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Sample from BibliOdyssey

This is a blog I’ve wanted to start for a while now. The name is inspired by the great Bibliodyssey which I recommend all to visit now even if never to return. My purpose here is manifold. I’ve for most of my life been delighted by odd books. Herein I plan to write a little about odd books, possibly sometimes just about good books not necessarily so odd, possibly sometimes about odd things not necessarily books. But mostly I think about odd books.

We are right now just at the beginning (I guess) of the Next Big Thing After Gutenberg. Gutenberg’s invention of movable type meant that printers could make books, and we no longer needed monks. Which very quickly meant most everybody could afford a book or two. Now we have things like the Gutenberg Project – further democratizing the possession of information and all that. Or maybe ‘lumpening’ rather than ‘democratizing’. I’m certainly not going to bother doing any research right now, but I’d imagine that the average hard drive could store all the text from the Library of Congress circa, I don’t know, 1980?

This is interesting and I’m tempted to say it’s good. But when you hear the word ‘Kindle’(tm) don’t you think of Fahrenheit 451? All the same, when you think of Fahrenheit 451, don’t you think of the movie rather than the book?

If I had a point it would be this: Books are special. Old books smell great. I remember really liking the smell of some new textbooks too (been a while since I’ve smelled a new textbook). Paper is generally pleasing to the fingers whatever its texture. Apart from tactility and smell, it’s hard to imagine a better technology from a user-interface point of view for human hands and eyes. I’m not quite qualified to judge this point as I haven’t yet even used an e-reader.

In favor of e-readers: data is cheap. Easy to transport, easy to share (disregarding DRM), easy to store. And in favor of the digital age generally, we are rapidly archiving all of our cultural works. As data gets cheaper, these archives are more and more redundant and distributed, which ironically seems to mean that as the storage gets more ephemeral, the work is more enduring! Everything on tape or film for instance will not survive long unconverted. Books may be a bit longer-lived, but mostly pre-20th century. Latter-day paperbacks are going to crumble to dust pretty soon if they aren’t vacuum-packed, right?

This is also probably a good time and place to mourn the passing of the used bookstore as an institution. I think this is a bigger loss than the drive-in movie theatre, which is saying a lot. Patronize your local used bookstore! When I’m looking for a particular old book, nothing beats going on the internet, locating it in 7.4 seconds, ordering it, and waiting for it to come through the letter slot. But when I’m not looking for anything in particular, what then?

I’m digressing. The long and short of it is, I’ve always liked books, as long as I knew what they were, and I have an especial place in my heart (/spleen) for those oddities that I’ve come across here and there, and I’d like to share some of them with you. I’m also hoping to hear about other strange books and I’m also hoping that my need to have strange books to blog about will spur me to seek out more of them!

Tangentially related:
Every 6 Hours the NSA gathers as much data as is stored in the entire Library of Congress

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