The other day I’ve been reading a book by a nice writer and then — as it sometimes happens — my eyes kept sliding across words and lines but my mind went elsewhere. Just like in that Eames video “Powers of 10” I caught myself zooming out from that situation and looking at some non-me reading any book by any author, and then I was seeing any person in any epoch reading anything. I quickly went back to the text but the zoom out got me thinking. I will try to reproduce a thing or two from that cerebral voyage, but first here’s the Eames movie:
On collecting and reading
I collect and read books made of paper with letters printed on it and then bound together inside a cover. Large majority of books in my house are exactly like that. Also I collect and read books that are files made of bits and stored on transistors inside my solid state drive (right here, under this keyboard). I get different kinds of passion out of collecting these two types of objects. With physical books I get a sculpture with smell and weight and comforting/reliable look plus I get something to read. With digital ones the most important part is that I get something to share plus I get something to read. My fetish is to collect first editions of physical books from previous times. Some of them are really great and I might make pictures of those for you later. With digital books I do two things: I am very fast at getting new stuff as soon as it’s out (so I can quickly be on top of a topic) and with some authors I am what is called a completist. This is a special type of a
sick fuck hoarder that finds delight in gathering every most obscure item by an author.
I read paper books in the evenings during the week and at any time during weekends and holidays. I read digital books at all times except in the evenings. I have established this balance a while ago and now I can’t remember if some of the books I read were sculptures with smell and weight and comforting/reliable look or they were files. I am in peace with both of these protocols and this is what I suggest you to try. Paper books are not going away but digital ones are here to stay too. Please don’t be nervous.
What counts are two things: your unrestricted contact with that book and your sharing of it with other humans.
On public libraries
We were born into a world with functioning public libraries and we are not thinking about them enough. We know them well, we know how they smell and we will forever remember the voices of librarians. This is my childhood public library photographed by it’s biggest enemy (you can even see his shadow on the street):
The thing that interests me is the public library in our times when we are witnessing the shrinking of public sphere (sorry J.H.) plus the so called digital disruption. A true paradox is in the fact that the advent of digital sphere is being used by various adversaries of access to emancipatory knowledge. Think about that. The massive economic pressure on governments to go on a diet typically result in slim education and healthcare. That brings us to knowledge and health being accessible only to those with means. I don’t think that this is ok and something should be done.
Public Library Prototype
One time in 2012 my old buddies Marcell and Tomi from Mama invited me to co-curate a digital festival called HAIP2012 that they dedicated to public libraries (festival site is down, here’s a very thorough roundup by Alessandro. Yes, him again). The project was quite massive and my job was to generate some holistic narrative that could be placed in Ljubljana. After hearing them out and learning about the problem of public libraries in digital capitalism my suggestion was to establish a functioning prototype of a proper public library for our times. You should be immediately sorry for not being there. (Plenty more at Marcell’s insane blog)
The one thing I wanted to share here is something small I just found on my disk. I made a photo of my bookshelf (the part with DADA books) and changed the book titles. Next to the new titles are the QR codes that contain links to downloadable copies of those books. The links only worked on the premisses of the Public library prototype (sorry) but I am sure you get the idea. Here:
What you can do
This made me think of the following little prank:
- visit Library Genesis (new link!) or any of those wonderful sites with downloadable books
- get the URL of a good book you like
- make a QR code of that URL
- print stickers with that QR code
- go to a bookshop and paste the sticker on all the copies of the good book they cary
This should make you feel good.
One definite advantage of printed books is that they enhance the credibility of the interviews. Of all the people participating in the Janša movie it is easiest to immediately trust signore Caronia. Look for yourself: