Interview with François Bon
François Bon has authored books that deal with subjects as diverse as classic rock bands, factories and the future of publishing. His concerns with the future of literature have led him to launch his own epublishing platform (publie.net) and guide aspiring young writers as a professor of experimental creative writing. Born in 1953 in Vendée, France, François Bon is a writer, researcher, and epublisher. Completing a degree in engineering, he came out with his first book, Sortie d'Usine (1982). Since 1991, he has focused particularly on experimental creative writing, and currently teaches this subject at Sciences Po Paris. As demonstrated in his latest book, Après le livre, François Bon pursues research on the future of the book. In 2008, he launched the epublishing platform publie.net, and he is the webmaster of the well-known website www.tierslivre.net. Lastly, his books on music Rock 'n Roll: Un portrait de Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones, une biographie, have received wide acclaim in France.
François Bon is invited to participate in the "Futures of the Book" event in San Francisco, where he will present his vision of what books will become in the digital age. He will intervene at the "Creating Minds" conference at University of California, Berkeley on October 23rd, 2013 on the theme "Already Beyond the E-Book Age?".
How have the digital technologies impacted the reader's practices ?
François Bon: I think that what we should bear in mind is that all the major changes which have overthrown our reading practices have been unpredictable: the arrival of ADSL in the era of CD-Rom, or the era of multi-tasking at a time when we had to change software to read, write, listen and communicate. The history of reading is also the history of the human body: reading on the iPad has very little to do with reading on a vertical screen; so does reading on a 7” tablet with reading on a 9” tablet. The history of reading used to be the one of lighting, candles, lamps and light bulbs, when nowadays all of us can read in the dark. To answer such a question, we must remember that devices constantly evolve; no stabilization is yet to be expected. Reading in the palm of our hands will be the next step.
How does this ongoing mutation redefine the writing practices, both in private and social spheres ?
FB: The word processor has been created by mimicking old typewriters and reprography machines (photocopiers, printers). It is the software that has the least evolved in 25 years. Something is happening right now with the “markdown” software, which adapts to the practices of literary creation, while integrating project management functions and highlights the heterogeneity of documentation sources (links, pictures, mails, documents). Nothing new there. What is revolutionary is that one can now save this heterogeneity as it is within the digital device, when it had to be sacrificed with the printed book. For instance, for me Twitter is not a “social” device nor a communications tool, but a kind of instant journal where annotations, observations, pictures and discussions mingle, and interfere with the most intimate moments of the writing process.
According to you, what are the prospects for the new medium of books ?
FB: It seams that as the years go by, I am increasingly emancipating from the book in itself. I am writing a database (my website) - which gathers reactions to the news, to reflexions and debates, but also important resources with a slow sedimentation process - made of galleries, sections and archives that can be perpetually transformed. My reading device is no longer the book; it is the internet browser itself: the iPad, the iPhone or the Kindle Fire can endow a web page or site with ergonomics without having to go through the digital book step. We should make these functions ours to enable the literature to be more powerful and more intense in depicting – or not – the world which surrounds us. In a nutshell, I believe that the future of the book is that we’ll soon live without it.
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