Symposium Wrap-Up

KICK-OFF READING by Christian Bök

Co-Sponsored with Purple Blurb


We started the event with a kick-off reading, co-sponsored with Purple Blurb, featuring experimental poet Christian Bök, who has striven for ten years to engineer an unkillable bacterium so that it becomes not only a durable archive for storing a poem in its genome, but also an operant machine for writing a poem in response–a poem that might, in fact, outlive terrestrial civilization. Bök was introduced by Nick Montfort, and student readers Aimee Harrison and Alvin Mwijuka shared their work.

(Listen to a podcast here, or watch a video here. Please be patient while the media loads.)


MIT Archives & Special Collections, and the Wunsch Conservation Lab

On Friday morning, an open house at MIT Libraries allowed visitors to see some wonderful books. Above, Stephen Skuce and Pat Olson share some of the rare books in the Institute Archives. Below, Nancy Schrock demonstrates preservation practices in the Conservation Lab.


Welcoming Remarks

UNBOUND: Speculations on the Future of the Book

Amaranth Borsuk and Gretchen Henderson (Listen here. Please be patient while the podcast loads.)

Panel One


Participants: Bonnie Mak (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), James Reid-Cunningham (Boston Athenaeum), Wyn Kelley (MIT Literature), Mary Fuller (MIT Literature)
Moderator: Gretchen Henderson (MIT Writing and Humanistic Studies)

(Listen here, or watch a video here. Please be patient while the media loads.)

Above: Mary Fuller, Wyn Kelley, James Reid-Cunningham, Bonnie Mak, Sign Interpreter

Bonnie Mak: “Entanglements of the Page”
Mak draws upon research on medieval manuscripts from her new book, How the Page Matters, to explore the role of the page in the production and transmission of knowledge.

James Reid-Cunningham: “The Long Happy Life of the Book”
Reid-Cunningham discusses the history of the codex, and why books didn’t die out long ago, while also examining the origins of contemporary book art, using some of his own books to describe the book as an artwork rather than a mere carrier of information.

Wyn Kelley: “Leaving an Open Margin: the Example of Herman Melville”
Kelley considers the margin as a creative space for writers, critics, and artists.

Mary Fuller: “Where the Old Things Are: The Books We Forget”
Fuller engages another kind of old book: the books that are uncatalogued, in storage, queued for discard in MIT’s storage annex, and think about the dynamics of forgetting books and collections as well as the work of returning them to memory.

Panel Two


Participants: Gita Manaktala (MIT Press), Christian Bök (University of Calgary), Bob Stein (SocialBook)
Moderator: Amaranth Borsuk (MIT Writing and Humanistic Studies and Comparative Media Studies)

(Listen here, or watch a video here. Please be patient while the media loads.)

Above: Bob Stein, Gita Manaktala, Christian Bök

Gita Manaktala: “Shifts in Scholarly Publishing at MIT Press”

Manaktala considers key shifts in reading and writing practices and explains how editors are well-positioned to help their authors navigate this new terrain.

Bob Stein: “Social Book: A Post-Print Publishing Platform”

Stein suggests that the future of books is in collaborative reading and demonstrates the SocialBook platform.

Christian Bök: “The Xenotext”

Bök explains his decade-long project to encode a poem into the DNA of an extremophile that will encipher a poem in return, outlining both the scientific and conceptual/poetic process of writing The Xenotext.

Panel Three


Participants: N. Katherine Hayles (Duke University), Rita Raley (University of California Santa Barbara), Nick Montfort (Comparative Media Studies and Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, MIT)
Moderator: David Thorburn (MIT Literature and Comparative Media Studies)

(Listen here, or watch a video here. Please be patient while the media loads.)

Above: Rita Raley, N. Katherine Hayles, Nick Montfort

N. Katherine Hayles: “Apophenia: David Clark’s 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein”

Hayles provides media-specific readings of Clark’s net art work and David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress, both of which are “resistant experimental works […] within the traditions with which they associate themselves.”


Rita Raley: “Ian Hatcher’s ‘Signal To Noise'”

Raley argues that today’s texts are part of an “expanded field” continuously and dynamically created by communities of authors, commentators, and readers and facilitating intersubjective exchange.

Nick Montfort: “10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10”

Montfort explains this unusual line of code for the Commodore 64 and describes the process of writing a collaborative monograph analyzing this single line from a number of critical perspectives by ten authors using a single voice.

David Thorburn (Moderator)

A complete write-up of the panel is also available on the MIT Communications Forum website.

A Few Faces From Unbound

Thanks to a wonderful audience for engaged questions and thoughtful participation!

A Brief Snapshot of eBooks, Videotext, and Future Shock

a guest post by Linda VandeVrede

Ebooks have come a long way in the last three decades.  In 1983-84, when I was researching my master’s thesis at Boston University, ebooks were only just emerging and were referred to as “electronic novels.”   Many of us studying the industry foresaw their future popularity, but it took a bit longer than we anticipated and the screen clarity and ease of access have far surpassed our original predictions.

The first ebook – 1983   

The very first electronic novel was created in 1983 at a computer show in Toronto. Author Burke Campbell wrote a “suspense novelette” on an Apple III and sent it to the Source Telecomputing Corporation, a commercial enterprise based in McLean, Virginia, that provided information along telephone lines. Campbell created a 19-chapter, 20,000-word book, which was then edited by The Source, and made available to subscribers only three hours later. Subscribers had the choice of reading “Blind Pharoah” on their video display terminal, printing it, or storing it on a floppy disk. The cost to download the story was just over $2.00 for nighttime fees, cheaper than purchasing a paperback novel.

Videotext was a 2-way channel

Videotext was initially a government-subsidized service that had become popular in Europe in the 1970s. For that reason, it took off faster in Europe than in the United States, where it was a commercial enterprise. It was a two-way interactive system which transmitted information along telephone or cable lines to a specially adapted television set or home computer. Books as a service, however, as opposed to time-sensitive data, were considered rather a novelty at the time.

