I’m Married to those Men Over There

Bruce Nauman, Burning Small Fires (1969)

The bibliographic category referring to limited-edition, artist-conceived objects is a contentious one. In working on BOOKISH at MIT’s Rotch Library, taking a political position on the matter was inevitable. I chose the term “artist books” because that’s the term that’s used in the MIT Libraries’ Catalog.

Operating on a short schedule and with a limited body of materials I needed a ready-made working definition in order to get the job done. As much as I was hoping to avoid entering into the more contentious end of library science, I will admit that I have gained a certain fondness for the term “artist books.” I think it has something to do with the grammatical implications of the apostrophe.

The Getty Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) offers four terms for “books made or conceived by artists:”

  • artists’ books (preferred)
  • artist’s book
  • artists books
  • artist books

Grammatically, each term offers a different statement on the relationship of the artist to the co-referenced book. The apostrophe in the term in question has been the subject of such fierce debate because its placement has a momentous impact on the meaning and applicability of the term. This, I believe, has more to do with grammar than library science. For example, the English novelist and poet Kingsley Amis, on being challenged to produce a sentence whose meaning depended on a possessive apostrophe, came up with three:

  • Those things over there are my husband’s. (Those things over there belong to my husband.)
  • Those things over there are my husbands’. (Those things over there belong to several husbands of mine.)
  • Those things over there are my husbands. (I’m married to those men over there.)

I lack Mr. Amis’s wit, but bearing his example in mind here is how the the four terms offered by the AAT describe four different categories of book:

  • artists’ books (a body of books whose authorship rests with a body of artists; the idea of artists as a type of author is primary)
  • artist’s book (a book whose authorship rests with a single artist; the idea of artists as unique authors is primary)
  • artists books (books by artists)
  • artist books (a group of books, each of which is by artists)

I chose the last term on this list because my interest, as an art historian, is in how individual artists operate within the medium of artist books. By showing the diversity of these operations from in last 50 or so years, I hoped to provide an idea of what might be a part this rather nebulous category and what this group of objects might mean to people interested in the present and future of the book. Since what is on display is essentially coextensive with the Rotch Library’s collection of such items, I had the luxury of picking the term I felt best suited the objects. I’m sure if I was interested in, for example, maintaining a catalogue or in the prospect of having a term flexible enough to describe unknown future acquisitions I might have chosen differently.

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 collections.walkerart.org 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.

“Ceci tuera cela”: Narrative Games and the Future of Books

Today’s post comes courtesy of MIT GAMBIT researcher, game author, and Shakespeare scholar Clara Fernandez-Vara:

Fourteen years ago, Umberto Eco already wrote an essay on the future of the book in which he invoked Victor Hugo’s passage in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame:

“As you no doubt remember, in Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frollo, comparing a book with his old cathedral, says: “Ceci tuera cela” (The book will kill the cathedral, the alphabet will kill images). McLuhan, comparing a Manhattan discotheque to the Gutenberg Galaxy, said “Ceci tuera cela.” One of the main concerns of this symposium has certainly been that ceci (the computer) tuera cela (the book).”

The future of Eco’s book is now. His concept of the computer is somewhat reductionist; rather, we have to talk about digital media. Computers are everywhere, from phones, to rice makers or fridges. The print book industry is revolutionized by the widespread use of e-book readers and tablets, which allow us not only to have instant access to a lot of books, but also carry around more books than we could read in a lifetime. Books will not be killed by computers, rather, it turns out that computers are giving a new life to books by finding a new technology to access them. It turns out that books are pretty resilient to technological change.

Talking about media and killing, the media form that may threaten books is videogames, which are routinely accused of doing horrible things to people. The threat digital games pose is (supposedly) that they absorb you in their worlds and make you dumb, making you forget about other people and having a life. Literature already prefigured this supposed media effect long ago–chivalry novels dried to Don Quijote’s brains out and so that he couldn’t distinguish reality from fantasy.

Even today, people still think of digital games as a frivolous pastime, discounting their narrative possibilities. Playing videogames requires specialized literacy–in the same way that novels require not only knowing how to read, but understanding genre conventions and intertextual references. videogames require being able to navigate a virtual space, and being familiar the rules of different game genres, amongst other things. Games and books may have more to do with each other than one would think, because they both absorb the reader / player into their worlds, trapped in their narratives, and require specialize knowledge.

