Books That Need / by Lily Greenberg

This summer, I am interning for Cameron Books, a boutique publishing house based in Petaluma, California that creates and distributes quality books and calendars, with an emphasis on photography, art, and regional interest. I had the pleasure of writing a blog post for their site, about my perspective on the value of print publishing in our ever-advancing culture of technology. Here it is: 

I stand over my grandmother at the kitchen table. The contrast between her aged hands and the glossy iPhone is stark.

“Okay, go to your Safari.”
“It’s the Internet on your phone.”
“There’s internet on here?”

My grandmother has had an iPhone for a couple of years now. Frankly, I’m thrilled that she can send texts, and even use emoticons. Each of her texts is decorated with chickens and cigarettes and many other irrelevant, yet entertaining pictures. I’m 20, she’s 83. We learn from each other: Granny tells me endless stories about lessons learned over the years, and I show her technology tricks.

“Print is a lost art,” is Granny’s daily lament. “Why have text messages replaced hand-written thank-you cards?” asks the woman who sends a scrawled message of gratitude each time she attends any sort of event, no matter how casual the gathering.

 Cameron Books was founded by Robert Cameron, an aerial photographer based in San Francisco. Here is a famous shot of his, over the Golden Gate bridge.

Cameron Books was founded by Robert Cameron, an aerial photographer based in San Francisco. Here is a famous shot of his, over the Golden Gate bridge.

One of the many polarities I experience is tradition versus technology. The elderly with their hardback books, the youth with their Kindles, back and forth arguing which medium is superior.

And yet, perhaps this polarity is an illusion. Perhaps rather than choosing one end of the spectrum, there is an appropriate sphere for all dog-eared pages and backlit screens alike.

As a millennial, I would predictably fall under the pro-technology umbrella. And I am pro-technology. I find innovation to be exciting, with instant accessibility and open doorways to any conversation. I love that I can learn about any subject without having to take a class or purchase a book.

Simultaneously, I am just as drawn towards the physical nature of print. Nothing could replace a borrowed novel, with underlined phrases and marginal notes, held together by worn binding. I like to read poetry on a paper page. Pencil in hand, I want to count out beats in a poem, and circle repetitions. And while photographs are always sleeker on a screen, there are times when I want to run my hands over the pictures, connecting with the images on the base level of touch.

I am the summer intern for Cameron Books, and the phrase “books that need to be books” rings between my ears. Books that can only be experienced in a physical platform, books where the pages must be touched and turned, books that would lose their punch if formatted as a webpage. Not all books need to be books, but these ones certainly do.

The wooden surface of my grandmother’s kitchen table is a rare sight. Instead, I see a cluttered assembly of books, a yellow notepad filled with memories, a stack of junk mail. Layered into the jumble is an iPad, with an iPhone sitting close by. A marriage of tradition and technology, a place for all things.

As the spectrum of information management continues to expand, I am thrilled to be a part of a company that celebrates the art of beautifully crafted books, not as some kitschy tourist memorial for the "olden days", but as an irreplaceable vehicle of expression. Books that need to be held, books that need to be shared, books that need to be books. 

Follow the Cameron + Company blog.