Factors Slowed Down Acceptance

The reason for this is that the television sets, video display terminals and home computers that received the information were very primitive. There was a lot of flickering on the screen, which made long-term reading very challenging. Refresh rates of the images was approximately only 30Hz – 60Hz.  Extensive reading off the screen was therefore not a pleasant experience.  Most people at the time could only see electronic delivery being viable for time-sensitive information. Indeed, Grolier Encyclopedia’s Academic American was provided online in the early 80s through Compuserve, another information retrieval system, and this was deemed a perfect delivery vehicle because it allowed easy updating and changes and smaller chunks of information.

Another factor that slowed acceptance of ebooks was the heavy cost to access the novels.  Fees for The Source were $20.75/hour during the day, and $7-10/hour in the evening.  There was both private and public Videotext at the time, but the costs were significant, and there was a learning curve among subscribers. Subscribers to the Source tended to be more affluent and more educated, based on demographic surveys conducted at the time.  This limited the initial acceptance and proliferation of the technology.

The big question facing publishers then was puzzling over where videotext would fit in relation to print publishing: what would be published, and for whom? The concept of being able to interact with the data, request changes, ask for more details and customize the information was revolutionary.

The next big development did not arrive until 2000, when authors Michael Crichton and Stephen King provided electronic books – the first big name authors to do so. They were part of an evolution of the growing online exchange of music spurred on by Napster and other services. Even as late as 2008, however, pundits were still saying that digital books couldn’t compete with the cozy familiarity of curling up by a fireside with a traditional print book. Recent statistics, however, have shown ebook formats surpassing traditional formats in sales. The changes to and acceptance of ebooks since 2008 have been exponential.

What does the future hold?

More than 40 years ago, Alvin Toffler predicted the information change in his book “Future Shock.” This is a time phenomenon, he wrote: “a product of the greatly accelerated rate of change in society. It arises from the superimposition of a new culture on an old one.  It is culture shock in one’s own society.” Children under the age of 12 have grown up around the concept of Kindles and Nooks. What major changes are in store for them in terms of their understanding of what a book is, as they grow older? Interesting to ponder.

a guest post by Linda VandeVrede

Don’t Put up My Thread and Needle: A few thoughts on archives, unbinding and digital books

Of course, unbinding is about the process of breaking down– of designating what does and does not belong, what is kept in, what is left out; or what is left in, what is kept out.

This year, while working on The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education as a project assistant, I have been exploring the possibilities of unbinding material and digitally publishing archives that are nimble and can freely circulate.

I turn to  the work of translating notes on Lucy Martin Donnelly (1870-1948): a biographical research project which began with a small collection of citations and material in Special Collections, was then collated into a ten-page paper, and is being currently re-envisioned as an iBook.

Figure 1. Title Page of iBook (see notes below for further information)

While researching Lucy Martin Donnelly, who was first an alumna of Bryn Mawr and then ended her tenure as head of the English Department, I began sleuthing through the files in Special Collections. I chose to work on constructing a small biography of Lucy Martin Donnelly, because it seemed that many of the history books and biographies I was reading on Bryn Mawr College’s history had glints of Donnelly’s influence though never more than a paragraph or two. The chosen epigraph for the title page  (shown in Figure 1) reads, “For many years hers [Donnelly’s] was the most influential voice in the planning for the English Department–and none the less influential because it was a quiet voice.” The words are in the “Memorial Introduction” honoring Donnelly’s career given by former Bryn Mawr President Katherine McBride. My foray into researching Donnelly’s life began with the question of how to highlight this powerful voice in a fashion that complements McBride’s description.

Donnelly’s archival material mostly consists of remnants from relationships through recollections of friends, saved dinner invitations, and letters that were sent to her. These documents were in most cases related to prominent figures in  Bryn Mawr’s history: Helen Thomas Flexner, Betrand Russell, Edith Hamilton, Edith Finch, M. Carey Thomas, Marianne Moore, or the Bryn Mawr English department.

Instead of pulling apart these facets, I found myself following the desire to bind; to create a collation of these materials which could provide a composite portrait, to provide depth through the heft of compilation. My process began with collecting the materials, references, and citations to create a fuller portrait of Donnelly.

Figure 2. A screenshot from the iBook with a group photo including Donnelly

I began to think about how the work of unbinding requires us first to recognize the necessity of boundaries. Before I could imagine what digital possibilities were for the materials I was working with, I needed to understand them in the context of one another; I had to bind them together in a narrative.

What I found when constructing these pieces through an analogue biography, is that rather than following a chronological narrative, the materials seem apt to push against the boundaries of a linear chronology. The different references to Donnelly were specific to each person and privileging one account over another would only overshadow what I saw as a core facet to Donnelly’s history: her ability to reach out to many people and ideas and to connect them. Donnelly’s impact arose out of a desire to create ties between people long before social media 2.0. She was in a sense, the creator of a 19th century Facebook-type network. For example, Betrand Russell was quoted in the July ’36 Alumnae Bulletin article “Miss Donnelly Retires” as saying: It is nearly forty-two years since I first met Lucy Donnelly and during those years we have discussed many topic literary and other. We disagreed about Matthew Arnold and the first sentence of The Golden Bowl but, passionate as the argument was on those two weighty subjects, it did not impair our friendship. It was from Lucy Donnelly that I first heard of [Joseph] Conrad, who afterwards became my friend and my son’s godfather.”  
This brief praise from Russell illustrates his affection for Donnelly’s friendship, her breadth of knowledge and intellect and also her ability to connect.

It was through the constraints of the page that I was able to better grasp why Donnelly’s biography seemed so intangible and resisted archiving on a traditional page. The kaleidoscopic narrative of Donnelly’s life, a life tangled with serendipitous meetings, threads of interwoven tête-à-têtes, and lasting influences, was one that required a networked representation.