A media form is not going to kill another, in spite of what Frollo said, but it can certainly transform it. Videogames can change how and why we read books. We can read books in games, where we find bestiaries of the creatures that haunt the dungeons that we traverse as the heroes of games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Books can open gates to new worlds, as in the Myst series, where we read diaries of the previous inhabitants of the world we explore, and we can jump into them literally in order to enter other parts of the world. Videogames are another medium that novels and short stories can be adapted to–we can become the protagonist of The Great Gatsby, avoid drunk partygoers and fight the disembodied eyes in glasses that seem to watch the action of the movie. We can also become Moby Dick itself and decimate the merciless whalers, earning our reputation as the killer whale.

Videogames and books will never be at odds; they are already part of the media ecology, along with movies, websites, magazines, or television. They are all gates to worlds that we participate and experience. One can lead us to another–the Myst games were complemented by a series of novels that expanded on the story of the world of the game. Dante’s Inferno can lead players to read the poem it is allegedly based on; then players can be horrified at the distorted notion of what adaptation means. Games and books as media forms are already in dialogue: we have books about games, not only fiction (Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash), but also hint books to help players know everything about their favourite videogames, or biographies of people’s playing experience (Sudnow’s Pilgrim in the Microworld, or Bissel’s Extra Lives). The challenge remaining is making more games about books, not only adaptations, but also games about reading (Gregory Weir’s Silent Conversation). In the same way we have books to help us become better at games, we could make games that help us be better at reading books.

Videogames will not kill books, although there may be a bit of a friendly scuffle. The day when we read games and we play books is not far.

Other Electronic Books: Print Disability and Reading Machines

A guest post by Mara Mills, Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU. Mills is currently researching the history of talking books and reading machines.

The demand for “print access” by blind people has transformed the inkprint book. Some scholars today distinguish between e-books and p-books, with the “p” standing for print, yet already by the early twentieth century blind people and blindness researchers had partitioned “the book” and “reading” into an assortment of formats and practices, including inkprint, raised print, braille, musical print, and talking books. In turn, electrical reading machines—which converted text into tones, speech, or vibrations—helped bring about the e-book through their techniques for scanning, document digitization, and optical character recognition (OCR).

The first such reading machine, the Optophone, was designed in London by Edmund Fournier d’Albe in 1913. A “direct translator,” it scanned print and generated a corresponding pattern of tones.  Vladimir Zworykin (now known for his work on television) visited Fournier d’Albe in London in the 19-teens and saw a demonstration of the Optophone. At RCA in the 1940s, he built a reading machine that operated on the same principles, followed by an early OCR device that spelled out words letter by letter using a pre-recorded voice on magnetic tape.  John Linvill began working on an optical-to-tactile converter—the Optacon—in 1963, partly as an aid for his blind daughter.  Linvill soon became chair of the electrical engineering department at Stanford, and the Optacon project became central to early microelectronics research at the university. Linvill and his collaborator, Jim Bliss, believed that a tactile code was easier to learn than an audible one, because the analogy between visible and vibratory print was more direct (both formats being two-dimensional). Extending the technique of character recognition (rather than direct translation), in 1973 Raymond Kurzweil launched the Kurzweil Reading Machine for the Blind, a text-to-speech device with multi-font OCR. As he recalls in The Age of Spiritual Machines, “We subsequently applied the scanning and omni-font OCR to commercial uses such as entering data into data bases and into the emerging word processing computers. New information services, such as Lexis (an on-line legal research service) and Nexis (a news service) were built using the Kurzweil Data Entry Machine to scan and recognize written documents.”

Harvey Lauer, one of the foremost experts on twentieth-century reading machines, was the blind rehabilitation and technology transfer specialist at the Hines VA Hospital for over thirty years. Colleagues Robert Gockman and Stephen Miyagawa have called him “the ‘father’ of modified electronic devices for the blind and the ‘Bionic Man’ of the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center.” Lauer attended the Janesville State School for the Blind, where he studied music and tinkered with electronics and audio components. He earned his B.A. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1956 and his M.S. in Vocational Counseling from Hunter College the following year.  Shortly before his retirement from the VA in 1997, Lauer wrote a speculative paper on the “Reading Machine of the Future.” By that time, personal computers were common and flatbed scanners were becoming affordable for home use. Text-to-speech software was beginning to replace the standalone reading machine. Yet the increasing complexity of graphical user interfaces inhibited blind computer users, and a conservative approach to reading (i.e. tying print to speech) was embedded in commercial OCR software. Lauer advocated a “multi-modal reading aid” with braille, tonal, vibratory, and speech outputs for translating text and graphics. With Lauer’s permission, I’ve excerpted the following selection from his unpublished article.



