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Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman said that technology is inevitably impacting the way in which we live our lives.
At the University’s “tech/no” speaker series on Oct. 1, Gaiman–a novelist, graphic novel author, and screenwriter–said that there is still a future for books in our ever-evolving world.
“In most ways, the individual book is superior than a Kindle or iPad. There is one caveat: the Kindle of iPad is superior to a library,” Gaiman said.
The current Bucknell Forum series embraces the perils and promises of technology. The series, which began in the fall of 2012 and will run through the spring of 2014, aims to stir discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of technology in our world today.
Margot Vigeant, professor of chemical engineering and associate dean of engineering, is part of the task force of faculty members that sponsor the forum speakers. She introduced Gaiman as “one of the most creative storytellers” and someone who “provides us with gateways beyond the world we know.”
Gaiman began his exploration of technology in 1997 by speaking with Douglas Adams, author of the comic science fiction series, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Douglas not only published his book in standard paperback format, but also made an eBook available. Like Gaiman, Douglas wondered if this meant the end of books was in the near future.
In certain cities, such as New York City, books may be dead, but this is because of the sampling group. Since many of these people have a long commute to work, it is easier for them to carry a Kindle or an iPad in their bag rather than an actual book, but this is not true in all parts of the world, Gaiman said.
“I see the rise of books as being beautiful objects,” Gaiman said.
Gaiman started off writing on a manual typewriter, moved to an electric typewriter, and finally shifted to using a computer. When Gaiman bought his first computer, a Tandom PC with a 20MG hard drive, the salesperson told him he was an idiot.
“I feel bad selling it to you. You’ll never fill it,” the salesperson said referring to the 20MG hard drive, the largest one of the time.
Gaiman described himself as being a “very hungry” young journalist, so he was willing to take the risk. It was after Gaiman purchased this laptop that everything fell into place.
“It all started working. It was incredibly powerful and made me more productive. It was the start of a new age,” Gaiman said.
Gaiman said it was then that he fell back in love with writing. He felt completely free and was excited by the transition from typewriter to computer.
It was not long before Gaiman said he yearned to get back to the basics. He bought his first fountain pen and said he found it completely liberating to be writing on paper again. Gaiman still does his best writing with pen and paper and enjoys writing in coffee shops or in friends’ houses.
“When I’m writing on the computer and delete my work, it is painful because it is gone, but when I write in a notebook, I can simply skip over the parts that I don’t want to include,” Gaiman said. “The challenge is that technology does allow us to work better.”
Gaiman said that new technology has helped to produce a vast knowledge of information, but just in the past couple of years, this has shifted to an information overload. He said that now more than ever, a librarian is an extremely important part of society. Just as Google helps you to search out the relevant information on the internet, a librarian does the same in a library.
“Communication changes your life in some way when you can be in touch with the entire world,” Gaiman said.
Gaiman reflected back on writing his book “Good Omens” with fellow author Terry Pratchett. He said they used to mail floppy disks to one another in order to share their work. Although they tried to communicate from one hard drive to the other, Gaiman said a carrier pigeon would have been faster to use at this time.
Gaiman said that he now loves using the computer to connect both as an author and as a human being.
“We are moving into a future in which nothing is certain. Everything is changing and that is a good thing,” Gaiman said.
Gaiman concluded his speech by offering us a piece of advice. He compared mammals to dandelions and said the main difference between the two is that mammals are so concerned with their children succeeding and dandelions simply do not care. This is because mammals typically only have a few children, while dandelions have hundreds and hundreds. He encouraged us to be more like dandelions and take risks and try new things.
“Fail, fail more interestingly and then succeed in ways you didn’t imagine,” Gaiman said.