Figure 3. A screenshot of the iBook side bar displaying multiple pages

I wanted to think about how to create a record of Donnelly’s life that echoed its vibrancy through many strands. Part of the benefit of the multi-vocal, sometimes conflicting accounts is that we see the multiple versioning of Donnelly as the archives of her life are constructed through the memories of others. Some, like Russell, may remember Donnelly’s passion for literature and philosophy, others might recall her work in an administrative capacity like founding the Chinese Scholarship committee but all accounts provide a rich rendering of her impact.

I turned to the iBook– a newly developed platform by Apple which would allow me to collage pictures, sound, and hyperlinks. As Figure 3 demonstrates, the iBook platform allows me to create a series of portraits that would recount Donnelly through the profiles of people  she worked with and influenced. Through this dynamic text, it was possible to design a flexible path that would illustrate multiple accounts and perspectives for the reader to tie together–binding and unbinding her portrait of Donnelly as she read.

Yet, even with the new flexibility of these features and their platform, I created an area of boundedness:  one of hardware. Even while the interface became haptic and multimodal, it necessitated an iPad to circulate and MacBook to create.

While the kinds of binding may have changed, even with fluid, digital networks, we are creating ties and facing fixed boundaries. It is then our work to do the unbinding and rebinding so that we stretch wider towards the possibilities that are just beyond their margins.

Notes on this blog:

The images above are screenshots from the iBook in progress “Lucy Martin Donnelly and the Power of Female Networking.” All materials featured are courtesy of Bryn Mawr College Special Collections.This blog entry is also cross-posted on the Educating Women blog.

These thoughts were inspired by a symposium recently held at MIT, Unbound: Speculations on the Future of the Book. It is the conversations and presentations resulting from this symposium that influenced my sense of boundedness and the productive processes which tether and unravel it.

Don’t put up my Thread and Needle is from an Emily Dickinson poem, 617, “Don’t put up my Thread and Needle –”

Of course, unbinding is about the process of breaking down: is a an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s opening line in his essay, The Crack-Up: “Of course all life is a process of breaking down”

The Future of Permanent Collection Catalogues

A guest post by Brooke Kellaway, Getty Fellow, Visual Arts, Walker Art Center.

In the Walker Art Center’s library there are shelves of collection catalogues from museums around the world, dating from the mid 1900s. Since museums have the means to publish these books only once every several years (or decade), the care put into each is sometimes so intensive that the books themselves seem as special as the art written about inside of them. They capture events—cultural moments based on the stories told, works featured, design decisions made, and contributing writers selected.

What will become of collection catalogues in print when collection catalogue websites become increasingly prevalent? I’d like to think of the latter not as replacements for the book (long live it!) or upgrades of database-driven websites, but as the result of the best of both formats remade into something new and great…

The Walker Art Center’s next collection catalogue will launch on later this year. We’ve radically expanded the book model and are completely revamping the collection website to create a dynamic media-rich space for vast (and free) information on works of art in the Walker’s collection.

The online catalogue entries will provide interested art historians, professionals, students, and the general public with updated material and a range of critical perspectives on the works. For example, the online entry for Yves Klein’s Suaire de Mondo Cane (Mondo Cane Shroud) (1961), will provide multiple high-resolution images of the painting with close-ups of the International Klein Blue pigment on the gauze fabric, several videos about the work’s conservation treatment and the process of installing it in the gallery, and an on-camera interview with the curator who researched the work before its acquisition. Scholarly essays will be included, as well as a detailed presentation history with floor plans and checklists, a bibliography with cited texts hyperlinked or embedded, and the work’s provenance.

Yves Klein's Suaire de Mondo Cane (Mondo Cane Shroud), 1961. Pigment, synthetic resin on gauze. 108 x 118.5 inches.

This new collection catalogue will be perpetually in production, featuring new entries with every new acquisition. It’s a sensible step for the Walker, being that in the past several years the generation and storage of information on artworks has been primarily through electronic systems (from typed wall labels to digital photography and video to artist correspondence). It’s the same at other museums, as evidenced in the collection pages of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art or Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and these online catalogues by the Corcoran and Rijksmuseum. With ever more sophisticated collection management databases, digital asset management systems, web publishing software, and interactive technologies, the documentation and interpretation of collection works is happening in the virtual world much more frequently.

The Walker’s catalogue is being built with the support of the Getty Foundation’s Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) grant. The nine participating museums have considered the elements that make their printed books excellent resources (from thoroughly researched essays to useful glossaries and maps) and are incorporating these aspects into their collection websites with content that is current, searchable, and links out to a wider spectrum of both the museum’s activities and scholarship originating from elsewhere.  Some of them emulate the look and feel of a book, while others explore alternative interfaces.  For more information on their progress, the Getty just released its OSCI report that gathers the museum grantees’ experiences in publishing these new multifaceted collection catalogues.

I recently read the New York Times article, A Vast Museum That You Can Carry, reviewing the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new 449-page guidebook. Ken Johnson wrote, “How useful the new guide will be when anything you want to know about the Met and its holdings can be quickly accessed on the museum’s world-class Web site is an interesting question.” It’s an interesting question indeed, and one that we at the Walker look forward to investigating as we work on melding the best of the book with the amazing possibilities offered by digital publishing.

40 Ruminations on the Future of DEAD/BOOKS

1. I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished to forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.

2. And yet the first obstacle is certainly the book itself—clunky and musty and shouting nonsense all the time. Thus the first solution is to re-make the book into a two-way communication node; cast it as self-aware in some small sense, gesturing toward the contradictions of its authorial positions.

3. A book is a set or collection of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets made of ink, paper, parchment, or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is called a leaf or leaflet, and each side of a leaf is called a page. A book produced in electronic format is known as an electronic book or e-book.