Harvey Lauer
September 12, 1994

From 1964 to the present, I have used, tested and taught fourteen reading machines and many more devices for accessing computers.  Working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, formerly the Veterans Administration, I saw much progress and several lessons forgotten.

The system I feel we really need will have a choice of modalities—speech, Braille, large print and dynamic graphic displays.  It will be configurable according to the user’s needs and abilities. It will scan pages into its memory, process them as best it can, and then allow us to read them in our choice of medium.  Automatic sequencing would be our first choice for easily-scanned letters, articles and books.  But it will also let us examine them with a keyboard, a tablet, a mouse or perhaps tools from Virtual Reality. It will offer us any combination of speech, refreshable braille or large print as well as a verbal description of the format or layout.  Because we will be able to use that description to locate what we want to read, it will be easier to use than current OCR machines, but not larger. When we also need to examine shapes, we will switch on tonal and/or vibratory (graphical) outputs.  As I have noted, examining the shape of a character or icon is far easier than reading with such an output.

In short, the system will offer a three-level approach to reading.  The first choice is to have a page or screenful of text recognized and presented either as a stream of data or as data formatted by the machine.  We can now do that with OCR machines.  At the second level, we can choose to have the machine describe items found on pages or screen displays and their locations.  We can have either brief descriptions or descriptions in “excruciating detail.”  We can then choose items by name or characteristics. That won’t always be sufficient, so we will have a third choice.  We can choose to examine portions of the page or individual items found by the machine, using speech, braille characters, a display of tones, an array of vibrators, a graphic braille-dot display or magnified and enhanced images. Once the basic system is developed, it will constitute a “platform” for people like us to test its practical values and for researchers to test new ideas for presenting information to humans.

It’s 1997.  You place a page on your scanner.  It could be a recipe, a page from a textbook or part of a manual.  You direct the machine to scan it into memory.  You suspect that it isn’t straight text, so you don’t first direct the machine to present it in speech or braille.  You request a description of the format and learn that the machine found two columns of text at the top, a table, and a picture with a caption.  It also noted there were some tiny unidentified shapes, possibly fractions.

You then turn to your mouse (or other tracking device) which you move on an X/Y tablet.  (This concept of a tablet was best articulated by Noel Runyan of Personal Data Systems in Sunnyvale, California.) You switch to freehand tracking and examine the rest of the page for gross features, without zooming.  You find the table, plus what appears to be a diagram and some more text.  With the mouse at the top of that text, you switch to assisted tracking.  Now the system either corrects for mistracking or the mouse offers resistance in one or the other direction, depending upon your choices.  As you scan manually, the text is spoken to you.  After reading the block of text, you read the caption and examine the table.  You find that some of the information needs to be read across columns, and some makes sense only when read as columns.  You are thankful that you don’t have an old-fashioned OCR, screen reader and Optacon to tackle this job.

Then you find a longer piece of data you want to copy, so you “block and copy” it to a file.  In examining the diagram, you find tiny print you want to read, but the OCR can’t recognize it, so you zoom in (magnify) and switch to the mode in which shapes can be examined.  Depending on your equipment and your abilities, you can have them presented as vibrating patterns on an Optacon array, as tone patterns, as a graphic, dot image on a rapidly-refreshing array of braille dots, or as a combination of those modalities.  You may or may not have the skill to read in this way; few people make the effort to develop it nowadays.  What you do is examine the characters slowly and trace the lines of drawings in which you are interested.

With the new instrument, we won’t have to give up nearly as often and seek sighted assistance.  Optacon users will no longer have to remove the page and search about with camera in hand as if reading a map through a straw.  Computer users will still have our screen access software.  OCR users will still have their convenient, automatic features.  However, when you use a current OCR machine to scan a page with a complex format, the data is frequently rearranged to the point where it’s unusable.  Such items as titles, captions and dollar amounts are frequently scrambled together.  It makes me feel as if I am eating food that someone else has first chewed. With the proposed system, when its automatic features scramble or mangle our data, we can examine it as I have described.

