I used to love bookstores. I mean really, really, love bookstores. Not surprisingly, I loved books; big books, small books, old books new books. Each time we moved we would cull out dozens of books but still end up moving hundreds of pounds of great books because they had become part of the family.
My hometown of Eugene, Oregon is still blessed to have several thriving independent bookstores. Like you, we lost our Borders, our Barnes & Noble is hanging in there for the moment. And then there is Powell’s… Days and days spent in the stacks at Powell’s in Portland.
But kids born in the last ten years are experiencing a completely different relationship to the written word. On my Kindle I have 31 “active” books; with gobs more in my long term storage. I also read using the Kindle App on my IPhone and my IPad. Strangely I enjoy reading different things on the different devices. The next generation sees that (more or less) all books are instantly accessible and attainable. They will discover new books through social media interactions and following a link. They will never pay cash for a book; the transaction will be in the background and completely digital. They will not tell you what page they are on; they will say, “I am 74% through with the new James Patterson.”
Social Critic Marshall Mcluhan, born in Canada in 1911 said, “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” Mcluhan, in his watershed book, The Medium is the Message (a book I am still proud to own as a book-book) makes the point that media act as extensions of our senses. “Hot” media appeal to a single sense: reading and vision; listening and audio. Cool media appeal to multiple senses at once—TV, Movies, interactive games etc. He goes further to say that we get (addictively) attuned to particular media “temperatures”: some people love the pure “heat” of a good book; “readers” who like to read in absolute quiet. Other (usually young people) often say they need background noise or music playing to read or study—in effect “cooling things down”.
The point is that the way we engage with media and ideas ends up shaping a lot of our world view. Books are different than Kindles or E-readers. Audio is different than video. There really is something profound and magical about live music.
Real World Voldemort
I was delivering a keynote speech at a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona on 9/11. The news of the attacks was just breaking when a hasty meeting was held with the conference organizers to decide what to do, cancel—or go on with the conference. It became apparent quickly that nobody was going to be going anywhere anytime soon—so we went on with the conference. I have no clear memory of what I said during the opening keynote. I was a mess like everyone else.
Soon I was faced with the reality that I would not be flying home. So I found a one-way rental car and set off driving for home. I fly all the time; I rarely drive on long trips. It took about 20 minutes to realize that I needed something to keep me entertained and distracted from the news on the long trip home. I stopped at a K-Mart and looked at “Books on CD.” I remembered that my daughters—and my wife were HUGE Harry Potter fans, but I had still not picked up the books. I literally promised my youngest daughter “I will read Harry Potter.” So, I thought “what the hell…” and bought the first novel on CD.
The reader for the audio-book Potter series is an absolute talented freaking genius named Jim Dale. If you are at all familiar with Potter—there are dozens of key characters—and Dale nails each and every one perfectly. Even if you have read the books and seen the movies; the audio books are something to behold. Bottom line is that I was completely drawn into Hogwarts and I was ready to read the rest of the series by the time I was home in Oregon. So yes, in a way, OBL introduced me to the wonderful world of Harry Potter.
But I am still happy he got to meet my other favorite real world heroes: the US Navy SEAL teams.
Podcasting as Conversation; Audio Evolutionaries
Evolutionaries co-author Carmen Voilleque and I get together about once or twice a month to record our “Ask the Authors” the Podcasts. While we do answer questions from people we meet out on the road; we mostly talk about what we want, what is topical, what drives us crazy etc. I really look forward to those recording opportunities. Interestingly, if Carmen and I are working somewhere together—we almost never talk/chat/kibbitz; we are comfortable just getting from point A to point B without too much interaction. But put us in the audio booth and away we go.
So we KNEW we wanted to make an audio version of Evolutionaries. We didn’t realize how hard it would be to produce. Our sound engineer, the amazing William Haldane guided us through the recording process like a trooper. Then he edited the thing! He knows the book better than Carmen and I for sure. Then we jumped through all the hoops to get the book available on Itunes and through Audible.com. Actually, Kelly Smith, my amazing assistant did most of that work.
But it is out there! You can get an audio copy of Evolutionaries and while it is no Harry Potter—it is pretty dang good. I really believe that you can hear what Carmen and I are trying to say with the book better than you can “read” it. For one, the book and the major subject sources (interviews with Evolutionaries) were all developed through conversations. Listening to the book is a very different experience. We hope you try it out. And let us know what you think.
Eugene is notable for another form of media: the bumper sticker. Visitors to our fair city are always amazed at the deeply strange array of wisdom-snippets that adorn (usually beat-up older) cars and vans. One of my new favorites is “Don’t judge a book by its Movie.” Love it. Moving forward we will need to be ready for the reality that all media are going to be expressed across multiple platforms. It will be available everywhere all the time.
But make no mistake. Mcluhan was right. The medium makes a big difference. Notice the way you consume media and you will discover a lot about yourself.