Imagine a world in which bookstores printed books on demand, then and there. Sure, they'd keep a couple of copies of each volume on their shelves for readers to browse, but there'd be no trucks, no warehouses, no remainders... What kind of software is it going to need? What's the interface going to look like? Will people choose chapters out of something like Safari to create one-of-a-kind collections (just as everyone now has their own CDs, rather than having to put up with the sucky track 3 on the B side of an otherwise great album)?
Twenty years ago, in An Imperfect Art, Ted Gioia traced the development of an aesthetic of imperfection in 20th Century jazz. Recording made it possible for everyone to listen to perfect performances whenever they wanted to; musicians responded by evolving an aesthetics of imperfection that celebrated the slip and squawk and so-very-human moments of not quite getting around the corner but then somehow making it come right. Will something similar happen to bookmaking? Will we see the equivalent of DJs, whose special talent is sampling and remixing the printed word? And if we do, what kind of software will they want?
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