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<nettime> books and cdroms
Roberto Verzola on 27 Sep 2000 04:19:06 -0000


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<nettime> books and cdroms


 >You might not need much to read a book, but you need a whole lot of crap to
 >produce one. You might be chained to some unwieldy hardware to read a
 >cdrom, but the desktop box needed to burn 'em yourself is pretty minimal
 >considering you've got the means for nearly unlimited duplication,
 >especially when compared to the tons of crap needed for book making.

The initial thread was about the reader: why many still preferred
books to cdroms. I think that in so far as minimizing what else is
needed to read one, the book has a clear edge over the cdrom.

I do agree the debate is more interesting on the production side,
where most of the pro-cdrom arguments lie. This side has at least two
major aspects: the primarily intellectual work of creating the
original; and the primarily mechanical work of making copies.

On the creative act: I think it is still debatable whether
kbd-and-screen writing - which again requires a whole infrastructure
to support it - aids the intellectual, creative process much more than
pencil-and-paper writing. The best of the world's literature
(debatable, of course) was produced with the latter. It seems
reasonable to claim, at the very least, that the signal-to-noise ratio
is much higher with the former. I admit using mostly kbd-and-screen
today, having started some 20 years ago. Unfortunately, I realized too
late that the tool apparently becomes an unconscious but essential
part the creative writing process. If I could make the choice now, I
would have stuck with paper-and-pencil for the creative, intellectual
part and kept the infrastructural needs of my own creative process to
the minimum. Actually, I'm trying to recover my pencil-and-paper
creative writing skills, though with little success so far.

On making copies: Here, I acknowledge the cdrom's clear edge. Once on
an electronic medium, the full power of digital technology shows
itself, so that electronic copies may be made many orders of magnitude
faster and cheaper than hard copies. The social solution to the
copying issue has been the public library, which hasn't been explored
well enough I believe. It is also a solution that is most compatible
with the reader's continuing preference for the book over the video
screen. Furthermore, as a writer, one thing I'd wish for my works (as
most writer would, I suspect) is permanence; that future generations
may also see it. I would therefore suspect that most writers would
still want to see their best works in hard-copy, in book form.

I think there's a way to bring into better harmony these varied
requirements by the reader, the writer, and also the publisher (who,
by the way, can be superfluous): book-on-demand technologies.

 >To me, this is an especially interesting thread because I use a lot of that
 >old book making stuff--wood and metal type, cylinder and platen
 >presses--and happen to be right now in the middle of printing one of Alan

Today's computer-printer pair is also a hard-copy medium (minus the
cutting and binding). You must allow for technological advancements in
book-printing too. Why base your arguments on letterpress, the oldest
printing technology?

Roberto Verzola

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