I am occasionally asked to give my opinion on the future of the book: that handy container of wood pulp, thread, ink and glue that has been igniting the human imagination since the second century ad.
For those hunkered down in the trenches of the publishing industry, this question provokes strong passions. For some, the developments of the last fifteen years — from the collapse of the Net Book Agreement and the emergence of Amazon to
the rise of e-reading and self-publishing — are all causes of the book’s tragic demise. For others, it could not come soon enough, heralding a new, dynamic age of creativity, liberated from tired models of production and dissemination.
As an artisan publisher, Penned in the Margins finds itself somewhere in the middle. Technological advances from digital printing to social networking have enabled us to overleap (or squeeze underneath) barriers to entry. The precarious, partial transition from print to digital underpins our ability to make new work and, crucially, find audiences for it. On the other hand, I still obsess over end-papers, kerning and errant commas. The arrival of a new shipment of books to the office heralds much exited poring over what some consider an outdated, fetishised object.
I still obsess over end-papers, kerning and errant commas
But it’s at a more fundamental level that I respond to the question of the book’s future. For alongside publishing, Penned in the Margins is a producer of live events, from literary salons to touring theatre, from the site-specific to the spoken word. I used to think of this arrangement as a kind of productive schizophrenia, with one foot in public performance and the other in the private sphere of the book.
Now, though, these divided loyalties appear more like two faces of a common impulse: to push the limits of language, test new ideas, and explore alternative stories. Book or play, pen or voice: these are the media we employ – and whilst content is always shaped by form, we must never let the vehicle dictate the direction of travel nor the scope of the creative mind.
Book or play, pen or voice: these are the media we employ
It seems to me that the book remains a powerful and resilient medium, but one of many that now demand our attention. A book may also be a performance, and a performance a kind of reading. It is the gaps between and the points of intersection that most interest me.
Look beyond the medium, and in this year’s programme you will discover messages of protest from austerity Greece, a radical feminist satire and conversations with the Sun. From fainting schoolgirls to soldiers of fortune; from London’s East End to the frozen Svalbard archipelago…
I hope our programme excites, delights, baffles and provokes. If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line on email@example.com or Twitter @PennedintheM
Dispossession: Poetry of the Greek Crisis, Theodoros Chiotis (ed.)
Everything Crash, Tim Wells
Fence, Tim Cresswell
Forgive the Language: Essays on Poets and Poetry, Katy Evans-Bush
The Good Dark, Ryan Van Winkle
The Lost Art of Sinking, Naomi Booth
The Story of No, Emma Hammond
Sunspots, Simon Barraclough
Penned in the Margins is participating in the 2015 London Book Fair, 14-16 April. Visit us at Stand 3A72a. For the first time, LBF features a dedicated space for poetry, The Poetry Pavilion, and three of our authors – Simon Barraclough, Sarah Hesketh and Luke Kennard – will be reading from their latest work, as well as a discussion event featuring Penned in the Margins Director Tom Chivers.