The Future of the Book:

mixed media electronic sculpture (books, monitors, camera).

An installation by Judith Donath, Gilad Lotan and Martin Wattenberg.

Three glowing screen are set amidst arching piles of ghostly pale books. One continuously reconfigures Twitter posts about reading, on another bouncing letters randomly settle into place, revealing pointed quotes about reading drawn from well-known books, while the third uses the viewer's image to trace out a series of related passages.

The Future of the Book was commissioned by the Boston Book Festival and exhibited at the Boston Public Library, October 2009. [photos]
It was subsequently exhibited by the Berkeley Center for New Media (April thru August 2011). [photos]

Please contact Judith Donath - judith [at] vivatropolis [dot] com for more information.

The earliest writings were carved in stone or scratched in clay and tree-bark. By 2400 BCE people had begun rolling papyrus sheets into scrolls. These remained the most popular written form for the next three thousand years, until the Chinese invented paper and European scholars began to bind parchments sheets into codices. It would take thirteen more centuries for these two technologies to come together to form the book, and another hundred years, until around 1440, for the printing press to be invented and the modern industrial book object to be born. Since then, for over 500 years, the book has been the dominant form for written communication.

The printed book has transformed modern society, helping to bring about the Protestant Reformation, the scientific revolutions of the Renaissance, widespread literacy, etc. Today books are ubiquitous. We read them on subways, build shelves for them into our houses, and sell them in bookshops, cafes, and on the banks of the Seine.

But, after six centuries of world-changing influence, is the printed book about to join the clay table, the scroll, and the parchment codex as a historic, but obsolete, writing technology?

Electronic books make it possible to carry an entire library in one device. They can be annotated and animated. Today's devices are still clunky and primitive -- but they will revolutionize reading and writing. Today's books are still written for paper - tomorrow's will be written for a networked computational device, changing how we think about linearity, permanance and the soon to be archaic idea of reading as a solitary and private experience.

The Future of the Book is an installation marking this turning point in the history of the written word.