay alive.

I love physical books. I like signing them for my readers. I like to look at them on my shelves and feel the paper with my fingers. I love wandering in book stores. I love old books with their musty smell and yellowing pages.

But like it or not, digital publishing is here to stay. I understand that it is a more efficient way to allow readers to immerse themselves in the stories we writers want to share. I hope both mediums can find a way to put those stories in our brains.

Sandra Cormier is the author of BAD ICE, a hockey romantic suspense. 


Big Mike said...

I agree Sandra. Technology evolutions cause great turmoil and change. as went the cassette, 8 track, floppy, and a dozen other innovations for their time, so will go paperbacks. Unfortunately, its a matter of survival for the industry as a whole, even if the big six refuse to see it.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

TKToppin said...

Great post, and a nice bit of nostalgia. I love photographs, old ones. They had a different smell to them. Books too...can't picture myself sniffing the ereader, though. That'd be kind of odd. But like Big Mike said, it's like evolution.

January Bain said...

We couldn't live in more evolving times! I am thrilled that technology has leveled the playing field and yet I do enjoy picking up an actual book from time to time. There is room to celebrate both, to my mind.

Jude Johnson said...

Wow, you met The Police when they were just rookies! ha ha ha

Thanks for an interesting blog, Sandra. I, too, had a touch of sadness when I heard about Kodak's bankruptcy. I loved the way film could be manipulated, and the rich depth and detail of Kodachrome. But life is change and new possibilities are exciting. Like January, I hope there will be room for both paper and ebooks for some time.


Sandra Cormier said...

I asked my co-workers afterwards, "Who were those nice polite British guys?" They said, "Oh, that was Sting and Andy." Apparently, Andy bought his camera equipment at our store.

Ramona Butler said...

Everything changes, whether we want it to or not. Great post.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Busy day yesterday or I'd have been on to read your excellent post.(Book signing.) I fear they will be a thing of the past, like developing film.

My great Aunt Molly was a graduate of Moore Institute of Art in the early 1900's. Her job before marriage was hand painting, tintypes.

Coffee Table books will probably be the only survivors of our digital revolution.