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« thoughts for the night | Main | books »


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Prentiss Riddle

If you did everything in Quark and printed on demand, would you be tempted to do micro-editions and fiddle with things before each printing (as you discover new typos, think of new solutions to layout problems, etc.)? And if you did, would you reflect that in the edition numbers (edition 1.2.1, 2.3.7, etc.)?

People talk about print-on-demand as a solution for textbooks and for keeping old, obscure books in print. Brewster Kahle is a big proponent of this idea (he of Internet Archive fame).

Do you think printing on demand would be a good thing if it became common for small-press poetry books? But I think of small presses as often being obsessed with the craft of making physical books out of good paper, using traditional printing techniques, etc. Is that tied to the content in a way that would make it a shame to separate them?


Prentiss: Yes to all your questions.

I find typos or tiny positioning mistakes like crazy. And then they torment me.

I love the idea of print on demand (and someone other than me doing storage and distribution). Keeping things in print forEVER even if 2 people a decade want to read it. YES!!!

Often I check out a library book and look in its inside cover at the date stamps. I then feel a surge of affection for that last person who checked in out in 1986 and the one before that in 1972. Welcome, my brothers and sisters in obscurity, welcome. Sadly -- more often, I open the front cover of the book I bought for 25 cents in a library discard sale and promise Mr. 1986 and Ms. 1982 that the information will not be lost.

But yes to the last bit too -- I get into the book as a lovingly made artifact at times. It is a strange fetish that intellectually I don't always agree with - especially when it makes the book cost like 50 bucks or more. But then when I am enveloping up my little poem-book in its handmade l0kti tree paper from tibet and admiring the labial folds of the delicate tissue paper inner lining, I feel that the little poem is ennobled somehow... by its context and the attention given it... and that no one, buying it, would throw it away as they would if it were printed on a single sheet of paper.... and I love books like that ... i have a special shelf of other people's lovingly made books. Here is a moment in time - a particular moment.

that said. i'm awfully sick of folding and stapling. And I have somewhat promised myself to keep the litttle art books smaller - like under 10 pages. Anything big I would like to do at a printer's if I can - or print on demand.

The information is not always separate from the object, I guess - though it can be.


I love books as artifacts, too, but at least for fiction and poetry if the content is any good the book itself tends to fade away as I read it. It's only when I'm not reading that it really has any aesthetic effect as a frame.

I'm really looking forward to print on demand taking off, but I'm also looking forward (perhaps even more so) to electronic paper. We're so close...

Prentiss Riddle

Yes! I also have the ritual of checking the dates in library books. I have a Nicholson Baker reaction to libraries that stop stamping dates in books.

Once I was in a library and the clerk behind the counter invited me to "rescue" some books by checking them out. She said they were due to be culled unless they circulated again. They were great books, too.

On the matter of the medium vs. the message, I keep meaning to blog about this: as an experiment I read Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom on a Palm. After a while I could forget the physical format and concentrate on the content. The worst part of the experience was that I do a lot of reading on my morning coffee pilgrimage, and for the week or so I was reading the thing I felt like an utter geek. Finally I made a point of telling the baristas that I wasn't playing Tetris or balancing my checkbook, I was actually reading a novel.

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