4. A store where books are bought and sold is a bookstore or bookshop. Books can also be borrowed from libraries. In 2010, Google estimated that there were approximately 130 million distinct books in the world.[1]

5. His novel BLANK was published by Jaded Ibis Press in March 2011. The novel consists of 20 chapter titles that Schneiderman has claimed in an interview follows morphological structures in line with the work of Vladimir Propp. The titles, such as “A Character” or “Another Character”, are separated by blank pages that contain 20 randomly spaced pyrographic or burn illustrations by artist Susan White. Additionally, the work has a “soundtrack” of three remixed Bach tracks from DJ Spooky. These tracks are available as part of a $7500 fine-art edition of the novel, which comes encased in a plaster. The plaster must be broken by the reader to access the blank novel. Jaded Ibis does full-spectrum publishing, and Blank will be available in an e-book edition and a color edition to supplement the black-and-white commercial edition.

6. E Ink (electrophoretic ink) is a specific proprietary type of electronic paper manufactured by E Ink Corporation, founded in 1997 based on research started at the MIT Media Lab. It is currently available commercially in grayscale and color[1] and is commonly used in mobile devices such as e-readers and, to a lesser extent, mobile phones and watches.

7. BLANK signals Schneiderman’s move toward conceptual writing, which is also reflected in a number of his recent web publications called the “Un-Death of the Author” series. In these, Schneiderman publishes well-known literary works under his name, as per the prologue to The Canterbury Tales (in Middle English), that appear on a 2010 edition of the website Publishing Genius.

8. The adverb [SIC]—meaning “intentionally so written”—first appeared in English circa 1856.[2] It is derived from the Latin adverb sīc, which contains a long vowel and means “so”, [note 3] “thus”, “as such” or “in such a manner”.[3] In English, [SIC] is a homophone of [SIC]k /ˈsɪk/; its Latin ancestor is pronounced more like the English word seek [ˈsiːk].[4]

9. The Amazon Kindle is an e-book reader developed by subsidiary Lab126 which uses wireless connectivity to enable users to shop for, download, browse, and read e-books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and other digital media.[1] The Kindle hardware devices use an E Ink electronic paper display that shows up to 16 shades of gray, minimizes power use, and simulates reading on paper.

10. In one early instance, a letter written in July, 1876 by Dr. Enoch Mellor to the editor of the Literary Churchman discussed “the cheap insinuation of ignorance which can lie in a bracketed [SIC].”[5]

11. BLANK is the first term in Schneiderman’s DEAD/BOOKS trilogy. His first sequel to BLANK, titled [SIC], consists of three divisions.

12. The first division includes public domain works Schneiderman published under his name which appear to originate from other writers who are not Schneiderman. For instance, Schneiderman published one of the earliest Old English poems, “Cademon’s Hymn,” the prologue to The Canterbury Tales, and “Tyger, Tyger,” as well as sections of Moby Dick; or, The Whale, Ulysses, and appropriately, “Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment.”

13. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the verb form of [SIC], meaning “to mark with a [SIC],” emerged in 1889, citing E. Belfort Bax‘s work in The Ethics of Socialism as one of the early examples.[1] That piece by Bax, “On Some Forms of Modern Cant,” had actually appeared even earlier in Commonweal, published in 1887.[6]

14. This 1996 law, also known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Sonny Bono Act, or the Mickey Mouse Protection Act[2] effectively “froze” the advancement date of the public domain in the United States for works covered by the older fixed term copyright rules. Under this Act, additional works made in 1923 or after that were still protected by copyright in 1998 will not enter the public domain until at least 2019.

15. The third division of [SIC] includes works under in the public domain after 1923, the year frozen by the Mickey Mouse act, and so includes Wikipedia pages (which comprise much of the paper you are now reading), Supreme Court verdicts related to intellectual property, genetic codes, and other untoward appropriations.

16. Usage of [SIC] greatly increased in the mid-twentieth century.[7] For example, in state-court opinions prior to 1944, the Latin loanword appeared a total of 1,239 times in the Westlaw database; in those from 1945 to 1990, it appeared 69,168 times.[8] The “benighted use” (see Form of ridicule) has been cited as a major factor for this increase.[8]

17. “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” (original Spanish title: “Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote”) is a short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.

18. It originally appeared in Spanish in the Argentine journal Sur in May 1939. The Spanish-language original was first published in book form in Borges’s 1941 collection El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths), which was, in turn, included in his much-reprinted Ficciones (1944).

19. “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” is written in the form of a review or literary critical piece about (the non-existent) Pierre Menard, a 20th century French writer. It begins with a brief introduction and a listing of all of Menard’s work.

20. Borges’ “review” describes Menard’s efforts to go beyond a mere “translation” of Don Quixote by immersing himself so thoroughly in the work as to be able to actually “re-create” it, line for line, in the original 17th century Spanish. Thus, Pierre Menard is often used to raise questions and discussion about the nature of authorship, appropriation and interpretation.

21. Borges: English 1962: Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote translation history: Spanish – 1942, 1944 / French – 1951/ Italian – 1957 / English – 1962 / French – 1963 / Norwegian – 1964 / English – 1965 /Italian – 1967 / Spanish – 1970 / Estonian – 1972 / Greek – 1973 / English – 1974 / Estonian – 1976 / Portuguese – 1976 / Japanese – 1978 / English – 1980.

22. The second division of [SIC] pivots on Jorge Luis Borges’s story: “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote,” taking the publication history of the story, in all languages, and following that history through a replicated series of auto-translations.

23. Borges: English 1962: “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote” / first paragraph: The visible work left by this novelist is easily and briefly listed. They are, therefore, the omissions and additions perpetrated by Madame Henri Bachelier unpardonable in a catalog as a false newspaper whose Protestant tendency is no secret, was the ignorance to impose its readers that these are few and poor Calvinist, if not Masonic and circumcised. The true friends of Menard have viewed this catalog with alarm and even with some sadness.You could say that yesterday we gathered before his final monument, including the funeral cypress, and already Error tries to tarnish his memory …Decidedly, a brief rectification is unavoidable.

24. Borges: English 1965 / first paragraph:  “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote”: The visible remains of this author are easily and briefly enumerated. They are, therefore, the omissions and additions perpetrated by Madame Henri Bach Lier unforgivable in a newspaper as a catalog of the false Protestant tendency is no secret, it is ignorance to instruct his readers that they erkalvinistene few and poor, if not Masonic and circumcised. The true friends of Menard have viewed this catalog with alarm and even with a little sadness. One can say that yesterday we gathered before his final monument, including the funeral cypress, and already Error tries to tarnish his memory … Definitely, a short correction inevitable.

25. Borges: English 1974 / first paragraph: “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote:” It remains easy to see that the author is listed and briefly. So there are omissions and additions made by Mr. Henri Bach newspaper list for the inexcusable Lier Protestant tendency is no secret, of ignorance, to give readers some erkalvinistene and bad, if not Masonic and circumcised. The true friends of Menard have dealt with the anxiety and the list just sad. We could say that we have today, before the final monument, including the funeral cypress, and already Error tries to tarnish the memory of … Of course, a brief correction inevitable.

26. Borges: English 1980 / first paragraph: “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote:” It is easy to verify that remains is that the author described briefly. Therefore, the list of additions made by the tendency of Protestant Henri Bach newspaper said Lier and inexcusable inaction is to give readers some erkalvinistene and bad, from ignorance, otherwise it is a secret Masonic and circumcised not. True friends of Menard deal with anxiety and just sad list.We are including the funeral cypress can say that we have before the end of the monument, and the attempt to color the monument already … but the error correction now inevitable.

27. The version of “Menard” included in the middle portion of [SIC] is thus a version of the story translated again and again until it becomes both recognizable and foreign from its supposed origin.

28. The “immoderate” use of sic—exceeding the normal bounds of usage—created some controversy, leading some editors, Simon Nowell-Smith[note 4] and Leon Edel, to speak out against it.[9]

29. A pathogen (Greek: πάθος pathos, “suffering, passion” and γἰγνομαι (γεν-) gignomai (gen-) “I give birth to”) or infectious agent — colloquially, a germ — is a microbe or microorganism such as a virus, bacterium, prion, or fungus that causes disease in its animal or plant host.[1][2] There are several substrates including pathways whereby pathogens can invade a host; the principal pathways have different episodic time frames, but soil contamination has the longest or most persistent potential for harboring a pathogen.

30. The fine-art edition of [SIC] will be packaged with such a biological pathogen, and the user or reader or viewer or subject or patient will choose to deploy the pathogen over the text. In this way, the book [SIC] will make the patient [SIC]k. This book will retail for $20,000.

31. Books may also refer to works of literature, or a main division of such a work. In library and information science, a book is called a monograph, to distinguish it from serial periodicals such as magazines, journals or newspapers. The body of all written works including books is literature. In novels and some other types of books (for example biographies), a book may be divided into several large sections also called books (Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, and so on). A lover of books is usually referred to as a bibliophile, a philologist, or, more informally, a bookworm.

32. The third book in the DEAD/BOOKS series, after BLANK and [SIC], is INK.—all dark, a smear of solid ink covering the entire book. Recall a mis-copied photocopy, embellished with a delightfully wasteful band of black ink along its too-wide margin, and then extend this over every surface of the text.

33. The fine-art edition should contain a Kindle soaked completely in e-ink, covered, if you will, with its own reading substance.

34. I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us…

35. We need the books that affect us like a disaster,

36. that grieve us deeply,

37. like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves,

38. like being banished into forests far from everyone,

39. like a suicide.

40. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.


Note: This work is an adaption from Schneiderman’s presentation on the panel “50 Ways to Break Fiction’s Future,” with Debra Di Blasi, Lance Olsen, Yuriy Tarnawsky, and c. vance at &NOW 5 at UC-San Diego, October 13-15, 2011. The text samples freely, but this is most likely evident to you already.

Bio: Davis Schneiderman’s recent novels include Drain (TriQuarterly/Northwestern), which did not win the National Book Award, and Blank: a novel (Jaded Ibis), with audio from Dj Spooky, which was not a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His creative work has never appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review and Granta. He has not been the recipient of three Pushcart Prize awards for his short fiction, and has never been a fellow at Breadloaf or Yaddo. Recently he was passed over for a MacArthur “Genius” Grant.


Two Directions for Material Books

I am a book artist who spent twelve years hand printing and binding a book entitled Pictorial Webster’s. I then spent a year with Chronicle Books making it into a trade edition that would sell for $35.00 and yet still retain some of the qualities of a finely printed book of yore. I have been on both sides of the physical book world. I am one of the very tiny publishers that is most concerned with making beautiful books using quality materials and bookbinding technique, allowing the price be dictated by time and materials. Not having an intermediary agent I worked directly with Chronicle and gleaned some insight into the continual march to the cheapest product by the larger publishers.

There is a segment of society that still craves a beautifully bound book, and this segment also tends to have a great deal of wealth. Much like the turn of the 20th Century when the linotype and monotype helped speed the mass production of books, they also spawned the Arts and Crafts movement and small publishers such as Kelmscott Press who published lavish, traditional books. Modern day publishers such as 21st Editions have capitalized on this same feeling that beautiful books are about to become extinct. (21st editions has even registered the phrase “The Art of the Book” as their own!?) I came to publishing from the angle of a book artist. Pictorial Webster’s was first a small run of 100 hand-printed, leather bound books that took me twelve years to produce and all of the copies have yet to be bound. I have noticed that I have made many more sales to private individuals than I have to institutions.

