On the heels of the Apple iPad Mini announcement, I’m thinking about cathedrals.
Cathedrals, the lore goes, are never finished. This is not directly attributable to anyone in particular, and a web search brings up very little on this topic, but it’s a notion that many Catholics are reared on: as we strive towards perfection, towards completion, so do our houses of worship. We are never perfected, never completed; neither are our cathedrals.
There will always be another gadget. We invent things, we build things, and we do this at an ever-increasing pace. The nature of publishing now is more change than stability. There is no “final product” – only approaches to finality.
This is quite difficult for folks who think of books (and book publishing) as having permanence. Who look at something like Google’s execution on book metadata (or Apple’s execution on music metadata) and see a final product, not something in flux. The joy of digitization is that things can change. We can perpetually improve them. Nothing is final.
Becoming comfortable with this can be difficult. And each new gadget, each new format, each new iteration, seems an end in itself – one that is insufficient and lacking. Yes, we spend money on the insufficient – the iPad Mini is $329, which is kind of a lot of money for something that isn’t perfect (and which may be replaced by a newer model in 6 months).
But many consumers – and readers! – do understand that we are all on this road together, consumers and developers. And that it is a road toward progress. We’re never going to get there – wherever “there” even IS – but we’re going to approach transcendance from time to time (with linked data, with open data, with tags and identifiers and retina displays).
And even though cathedrals are never finished, they are sure incredibly beautiful.