MA thesis by Waldek Węgrzyn, Academy of Fine Arts, Katowice.
Craig Walzer, Atlantis bookshop, Oia, Santorini, Greece:
Both these videos have a soothing, pacifying effect on me. Congratulations, guys.
via Book Patrol
Cory Doctorow in Berlin. Good talk, beautiful jacket.
“At the recent San Francisco Internation Film Festival, Steven Soderbergh gave a keynote about the current state of cinema. It is worth reading if you enjoy movies or are engaged in any sort of creative work.”
“Storytellers of all kind should watch this speech or read the Awards Daily transcript, it examines how audiences are changing in the 21st Century.”
Read this great article in the New York Review of Books.
The double standard in debt relief that favored large merchants, present at the creation of bankruptcy law in 1706, persists today in many different forms. It gets surprisingly little attention in the debt debates. Despite the tacit assumption that “surely one has to pay one’s debts,” the evasion of repayment is both widespread and selective. Corporate executives routinely walk away from their debts via Chapter 11 of the national bankruptcy law when that seems expedient. Morality scarcely enters the conversation—this is strictly business.
Prague, fifteen years ago, opening of Anagram bookshop:
Here you can see Zachary, Anna, Alice, Benny, Declan, Mojca and me. Benny and Declan are Zachary’s friends who came over from UK to help. Benny made our first sign in the old fashioned hand-painted lettering technique. Declan came from Saudi Arabia and was on his way to UK or Ireland, I don’t remember which. Alice was Zachary’s girlfriend. She lived in Prague. Anna is Zachary’s daughter. She came over from UK to spend some time with her dad and help with opening of a new bookstore. I think that now she has her own bookshop in UK.
It is very difficult to describe people like Zachary. Or to even attempt to put words onto what he means to me. Words can only do a limited amount of magic. I often remember the sparkle in his eyes. The life, the curiosity, the wit! In a way, I think of him as of a comet star. Crossing the universe and igniting life. Traveling around the world and changing people’s lives.
I listened to this last night. It started slowly, but it became increasingly interesting to me at around mark 20.00. He mentions the demise of PCs. He mentions books and bookshops a number of times. And what effect touch-screens probably have on these. Futurist sounds like a cool profession.
There are no schools for book-sellers. These people just kind of spring out of vacuum, like universes. Monkey’s Paw is an interesting universe in Toronto.
You could also say that the Monkey’s Paw is an idea masquerading as a bookshop. It’s a cross between a retail establishment and a conceptual art installation, which upends traditional book-trade values and views the literary canon through a cracked lens. It’s a bookstore that argues that bookstores are, by definition, Dickensian old curiosity shops.
I love this language: A conceptual art installation. Dickensian old curiosity shop. An idea masquerading as a bookshop! It sounds like something I might have said.
“You have these hip 26-year-old downtown Toronto kids — they’ve actually literally never been to a bookshop,” Fowler says. “They come here and they’re like: ‘It reminds of a scene in “Harry Potter.”
In Monkey’s Paw you can also find this Harry-Potterish serendipity randomizer vending machine.
“The experience of Web browsing makes it possible for a shop like this to exist,” Fowler says. “The randomness of the book displays, they’re like the Web — masses of unrelated information popping up next to each other, their context pretty much wiped out. Basically, the Monkey’s Paw is a celebration of old print culture, presented in way that resonates with digital-age people.”
Good ideas. Great work. Also great fun. Total respect.
I guess I often got lost into those books vs. technology debates. This great article puts things into the right perspective. It’s a life-saver. It explains that books are technology per se. The true agent of change.
Walk into the reading room of the New York Public Library and what do you see? Laptops. Books, like the tables and chairs, have receded into the backdrop of human life. This has nothing to do with the assertion that the book is counter-technology, but that the book is a technology so pervasive, so frequently iterated and innovated upon, so worn and polished by centuries of human contact, that it reaches the status of Nature.
What is wrong with books? Nothing.
The lack of video, the lack of audio, the lack of ways to change the forking outcomes of plot (what is rather crudely referred to as “interactivity”) is a feature of literature, not a bug. And, as it turns out, books are interactive. They’re recipes for the imagination. Conversely, video is restrictive—it tells you what things look like, what they sound like.
How to make ends meet?
One theory from the creative industries has been to educate the public that content is worth something, and therefore they should pay for it. That notion is everywhere, in trailers before movie screenings and in the pages of magazines, whether they talk about themselves or the book business. As charitable as Americans are, and as willing as Europeans are to subsidize, relying on the notion that one deserves to get paid will fail every time. Imagine that as a dating strategy: I deserve to be desired by you.
And that, as it so happens, points precisely to what publishing can do, to what the business of literature is. It is not about making art; it is about making culture, which is a conversation about what is art, what is true, what is good.
To put a twenty year old in jail for five years? For what? For denial-of-service attack? To protect whom? A newly formed sect or corporation? That’s insane.
I guess the tag cloud of imaginary subtitles would show a high frequency of word fuck and all its derivates. My sentiments exactly.
I used to say that I am an independent bookseller. I truly believed it. I wrote it on our sign in capital letters.
I was my own boss, right? I chose our books, cared for our web page, managed our databases. I cleaned the floor, washed the windows, fixed the lights. I made our shelves and drew our bookmarks. And it was great! It was hard work, it was fun, and I thought I was free.
Bullocks! I was free until I noticed an omnipresent hill of unpaid invoices, moving in time always slightly ahead of me. I realized I was like a hamster, racing to catch something I cannot reach.
The standard model in book-selling is called a “credit account”. It is a long term contractual relationship in which you order books, publishers ship them right away, and you pay within an agreed period of time (most commonly 60 or 90 days).
It’s all fine as long as your turnover is either flat or growing. Zach once said: “If your business is ten percent down against the same period last year – sell it!” I wish I could.
I never read the small print. I mean, do you? I always click on “Agree” button. In theory you could return books to publishers in exchange for credit. The truth is that the system is designed so that it makes it easy for you to buy books (and develop debt) and very difficult (too expensive and too rigid) to return them.
Once your turnover is (irreversibly) down, you’re in trouble. You either start selling cupcakes, coffee and computer games or file for bankruptcy. Every normal person in my place would probably walk away and look for a new job.
Today I have moved beyond “independent” bookseller. We shall see if I’ll be lucky enough to get beyond “indebted”.
Evgeny Morozov’s new book (To Save Everything, Click Here) came out recently. You can no longer order it at Behemot and we won’t have it until it’s either remaindered or we get it second hand.
But, you can read it in the meantime – let me know what you think. And you can read this blog post by Nicholas Carr. The humorous debate that ensued mostly features a small safe, a set of screwdrivers and an interesting exercise in self-discipline.