Friday, October 12, 2012

Both/And, Not Either/Or

A whole lotta shakin’s been going on around here. The cinema has a spanking-new digital projector. The floors upstairs have been re-covered with a beautiful new wood laminate--farewell to the 1970s-style linoleum tile in the Green Room, which always reminded me of my primary school gym; adios to that ankle-threatening ridge on the eBar dance floor. The shelves of the bookstore have been re-arranged so browsers now enjoy an inviting event/reading space. And we’re very close to drawing back the curtains on our new web site and online magazine. Drag in that scruffy guy on the corner who’s wearing a “The End is Coming for Books” signboard and stand him in the middle of the store. He’ll probably be too busy perusing the new fiction section to fall on his knees and give thanks, but you’ll find his signboard out back with the blue bags tomorrow.

We’re all about lines in western culture—linear economic growth, linear historical progression, linear life paths. We’re so vector-addicted we forget, in spite of all history and even nature tries to tell us, that what seems a line in the short term is very often in the long term just one part of a pendulum arc, or even a tangent on a circle. Although eBooks, Facebook friends, 24/7 tweeting (and blogging!) aren’t going anywhere, many people caught up in the virtual frenzy are beginning to look over their shoulders and wonder why it feels like something’s missing. It’s not that they’ll suddenly dump all their shiny new things, pick up a hoe, and start homesteading Amish-style. But they might backtrack a bit with their new stuff bulging in their pockets, perhaps realizing that every gain in one direction might entail a loss in another unless the past is brought into the future rather than simply being dumped in favour of it. While the media loves an either/or story, it’s already turning out that for books and eBooks, social media and coffee-klatches, considered thinking and machine-gun telegraphy, it’s really a both/and story.

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