The Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture is held every year to raise funds for Adams’ favorite causes, Save the Rhino and the Environmental Investigation Agency. Hopefully I don’t have to tell you who Adams was and what he wrote. But you may not know about one of his lesser works, and in my opinion, one of the best popular science books ever written, Last Chance to See. If you haven’t yet read it, you’ll learn much about endangered species and find your heart being broken even as you laugh out loud.

For this year’s lecture, Adams’ friend and fellow author Neil Gaiman was asked to speak. As usual, Gaiman is charming, entertaining, funny and insightful. The whole things is worth watching, and Gaiman comes in around the 17 minute mark of the video below. In it, he discusses Adams’ prescient thoughts about why books endure:

“Douglas said…Books are sharks,” Gaiman told a packed audience at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

“I must have looked baffled because he he looked very pleased with himself. And he carried on with his metaphor. Books are sharks … because sharks have been around for a very long time. There were sharks before there were dinosaurs, and the reason sharks are still in the ocean is that nothing is better at being a shark than a shark.”

Adams told Gaiman: “‘Look at a book. A book is the right size to be a book. They’re solar-powered. If you drop them, they keep on being a book. You can find your place in microseconds. Books are really good at being books and no matter what happens books will survive.’ And he was right,” said Gaiman.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


6 Thoughts on "Neil Gaiman Salutes Douglas Adams: Why Books Are Sharks"

I’m reading Naomi s. Baron’s “Words on Screen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World.” She doesn’t have Adams’s flare for words. But she offers a lot of empirical evidence suggesting that Adams was, indeed, prescient with his “books are sharks” comment. Thanks for posting this. Loved it.

Two of my favorite authors making one of my favorite points. Thanks for sharing.

Reblogged this on Medical Library Matters and commented:
Since the advent of eBooks, the debate regarding the life of the printed book goes on and on. I love this straightforward approach from the prolific writer, Neil Garman.

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