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17 January 2010 @ 04:42 pm
Loving the Wine More Than the Bottle  
With the constant talk about the death of paper and the eventual triumph of pixels, I thought the following quote, which I included in a handout I prepared for an early Readercon panel titled "Losing Money for Fun and Profit: Small Press How-To," remained as relevant as ever.

I can't recall where I copied this from, but I attributed it to John Bennett. While there seem to be a number of John Bennetts out there, I think it came this John Bennett. (I'll try to verify that.) One reason it rang so true with me is that even though I love beautiful books, I also know that what truly matters is the wine, not the bottle.

This quote, copied down by me in the late '80s, long before any of us ever thought that books and magazines could be threatened by that spawn of DARPA, seems to have presciently addressed the transition we're now going through:

You could bring the mag out twice in a month and then once in two years and everything would be fine if the stuff between the covers was good; you could bring it out on glossy paper using a letterpress or on a mimeo using recycled paper and it didn't make any difference; my God, you could print the magazine with rubber stamps and that wouldn't matter, that would not make it bad and it would not make it good, the method by which you got the word out was incidental, the important thing was to go after all those vague dissatisfactions, to get at the core of them, to not fall for the soft persuasions and rationalizations, to not cower in the foothills of the mountain of accumulated and historical evidence that tell you you are wrong.

He was right then. And he's right now.

I wonder whether, given the chance, he'd update this quote to add something like, "why, you could abandon paper completely and even that wouldn't matter"?

I'm going to try to find out.


It turns out that the John Bennett I linked to above was the correct John Bennett. He writes to say:

Scott ... yes, that's my quote, from way back when. I'm not even sure where it appears! Possibly in Black Messiah, The Vagabond Anthology, Survival Song or one of the installments in my White Paper series.
~twilight~_twilight_ on January 18th, 2010 09:34 am (UTC)
When portable devices become the equivalent of the iPod, I could see books becoming more of a collectors' medium.