Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

Weathering the Digital Storm: e-book, Durabook or Leatherbound?

Monthly IWSG Corner: or
Are [Insecure] Writers better at weathering stormy times than other people? 🙂

There is no doubt that—if one watches the news at all—we are all heading for hell in a handbasket, according to media-directed focus on the negative aspects of our economy, environment, life-expectancy and statistics on survival. But, quietly, behind the scenes other aspects of our lives are changing for the good… if we but extract ostrich-like heads from sand and look around to see what we may have achieved.

Some years ago, the book publishing industry used toxic solvents, bleach compounds, felled a lot of non-regenerating trees and had no interest in recycling materials or finding alternatives to the [sometimes candy-coated] printed page. In fact, if we are honest, since the days of the Gutenberg press, we (writers) as a race, have probably been addicted to the sensation/smell of a good book in our hands.

Cradle-to-Cradle (2000) by McDonough & Baumgart revolutionized recyclable printing

Cradle-to-Cradle (2000) by McDonough & Braungart revolutionized recyclable printing

“Achieving the great economic transition to more equitable, ecologically sustainable societies requires nothing less than a design revolution beyond today’s fossilized industrialism. This enlightened and enlightening book—Cradle to Cradle—shows us how and indeed, that ‘God is in the details.'”
Hazel Henderson, author of Building a Win-Win World and Beyond Globalization: Shaping a Sustainable Global Economy

Cradle to Cradle

Then, in 2002, along came William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s seminal edition of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things, manufactured from ‘upcyclable’ material. The ‘Durabook’ feels substantial, pages wipe clean and at the time (before the great upswing to e-books), it was the darling of all ‘progressive’ universities. It looked so good on the second-hand book shelf!

With the advent of the e-book, electronic art, IT-in-all-schools, mass web access, we writers may have been guilty of continuing to keep our heads buried in the sand: not wanting to see what was happening: while the industry was changing—writers and indy publishers taking the business under their own wing; writers providing platforms, support systems for fellow-writers—we may even have rebelled internally, determined not to lose that most elusive of pleasures (to an author), the sensation of holding a ‘good book’ in one’s hands.

Durabook from Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart launches April 16th

Durabook from Bill McDonough & Michael Braungart launch April 16

Now, eleven years after their first Durabook (a synthetic made from recycled plastic resins and inorganic fillers), McDonough and Braungart launch their ‘sequel’ from Northpoint Press, The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance, on April 16th. The foreword is by former president William T. Clinton. Northpoint is a subsidiary arm of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

In the early 1990s, then President Bill Clinton asked Bill McDonough to help with the White House ‘Greening’ program, to make drastic reductions in presidential fuel bills. The former president enthusiastically contributes to the new ‘durabook’ with a foreword clearly showing his support for the architect-chemist team’s solution to the world’s ills:

“Bill and Michael proposed that a better-designed world would be good for business, good for people’s health and good for the environment. Their first book introduced these ideas to the broader public and gave momentum to the sustainability movement, urging us to eliminate waste and consider no resource dispensable… essence of Bill and Michael’s work is the genuine desire to help others, coupled with intellectual curiosity and a deep commitment to transform ‘good enough’ into the very best. They focus on making the right things the right way.” President William T. Clinton

While the publishing industry may be slow (almost as leviathan as the banking industry, if we are being honest), there is certainly a sense of camaraderie developing among fellow writers-bloggers-authors by the fresh breeze blown in by indy publishers and independent e-book self-publishers in the last decade.

“We do not want sustainability, because that is not enough. We want real quality”
Michael Braungart

Judging by the press releases, the sequel to Cradle-to-Cradle may be even more inspiring than the original. Eleven years worth the wait? I am not totally confident that we insecure writers—led always to our fearless Alex J Cavanaugh, will succeed in plunging—all at once—into the new world of Durabooks or plastic substitutes, because of … our insecurities, you know: our favorite ‘feel-good’ and ‘smell-good’ sensations are indulged in when we curl up with our… well …you-know-what …

… Or do our insecurities insist that a good book isn’t the same if it doesn’t come from a tree? We shall have to wait and see. Thanks for listening, IWSGers and Alex. And great achievement, Michael Braungart and Bill McDonough.
©2013 Marian Youngblood

April 3, 2013 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, environment, fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments