Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Few Duds.

I took some books home to read over the weekend, but I can't really get myself to read them. They are not as good as I thought they would be. I had to put one of the books down after reading the first chapter of the book. I try to read at least the first chaper before I put down a book.

The second one might be alright. I am not enthused with it. Sometimes there just isn't that much interesting to read. Or maybe, I want to look at something else.

$100 Laptop Prototype-- Design Continuum.

Quite honestly, I am not enthused with the idea of having masses of books around. I really do think there is such a thing as having too many books. When you read as many books as I do, you get to realize that a lot of books probably shouldn't have been published.

A lot of people will hate me for this. I am not impressed with a house full of books, unless there is something exceptional about them. If you have a house full of books on horses I might be impressed, or if you have a house full of beautiful art books, or mystery books I might be impressed.

Part of this is the way people use the book as a sign of intellectuality. You can buy books by the foot with certain types of binding, or request a certain type of book as a backdrop for a film or television show. This is more a sign of having a hoard of jewels than intellectual prominence. Lawyers and CEOs buy books to fill their offices often to show they are smart.

Most books do not survive. I think the average shelf life of a book in a bookstore is about two weeks to a month. Imagine a giant room full of paper where in a month or two, the majority of it will be recycled.

I don't think everything in print should be saved. A lot of people think of a book as a sacred object. The content inside the book is what is sacred. It would be incredible if we could preserve everything that was written for all time. I look forward to the day when I can go into a bookstore and in five minutes have a choice of having a bound book, or an electronic download of everything ever printed. The same goes for libraries. It would also be interesting if we could also do the same thing with movies, music, and other forms of expression.

Packaging does not fascinate me. I wouldn't mind if I could see what the book looked like when it was finished before I bought it, but I don't need to see piles of 25 copies of it arranged in different patterns.

I am not a luddite. The main value of having printed books is if they are illustrated-- The resolution of paper is still much higher than digital books. But, if they are not illustrated, it is a waste of resources to have a building stuffed with paper.

I am saying this in the sense, that if we could put all of the books inside a print on demand machine or download on demand machine, it might be better than having a house of paper. Also we would need to have the machine easily searchable and readily available for people to use.

I understand the comfortableness of the used bookstore. It has an air of coffee and old things. The propietor might be your grumpy neighbor. There might even be a nice cat, or even a dog.

I also understand the need to hoard things in piles. Messy piles of paper on desks, bookmarks, old books, videos in piles, drawers full of forms, and fliers. It happens to me like many librarians.

I too am afraid of the mad path of "creative destruction" running through American capitalist society tearing apart my profession. I have watched the positions for librarians shrink as well as the number of booksellers. There are less and less of us in the world.

I would be less concerned with this if more books were designed with the cradle to cradle philosophy. Cradle to Cradle Rethinking The Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Baungart is a fairly radical idea. It says you should design things so they can be completely reused. The book Cradle to Cradle is designed this way. You can remove the ink with natural solvents and reuse the ink to print an entirely different book.

There is a certain ambivalence in all this. I am not sure if I am lying to myself on this one, people are so good at self delusion...


Stella said...

There is actually a website where you ca purchase books by the yard.

Book Calendar said...

Yes, quite a few places do this. You can give design specifications to places like
They will design a geeks room, a professors room, and many other places.

Book Calendar said...

It is a very nice service if you want to look distinguished.

Stella said...

I don't really have any problem with the idea. The first time I saw it, I actually laughed. On the one hand, I do think that books should be organized and look nice on the shelf, as well as have interesting content. On the other hand I do feel like you should handpick what's on your shelf rather than pay someone to do it - especially if it's books you've never read and have on intention of reading.

But I admit that having bookcases of impressive books are probably a necessary accessory for an office. ALthough it would be very funny if you went to a law office and saw that they had novels on the shelves instead of law books.

Unknown said...

I was amused by your assertion that quite a few books should never have been published. It is undoubtedly true -- but who should decide? I have been unimpressed by bestsellers that the whole world seems to enjoy and some of my all time favorites are works that most people have never heard of.

The fact is that most books, as well as movies, recordings and other artistic works are loved by some people. Every book (well almost every book) has the power to touch someone who is in a particular frame of mind in a particular time of life. The fact that critics (a very low form of life IMHO) attempt to judge a book's worthiness is meaningless. I like what I like and the critics don't have anything to do with that.

So there is no accounting for taste and every book tells a story someone wants to read. Which ones would you declare should not have been published?

Tom Bonner

Book Calendar said...

I am thinking of it in terms of waste not content. Lets say a celebtrity has published a print run of 10,000 books and they go into the bookstore and the book is so terrible that they only sell 1000 copies and the book goes out of print.

This happens regularly. It is quite wasteful. Hopefully, things like print on demand and some of the newer technical fixes will get it right so books aren't overproduced, and they can be printed whenever someone wants a book on short notice.

Publishers also really need to be more selective. If something is really bad, they should let the author self publish their book these days if they are really determined to foist the book on the world.

The publishing game is still much like roulette, there is no magic formula on which titles will succeed. Maybe with bestsellers, but not with every day titles.