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review 2013-12-13 01:20
The Late age of Print by Ted Striphas
The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control - Ted Striphas,Striphas Ted

This is a charming book, which I just wrote a nice review for and then closed the page. Doh. 


It covers the history of "Print Culture" for more or less the past century, from the first rise of what we now call the "trad publisher" over the small private press, through to the early 2000's with the big box book store and the Oprah Book Club and the early days of Amazon.  There's a pretty good look at the real effect that big book store chains like Barnes and Noble had on indie bookstores (apparently, remarkably little, despite all the naysaying and gloom). Amazon on the other hand, is probably going to kill off both, as well as trad pub. 


There's also a look at the "taste leader" phenomenon, writ large and personified by Oprah. Now this I found interesting, because it's a wonderful example. Just because a book blogger or GR or BL reviewer's reach isn't Oprah-sized, doesn't mean the same basic dynamics don't come into play. 


It's really nicely written, easy to read, and I can quite recommend it if you can find a copy. Like anything involving people and technology, it's going to date, but as a snapshot and history of a time when big print publishing owned the world, it's pretty comprehensive. 


Half a star off for being US-centric and apparently not noticing. I don't mind if you want to hog the baseball, just don't say you're having a world series, you know? If you're US focussed in an academic text, just be up front and say so.


But it is, overall, quite a fun read.


And I'm still quite enamoured of the little section I used as a status update earlier, below.


Reading progress update: I've read 35 out of 187 pages.


Regarding early publishing industry attempts to discourage library borrowing:


"Among Bernays’s more intriguing strategies to “increase the market for good books” was to have his institute sponsor a contest in the spring of 1931 “to look for a pejorative word for the book borrower, the wretch who raised hell with book sales and deprived authors of earned royalties.” Bernays drew his inspiration for the contest from another term that had been introduced into the American English lexicon in 1924, namely, “scofflaw,” which originally referred to a “‘lawless drinker’ of illegally made or illegally obtained liquor.” To judge the contest Bernays convened a panel of three well-known New York City book critics: Harry Hansen (of the New York World-Telegram), Burton Rascoe (formerly of the New York Herald-Tribune), and J. C. Grey (of the New York Sun). Among the thousands of entries they considered were terms like “book weevil,” “borrocole,” “greader,” “libracide,” “booklooter,” “bookbum,” “bookkibitzer,” “culture vulture,” “greeper,” “bookbummer,” “bookaneer,” “blifter,” “biblioacquisiac,” and “book buzzard.” The winner? “Book sneak,” entered by Paul W. Stoddard, a high school English teacher from Hartford, Connecticut."


I kind of like the idea of being bookaneer or a biblioacquisiac :)

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text 2013-10-09 01:41
of tea bags and rare books
Tea Time: Tradition, Presentation, And Recipes (Running Press Miniature Editions) - M. Dalton King

I spent some time at the UTPA Special Collections department today. I don't think I've been this excited for weeks!


The librarian, Janette Garcia, opened up the collection of rare miniature books and laid them down on the table in front of me. I squealed over a rare copy (one of thirty--one of THIRTY!) of a work by Lewis Carroll (in my excitement I forgot to actually read it! /sad face).


With trembling fingers, I took these books out of their plastic wrapping one by one by one and sat with them for a long time.


One of the books I did read cover to cover was a short booklet called The 2nd Course in Correct Cataloging or Further Notes to the Neophyte, compiled by David Magee. It was hilarious. It was laugh-out-loud funny. Good old library humor anyone would enjoy.


Parting at the end of the afternoon would have been much more emotional if I didn't remember that the Special Collections exists at my University's library. Gosh. If you're a book lover at UTPA, have an affinity for old, rare books, and haven't browsed Special Collections yet, you're missing out on so much.


Let me know if you ever march there. I might go along with you and we'll fawn over perfect binding and the flawless antiquity of old books together.


(P.S. The image linked to this post is a miniature book called "Tea Time: Tradition, Presentation, And Recipes" and--here's the cute part--the bookmark is a little tea bag label. Janette is especially fond of that one!)

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text 2013-09-21 16:53
saturday reads
Pride and Prejudice - Jessica Hische,Jane Austen

I'm going to be re-reading The Final Descent and then going to be interviewed on book culture by a friend. Can you believe book culture is actually a thing? And I don't only mean hipster book culture--which harbors the image of a lonely, white girl sitting next to her windowsill, sipping herbal tea and flipping through the pages of Pride and Prejudice.


No, I actually mean the local culture which exists in regards to literacy and the pursuit of knowledge. I call it book culture because I associate books with knowledge--others may call it a literacy initiative, or internet culture--whatever works for you.


In my experience, book culture includes reading, active in-person book discussions, reaching out to the community and helping them out when they are hunting for a certain type of knowledge, and--of course--binding books. That's just me, though.


The image I've picked for this post is Pride and Prejudice because I mention it--and also because I don't diss it as "high" or "hipster" literature. It really is a good book. My copy from 1920 is falling apart (I found it at an antique bookstore in London!), but I'll get a new one soon. If you haven't read it, I'm sure it on your to-read list. I'm not sure any book lover can feel content without knowing Mr. Darcy to some extent.

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review 2002-08-21 00:00
Comic Book Culture: Fanboys and True Believers (Studies in Popular Culture)
Comic Book Culture: Fanboys and True Believers (Studies in Popular Culture) - Matthew J. Pustz I'm using this book in my college writing course ("text+vision") this semester, and it is exactly what I wanted from a cultural overview of comic book fandom. Pustz does a great job of explaining how fandom came about, how it compares to other cultures (with a consistent reference to baseball fans, for example), and some of its peculiarities. In particular, he is able to partly explain the incestual nature of consumer and producers in comics, where each is a responsible party to the worst excesses of the medium, yet Pustz is careful to not make a judgment statement about this (unlike me).

This book is not a history of comics, of who published what first and which creator sued which publisher. For that, you should check out Bradford Wright's Comic Book Nation. It's not even a history of comics fandom, although it does gather quite a bit of that together in its pages (Bill Schelly covers the history of fandom in more detail). What Pustz tries to cover is the area inbetween--where fans and publishers met. This is the culture of comic books, the place where the two groups make something together, and at first it may seem strange to think of consumers as producers, or producers as consumers. But, through his analysis of comics letters pages and fanzines, Pustz shows how the two groups affected each other.

Comic Book Culture is copyright 1999, but feels like it was written in 1996 or 1997, mainly for the lack of focus on the incredible growth of manga in America and how Pokemon, DragonBall Z, and Sailor Moon are revitalizing comic book culture by bringing children back to comics. The last three years have also increased the importance of the Internet on the culture, which Pustz talks about briefly in the chapter 5. Finally, he really doesn't get much chance to focus on the rise of the graphic novel as an option for reading the medium compared to the ephemeral magazine.

As a textbook in a cultural study hybrid course, this book is perfect. For the average comic reader, it might be interesting to discover aspects of the hobby that you didn't know about. And it might just be the thing to share with parents or friends who don't understand why you keep reading Spider-Man, even though you're over 30.
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