Because Pictorial Webster’s is such a visual book, it lives best as a physical book which accounts for its great sales as a trade edition. When I was ready for the mass produced book to be printed, I was in negotiations with two publishers. One was Chronicle Books, the publisher I thought from day one would be a good fit for selling an “Artist’s Book,” as they had published Griffen and Sabine, aunt Sally’s Lament, and other books that were way off the norm. I had also been approached by Melcher Media, a book packager in NYC. Melcher Medias lure was greater control over the final product. Mr. Melcher did his best to give me the impression we would produce the book using the most responsible production techniques and materials as environmental and economic concerns are important to me. I believe sustainability should be a concern for all disciplines. It is sad that many companies have been using paper pulp made from clearcut rainforests in Indonesia. I had made a decision that I would not print my book commercially if it was to be produced in China. My dream was to buy paper from the Mowhawk paper company which is responsible about using post-consumer paper and produces all of their energy with wind power. My ultimate printer would have been Stinehour press and perhaps use the Acme Bookbindery in the Boston area. I tried to convince the publishers that consumers who would buy my book would also be willing to pay more, but I heard about research that showed that there is a big cutoff at $30 that many book buyers will not cross. I began Pictorial Webster’s in 1996 and planned from day one to try to have a trade edition made. In those days Merriam-Webster had expressed interest in publishing the book and had given me the green light to find a printer that could do it for under $4 per book. (I was told they liked production costs to be 1/8 of list price.) Therefore I was sourcing materials and sending samples of the product to various printers and scouring the shelves of libraries and bookstores to see what was possible in commercial printing. Although there continue to be bright spots in commercially produced books, much of what I have experienced is depressing. At my first real meeting to discuss the production of the book with Melcher, it became clear that China was what they had in mind for everything. “Come on, get real,” was his response to my complaint. “You will never get this printed domestically. It’s never going to make money.” Thankfully, Chronicle delivered production in Canada. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the best they could do. Few books are sewn in the United States, and many of the printers I had originally contacted to get quotes for printing the book had gone out of business, including Stinehour Press. One of the stumbling blocks for production in China it turns out was the cream colored paper I desired. At the time we printed Pictorial Webster’s, the only way to get off-colored paper in China was to have an initial print run with a crème colored ink! I wrote an article in Ampersand Magazine detailing my struggle to get my book produced in a way that I thought would make it a pleasing product. As a bookbinder I wanted my book to retain what I thought were the most important qualities of a book: good printing, a pleasing feel in the hands, and good design that works in a book. As much as I agonized, Chronicle was very good at making that happen. Unfortunately, though I thought I had convinced Chronicle Books that making a beautiful book would help drive sales. I bought a copy of their fifth reprint only to discover that it was shipped overseas to China! I had had an understanding with Chronicle that this would not happen. (Was it in the contract? I can’t recall.) I had given them .5% of my royalties, in fact, to help keep production local. The new book is not printed on the Environmental Fiber paper cover that we used for the first book, and the printing on the cover is no where near the quality of the original. . . . I will update this with news as this story evolves.

As much as I thought there was hope at some point for mass-produced books – I feel I’m agreeing more and more with William Morris. If you want a beautiful book, you may as well make it yourself. Most physical books for the trade will probably be more and more cheaply made while a very small segment of the publishers – folks such as David Godine will continue to make quality books in design and manufacture as there will continue to be a demographic that craves good books. And as Book Arts continue to flourish in college art departments, hand crafted, self published books will increase as well.


Zine Collection at Wellesley College(A guest post by Alana Kumbier, Library & Technology Services, Wellesley College)

I spent last Sunday afternoon at the Washington Street Art Center in Somerville, celebrating the arrival of spring with a roomful of artists and zine-makers. I had my doubts about whether this small, local event — the Spring Zine Thing — could compete with the lure of the outdoors on one of the season’s first hot, sunny days. When I walked up to the Center and saw folks waiting around for the doors to open, I realized I’d underestimated the appeal of zines, and of zine-fair camaraderie. I spent the afternoon chatting with other zine- and comics-makers, watching readers connect with zines, meeting people from neighborhood organizations and businesses, trading design and binding tips, and, best of all, making zines. The event’s organizers, Megan Mary Creamer and Marissa Falco had stocked a corner table with supplies — paper, scissors, letraset transfers, pens, crayons, glue sticks, a long-arm stapler, and a typewriter — for on-the-fly zine-making. In another corner, a group of participants worked on zines they’d started at Ladyfest Boston. At other tables, artists sketched the scene and worked on collages. When we packed up our zines and headed out the door at closing time, the room was still full, and there were several clusters of friends hanging out, relaxing and chatting in the Art Center parking lot. The Spring Zine Thing made local interest in zines visible, and emphasized the vibrant nature of the community supporting them.

Observing what happened at the Spring Zine Thing, noting the influx of new volunteer librarians at the Papercut Zine Library in Cambridge, and looking forward to the Somerville Arts Council’s zine-themed Salon, I want to say that zines are making a comeback (at least in Boston & its suburbs). But they never really went away.

Because I live in a bigger city, have internet access, and a wider social network than I did in the mid-late 1990s, I know more zinesters now than I did during my initial foray into zine culture. Some of these folks have been making zines for decades. Others, like me, made them in high school, college, or early adulthood, took a break, and and are returning to zines in their mid-thirties. Others are just starting out, eager to connect with radical histories and communities. More than a few of us are professional educators, graphic designers, and librarians, with access to institutional resources, faculty collaborators, and pedagogical spaces for teaching and learning about zines. Because zines don’t require much in terms of supplies, instructional time, or classroom (or other) space, it’s relatively easy to make them at home, on campus, or in the community. Zine libraries and archives require much more of an investment, but they, too, can be scaled to meet the needs of a particular community — and can operate in and outside of conventional institutions (i.e., academic or public libraries).

