Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Every single thing you take for granted can disappear in the blink of an eye and be replaced by something unimaginable.

When my own grandparents were born, there were no telephones, no refrigerators, no airplanes, and fewer than 25 automobiles on the planet. Talking to people hundreds of miles was away was UNIMAGINABLE. Where they lived, transportation without a horse and drinking fresh milk without a cow were unimaginable too.

By the time my parents were born, people were driving around in Model T Fords. But everything from traffic lights, jet planes, and air conditioners to color photography, microwave ovens, and polio vaccine was UNIMAGINABLE.

When I was born, there was no such thing as power steering, rock and roll, credit cards, or TV (where I lived, at least). Rockets to the moon, e-mail, and gigantic full-color high-definition TVs with hundreds of channels were absolutely UNIMAGINABLE.

 When our kids were born, all the telephones were huge and had a dial. There was no hint of a little cell phone you could carry to the top of Mt. Everest if you were so inclined (even though an ancient comic strip detective named Dick Tracy used to wear a 2-way wrist radio). And what about GPS, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, iPads and blogs like this one?  UNIMAGINABLE.

When my second granddaughter was born nine months ago, she could take all of this technology for granted, and you can bet your boots that unimaginable changes lie ahead.  But let’s talk about something else she sees every day--something that didn’t disappear and has stuck around for centuries. 

My granddaughter still owns real books; the delicious 3-D kind filled with magic and beauty and color.  Ever since papyrus scrolls and animal skins made way for parchment and paper, countless millions of us have loved reading books. A world without them seems UNIMAGINABLE. 


But in the blink of an eye, the unimaginable future of books as we know them is on the march.  High quality books made out of paper are at risk; for the moment, e-books seem poised to outsell them, and they can be sold ever so cheaply when the cost of paper, printing, binding, and glue is not an issue. 

Anything can happen. Right now, for example, digital picture book formats  have to adjust to another company's tiny online display area instead of using delicious  double page spreads.  Otherwise the type is too small to read. Popular previously published picture books can't always manage that and will be lost.  So illustrators and publishing venues will either have to find new ways to get around the restrictions without losing quality and creativity, or the artists will have to abandon their years of work, throw in the towel, and find another way to make a living.

Quality might suffer in other ways too. Anyone can publish a book online without being vetted by discriminating professional editors and art directors who know the difference between first-rate writing and junk.  Readers could drown in an overwhelming deluge of garbage. How will the cream rise to the top?  And how will the professional authors and illustrators make a living if all their hard work is sold for pennies (assuming that their readers can even find it)? 

Publishers seem to be up in the air about how to stay profitable, and you can be sure they are considering all the options as they get steamrollered by Amazon and bought up by conglomerates.  Professional authors and illustrators will do well to consider all of their options too. There's always a way. And the evolving changes and surprising results will be UNIMAGINABLE

So carry on, watch your backs, and stay tuned.


Gretchen Woelfle said...

We humans have the amazing ability to incorporate more and more media into our lives. I'm sure musicians felt that the days of live concerts were over when records, then radio, then television were invented. And fimmakers worried when TV came along, then VCRS and DVDs. Who'd still want to go to a movie theatre or a live concert?! We ALL do. Books will stick around, along with ebooks and whatever comes next. Bring it on!

Unknown said...

I'll give them my books when they can pry them from my cold, dead fingers.

Rosalyn Schanzer said...

Hahahahahaha, Jim.......that's great!! Just don't get any cold dead fingers for a verrry long time.

Myra Zarnowski said...

This sounds like a good idea for a children's book. Kids are always asking, What was it like when you were a kid? You could show them the "unimaginable" changes. Just a thought...

Rosalyn Schanzer said...

I know, Myra--I can't believe that during my own lifetime I actually knew people who had once traveled only in horse-drawn carts and ate beet soup made by their community in a humongous iron pot in the town square. As for my own youth, does anyone remember Lincoln Logs, jacks, yoyos, cat's cradle, hula hoops, unicycles, jump rope rhymes, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, seeing movies for a dime, huge candy bars that cost a nickle, and Mad Magazine? No?????????? Uh oh.