The exciting point is this:  The proposed integrated system with several optional modules would harness available technology to allow us to apply the wide gamut of human abilities among us to a wide gamut of reading tasks.  In 1980, I presented this idea in a paltry one-page document added to an article about reading machines.  I then called it the Multi-dimensional Page Memory System.  I’ve given it a new name—the Multi-modal Reading Aid.


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 HTMLgiant.com 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 Amazon.com 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.

Non-anglophone worlds?

How about including, here, some resources based in France? For example:

* Gallica : ancient texts plus some not-so, manuscripts & incunabula & printed books & other things, all treasures-of-the-BN, and all digital & online now in several controversial and interestingly-European / non-US American ways —

* BnF / Bibliothèque nationale de France : this is the justifiably-famous old BN / Bibliothèque Nationale itself, radically-recast and not always comfortably, in its brand-new buildings & staffs & attitudes toward new technologies, prime example of a “digital library” —

* Musée de l’imprimerie, Lyon : these folks discovered the old Renaissance type-fonts, underwater where they’d been dumped into the Sâone river from the print shops along the rue Mercière which created the Incunabula Revolution — the Musée workshops use ancient machinery to teach modern printing and binding, and they know much about mise-en-page in le-digital too — and they’re in the city which gave us Sebastian Gryphe, and Etienne Dolet… that last burned at the stake on the Place Maubert in Paris, for his new-fangled notions, proof that these transition-in-media issues are taken seriously, and can be far more bleeding-edge & risky, than many people realize —
(Their english / l’américain page does not appear to be up, but I’ll be happy to translate…)

* Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon : a leading provincial city-library in France, like many of those one blessed with a large confiscation-révolutionnaire of ancient texts, manuscript & print & other, preserved in the provinces and so mostly saved from marauding Parisian mobs and radical-ideas-in-flux — ideal locale for quietly studying noisy revolutionary texts in their various media transitions —
(Again, happy to translate…)

* La FNAC : where France buys & sells its “books”, nowadays, digital and other — from its origins at the forefront of the modern revolt against the most recent Old Regime in French publishing, and so much-vilified by many — now on the ropes against the digital, and trying desperately to figure out what it all means commercially — France invented the Minitel, long before the “public” Internet, and now everyone in the country has an iPod & iPhone & iPad  & iMac too or is about to get one… iFrance… 🙂 —
(Ditto re. translating…)

The above list represents just the French mainstream, as well: they’ve always had an active media-underground, in addition — the placards, colporteurs, feuilletonières, cat-massacre people, avant-gardes of various types and eras…

There are plenty of experimental sites among the French nowadays, too: walking the lisière, between print media & digital — which appears to interest the conference and the others mentioned on the website.

There is really interesting work going on everywhere, in fact, internationally now, in online digital information — also some very interesting questions about how all this will or won’t scale-up, to international applications… including multilingual access but not just… social & political & economic & cultural questions as well… Kerala is not like Kansas, not at all… Information “wants to be free”, internationally too, and in languages other than english & l’américain — and everyone, Out There as well, still loves “books”.

So, the above are a few France-based suggestions for your very interesting site, and for your interesting ideas about maybe “rebalancing” the new & old media instead of “transitioning” them.


Jack Kessler

p.s. A general note & disclaimer about translation, tho: native-speakers rule!, in this… Pace fabulous exceptions such as Arthur Waley and W.S. Merwin, most human language translation doesn’t really work. Translation is an art, not a science: Waley’s is the most famous example, his “Madly Singing In The Mountains” being a phrase only a Bloomsbury gentleman like him ever would utter, never the 9th c. Chinese poet from whom Waley translated it, altho it fits the old Chinese poet perfectly.

So use GoogleTranslate, yes: but that is often more transliteration than it is translation — much as GoogleSearch is “data” search & retrieval but not yet really  “information” search & retrieval, as no less than Larry Page has told his troops.

The sites overseas offer English Versions, but these brave attempts usually are truncated, filled with howlers, and usually they are superficial dead-ends leading to sites filled from level II on down with strange-looking foreign stuff. When you run into that, however, think of all the Mongolians, Ethiopians, Burmese and residents of Bergerac who don’t even find level I homepages in their languages on our anglophone sites… much less instruction manuals… imagine troubleshooting using only a manual printed in Mongolian…

Best thing to do, then, is to partner with a foreign language native-speaker, online — easy enough to locate one, nowadays — you write to her/him in English, s/he writes to you in French — you’ll miss lots of nuances if you don’t, and French is nothing if not a language of nuance… ditto Chinese & Tamil & most…



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.