In the past year, I’ve collaborated with faculty, students, and staff at my institution, Wellesley College, on a variety of zine-based projects and events. We’ve incorporated zine projects in introductory and upper-level women’s and gender studies courses, offered zine workshops to students in the library’s Book Arts Lab, and this spring, student organizations collaborated on hosting a feminist zine fair. As a research and instruction librarian, I spend a good deal of my day in the realm of the digital: helping students and faculty use online tools and resources; developing strategies for teaching and learning in hybrid material-digital environments; creating online research guides; and troubleshooting problems with e-books, or our learning management system, or citation tools like Zotero and EndNote. Zine projects, organized around self-published, material texts, disrupt this digital-immersion in some delightful ways.

When I teach a women’s and gender studies class about zines, I’m able to engage students in conversations that rarely fit into a conventional research instruction session. Though most of the students are unfamiliar with zines, they immediately understand the potential of the medium: how it authorizes its creators to pursue questions they’re passionate about, to offer analyses based on research and critique, to write for a community of other zine makers, and to create something tangible to share with their peers. We talk about feminist knowledge production practices, the benefits and drawbacks of self-publishing, intellectual property concerns, and the political, cultural, documentary, and educational work that zines do in the world. We get into debates about zines vs. blogs as feminist activist tools — and challenge the assumption that a person might make or read in one medium but not the other. We talk about the Queer Zine Archive Project and the People of Color Zine Project, and consider how online archives extend the life of these ephemeral objects, making old zines accessible to readers (like my students) who weren’t around to read them, and offering spaces for archiving and sharing new zines.

When students come to the library to make zines in the Book Arts Lab, they discover one of our campus treasures: a workshop full of printing presses, wood and metal type, bookbinding tools and many other (less-spectacular) supplies for zine-making. And they meet our book arts director, Katherine McCanless Ruffin, who can serve as a teacher and guide for future adventures in self-publishing. Most importantly, when students make zines with us, they claim the library as a space for making and creating knowledge, texts, and community.

As they produce their zines at the end of the semester, I’m proud that our students join a constellation of zine-makers, radical librarians, teachers and archivists, feminist scholars, and community arts organizers dedicated to this form of knowledge articulation, material-cultural production, creative work, and political action. And that they get their hands on some scrap paper, markers, glitter and glue in the process.

What happened to all the e-books?

Back in Cambridge, I can’t get through a seven-minute subway ride to work without seeing a dozen e-readers in action. To be honest, I think I see just as many commuters reading mobile devices as I do printed books. True, this could be the exception, since I live and work in one of those most literate and tech-savvy cities in the country. (Wish it were that I could place myself in one of those demographics!) At the same time, though, friends and family across the country have been talking about their Nooks, Kindles, and iPads. Some of them, perhaps due to the convenience of these devices, or perhaps due to their novelty, are reading now more than ever.

Bookstore on Rue Mouffetard
Bookstore on Rue Mouffetard

But I’m not at home right now. Instead, during my three-minute walk to the bakery here in Paris, I pass a comic book store, a traditional bookstore, and two small publishers. Despite the drastic changes to reading and publishing practices effected by digital technology, independent, brick-and-mortar bastions of the book still abound in this city. I’ve been here for over two weeks now. I’ve passed dozens of cafes, ridden the subway dozens of times, and only twice have I seen a tablet computer. Needless to say, I’m not holding my breath for the unlikely sighting of a Nook or a Kindle.

Maybe Parisians are more prudent about using expensive electronic devices in public. Maybe they’re a little more attached to the traditional printed book than are their American counterparts. Then again, maybe I’m just not as observant as others who have been watching this trend. Whatever the reason, after a short ride on the subway or a morning coffee at a cafe, you certainly wouldn’t think the book is experiencing the same identity crisis in Paris as it is back home.

Of e-Books and old books – or what the 21th century can learn from the 15th.

To know the future we have to understand the past. And of course there is also history repeating itself.

Gustave Flaubert would have loved these two sayings and he would certainly have used them for his dictionary of received ideas. Flaubert himself noted down a cliche that has some relevance for this lecture. It goes

photography: will make painting obsolete.

Karl Marx used the one about history for one of his funnier quips: history repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a comedy.

Still, there is truth in both sayings. History – or humanity – certainly has a tendency to repeat itself and we can only recognize these repetitions and learn something if we have some knowledge of the past.

At the moment we are in the middle of one of the greatest sea-changes the world of information has gone through. Therefore I want to take a look at what happened during an earlier era and share some ideas with you about the lessons of history.

What can we learn from the 15th century change from manuscript to printed book? Does it tell us something about the fate of the printed book itself? What lessons might the early heroes of printing have for the internet publishers of our days – and of course for us bookhistorians who are going through such interesting times. I will say something about design but more about the financial circumstances that influence design. During my research for this paper I came to the conclusion that these circumstances are perhaps more important than changes in design we see on the page – and may expect to see on the screen of our digital books.

I consider the codex a far more important, interesting and influential invention than the computer or the internet. The codex has now reached a venerable age of more than 17 centuries. About a hundred generations have used it’s unique features.

There is a difference between a codex and a pile of papers held together by a pin or glue. The uniformity of the size of the pages defines the accessibility of a book. Quick and random acces to information, that is what the codex is about.

Creating such a book in the middle ages was everything but easy.

For a medieval codex you would have to slaughter ten or twelve pigs or sheep and have vellum made of their skins. After that you had to find that rarest of species: a man or woman who could write down a text for you. Early medieval society was hardly organized and places where you could have a book made or actually see a book where few. Monasteries were scarce and wide apart.

Secular reading – for instruction or pleasure – belonged to the city. To be able to live in a city and do something else than menial work, you would have to be able to read. Once you could read you probably wanted to read more than bookkeepers records. You wanted to read books. Religious books, scholarly books, adventures and poetry.

