20 June 2011

How Would You Explain a Kindle to Charles Dickens?

Rachel Walsh had a lot to explain. The young illustration undergraduate at the Cardiff School of Art & Design had been given a brief by her lecturer – the kind which lecturers love to give out but would probably dread to do themselves. It was to explain a piece of modern technology to someone who lived and died before 1900. Hard times, indeed.

She chose to describe the Kindle – and the person who she would explain it to was Charles Dickens. The metaphor that she used was that Kindle is a book with lots of little books inside. You can never go far wrong if you make a metaphor visual so Rachel got to work creating just that – a book with lots of little books within.

It wasn’t the easiest of tasks. In order to fulfill her lecturer’s great expectations she created forty tiny books to go inside a larger one. She found that this was not the easiest of tasks; the books were so tiny that if her hand jogged she would ruin one and have to start again from scratch. At times even a 0.04 nib pen was simply not small enough.

However, she overcame these obstacles and came up with something quite special. Dickens would have understood this concept at a glance. His interest would, I believe, have soon wavered – Dickens was so much more of a writer than a reader. Within seconds he would no doubt have been demanding a laptop and internet access. His new novels would be serialized at charlesjohnhuffamdickens.com and he would make a mint from selling the last couple of chapters to Amazon before so that his blog readers would have to pay to read them on their, you guessed it, kindles.

Many thanks to Rachel Walsh for giving us permission to reproduce these photographs here. Her life is a tale of two cities – she studies in Cardiff but hails from South West London. Yet she does have a blog which bridges them – and it includes more examples of her wonderful work as well as her musings. Click on any of the pictures or here to get there.