Book Test Unit is a platform for investigative and creative activity in what the future of the book may be. Beginning in 2014, the first BTU group was a collaboration between students from MA programmes in Visual Communication, Critical Writing in Art & Design and Curating Contemporary Art. Since then, the discussions initiated have been taken forward into its second incarnation with students from the Visual Communication MA and MRes programmes. Embracing the turbulence of change — the spirit of the inaugural BTU — continues here, from suggestions on the future of reading, translation and distribution, into new dialogues concerning new media and politics, public and private, memory and copyright.
Presented here is a seamlessly flowing compilation of research on the nature and future of books and libraries, carried out by students at the Royal College of Art as part of Book Test Unit in the spring of 2017. The result of three months worth of discussions, exhibitions and field trips, this is a book that seeks to embody, rather than merely present, the outcomes and discoveries made.
The future defies speculation. It is not utopia, nor any other predetermined endgame — it is an evolution, shaped and refined all the time by our present thoughts and actions. When living through it the future ends up taking us unawares, having missed its impetus. Only when looking back do we see exactly where, or when, it arrived.