And soon an industry came into existence that catered for this new market of readers. Scriptoria in great cities like Florence where well organized companies that produced high-quality manuscripts for a decent price.

Then, halfway the 15th century came the printing press – invented by the Man of the Millennium, Gutenberg. More than 29.000 titles were printed up to 1500 are known today. If we put the number of copies of an edition on the arbitrary number of 300 this would mean that at least 9.000.000 books were made and sold during the first 40 years after Gutenberg.

It is clear that here we have a genuine information revolution. At the same time it is a rather curious revolution! What everybody knows, but hardly anybody seems to realize, is that printers played a relative small part in the making of a book. In the days of Gutenberg the typesetters and printers realized far less than half of the value of a copy.

The materials of which books were made, claimed the major part, even when paper was about ten times less expensive that vellum. So the actual printing of a book may have been 50 times less costly than writing it down by hand, but the printers could only claim about 20% of all work done on a single copy. The rest was done – or supposed to be done – by rubricators, illuminators and bookbinders.

In the 15th century a paper copy of a printed book would be half as expensive as a handwritten one. It will be clear that the prime importance of Gutenbergs printing press lies in being a catalyst. Printers printed editions and editions had to be sold.

Gutenbergs artificial writing machine was certainly not meant to be a prime mover that made knowledge available to the masses and revolutionized the world. That kind of book emerged almost half a century later and was created by a totally different kind of man. The 40 years between Gutenberg and Aldus Manutius brought us the modern book.

The birth of the book as we know it is the result of typical capitalist development with its system of trial and error, fuelled by greed. It is important to remember that, while the price of a single copy of a book might be halved, the total investment needed to produce that copy as part of an edition would rise more than twohundredfold. The return of investment would be slow as it might take years to sell an edition. And before work on that edition could start, there would be an initial investment in the equipment of a printing house and the hiring of an expensive specialist workforce.

It was only in the 16th that being a publisher or even a printer became a sure way to riches. In the early days the infrastructure to sell 500 copies of a book was non-existent. Early printers seem to have thought and act like the makers of manuscripts. The first printing press in Italy was up in the mountains and days away from Rome. It was rather difficult to print in Subiaco and still expect to sell a lot of books in little time. So Sweynheim and Pannartz moved their bussiness to Rome. And even then life was difficult. To be able to sell books printers and publishers had to create a close knit community that was parochial and international at the same time.

The advent of the printed book made rubricating and illuminating a booming business and that is perhaps the reason why the quality of manuscripts detoriated so much in the last decennia of the fiftheenth century. It was only in the fiftheen-seventies that printers started to experiment with printed initials and woodcuts, thus streamlining the production and reducing the costs of a single copy with at least another 20%.

Aldus Manutius established his firm in the great merchant city of Venice, had sound financial backers and reduced the size and thus the price of books. But he hardly if ever used the woodcut initials that would have reduced the price of his books even more, although he did so in his most famous publication: the Hypnerotomachia.

It seems clear that most 15th century printers did not realize the real potency of the printing press and indeed saw it as a form of artificial writing. There was no break with the past. They saw their activities in no different light than the makers of manuscripts.

Even today paid writers exist who ply their trade on the streetcorners in Mexico or India. They write letters but also newspapers. The investment for such a trade is small. You have to know how to write, which may take some years to learn and that is it. I will come back to these writers later on when I will discuss the impact of the internet on the publishing industry.

Many books have been written about how the layout of the page had to be reconstructed to conquer the oceans of information that suddenly became available. Pages had to be numbered. The paragraph had to be invented, just as notes and bibliographical references. Running titles. And most important of all: the title-page.

Most of these innovations come together in the work of Erhard Ratdolt, the Augsburg and Venetian printer already mentioned. He was an early adapter: he used a title-page, printed in color and so on. I especially mention the way he placed woodcut illustrations in the margins in one of the most beautiful and well-structured books ever published: his first edition of Euclid that dates from 1482.

Why did changes that were clearly great innovations not find their way immediately and sometime took ages to get accepted. Why did not all printers started to use woodcut initials right after they were invented – why did it take almost a century for such a simple but effective innovation to be generally accepted?

I have a few assertions that may play a role in the discussion of the digital age.

The first one goes like this: what we see as typographical innovation is often a ressurection of something older. Most typographical inventions of the 15th century are in fact reinventions.

My second obervation is that almost all real innovations come from outsiders. The power of tradition is very strong, especially in the field of printing and publishing were innovation is stultyfied by the conservatism of the trade and the consumers.

What does this mean for the future of publishing and more specifically for the future of design? I love the term Information Architecture as it covers perfectly what modern design is really about.

It will be clear that the internet and searchmachines have changed the way we look at information and how we use it. Will we need footnotes when all books have been digitized? I can imagine a searchmachine that analyzes texts in depth: a researchmachine. Now information is anchored to a page but digitized it can have any form – especially as we do not need to refer to a given page any more.

On the other hand the way we organize and read texts will not change. Writing and reading is about rhetorics and expectations and these are deep undercurrents that were probably hotwired into the human brain long before we were able to notice them.

Digital information will always be expressed in books and these books will be more beautiful and better made. More people than ever before are active as designers, of typefaces and of books. They are counted in tens of thousands where there used to be hundreds. Of course beauty and taste have nothing to do with numbers. But more practitioners create more choices for a public that has become more critical in its appraisal.

I think that a few years from now there will be less books than there are now, but they will be better edited, better designed and better printed. Part, perhaps even the greater part, of the mass market will go digital. This will make books less interesting to the kind of publisher or bookseller that now fill the great chains of bookstores with endless and depressing repetitions of soulless and bad designed books. The independent bookseller will rise again and so will the independent publisher. I think that this is the future, an interesting and humane future and certainly our future as bookhistorians.

paul dijstelberge Amsterdam – Netherlands