Scribbles and thoughts ...

These are ramblings from J L Wilson, published author of romantic suspense, mystery, and paranormal -time travel fiction....

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Printed word or just word?

I have a very close relationship to the printed word.

I wrote my first novel when I was 10 (17 chapters, almost 40 pages of text. About a racehorse. I grew up in Iowa and the closest I came to a racehorse was the ponies ridden by friends, but I had a good imagination).

I learned Braille long ago (long story), but have since forgotten all but the feeling of "ahah" when I was able to close my eyes and discern a letter by ITS SHAPE. Not its appearance, but its shape. That was truly unique.

In college I earned 'fun money' by doing calligraphy. I taught myself pen techniques, took some classes, and developed my own fonts and styles, some of which were quite inventive. Along the way I earned four college degrees (in English Literature and Informatino Theory), which combined my love of the word with a study of the scientific way we process words. Again: an "a ha" moment, a fascination with words and how we perceive them all given new light.

My first professional job was as a typesetter for a printing company. I also did layout and proofreading. I developed a love for letters -- the physical shape of letters, how they are presented on the page, how they appear. I learned about leading, kerning, layout design.

My next professional job was as a writer -- a technical writer. Part of what a technical writer does is write about the product or task, but the other part is deciding how to present the material. I learned about graphics, visual presentation of technical information (have you read Edward Tufte? If not, you should:

One of my tech writing jobs is to document software that manages content -- all kinds of content, whether it be documents, or graphics, or physical items. Again: content management. A way to present, use, handle content.

Then I started to be published in fiction. I have quite  few books out now, all with different publishers. And you know what? Some of them are in digital form only, some are printed. And I love 'em all just the same. I think they're all just as good. The digital ones aren't less well written than the printed ones. I love seeing the 'printed word' on my Kindle, on a paper page, and on my computer screen.

If ANYBODY should have a beef with digital publishing, it should be me -- one of the keystones of my life has been to study letters (and words). But I have no beef. I don't think digital demeans a book. I won't deny myself a book just because I can't "hold it in my hand." I don't care about the smell of books, I don't care about the touch of a book, I don't care about its appearance except only in how it affects my reading of content.

Why are some people so passionate about the 'printed word'? I just don't get it.

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