Since the recent introduction of e-books, many have been heralding the death of the paper book. As the world becomes increasingly digitized and therefore dematerialized, tangible things like books seem like throwbacks to another era that seems wasteful, printing millions of books entirely on paper.
However, paper books are still hugely popular and will probably remain so for some time. In an effort to make the connection between paper books and forest conservation, Scottish artist Katie Paterson has launched Future Library, a project where 1,000 trees will be planted and harvested in 100 years, to create a book that will be published only in 2114. Authors like Canadian Margaret Atwood will be chosen every year to create new writings that will be held in trust and printed only in 100 years, as a kind of precious time capsule to demonstrate to future citizens the significance of the printed word.
These 1,000 spruce trees will be planted in Nordmarka, Norway, and will be maintained by the Future Library Trust. Works from authors chosen to contribute to the anthology will be unpublished until 2114, and only then will trees from this protected grove be transformed into paper books, printed with these words from the past. The anthology will be kept in a specially designed room in the yet-unbuilt new wing of the Deichmanske Public Library in Oslo, the interior of which will also be covered with wood from this project. Limited edition artworks of the project will be available from the artist in the form of a certificate that gives the owner one printed set of these books in 2114; though public access to the books will be available through the New Deichmanske library.
The project tries to anticipate the expected obsolescence of the printed book, and will include a printing press and instructions on how to use it and the process of paper-making. While some may say that not cutting the trees down in the first place is best, the project will actually conserve this area which had been slated to clear-cut much earlier.
Created as part of the Slow Space program, which poses questions "preconceptions about the forms and timespan of conventional public artworks," Future Library is an imaginative concept that deals with the idea of handing knowledge down through the generations, linking them with the revolutionary but dying art form of the printed book, while contextualizing it in the larger picture of responsible forest stewardship for at least one century and long-term conservation for generations yet unborn. Says Paterson on FastCoExist:
The idea to grow trees to print books arose for me through making a connection with tree rings to chapters--the material nature of paper, pulp, and books, and imagining the writer's thoughts infusing themselves, 'becoming' the trees.
In its essence, Future Library is hopeful--it believes there will be a forest, a book, and a reader in 100 years. The choices of this generation will shape the centuries to come, perhaps in an unprecedented way.