The book as a device

The Internet Archive is now archiving physical copies of books.

As the Internet Archive has digitized collections and placed them on our computer disks, we have found that the digital versions have more and more in common with physical versions. The computer hard disks, while holding digital data, are still physical objects. As such we archive them as they retire after their 3-5 year lifetime. Similarly, we also archive microfilm, which was a previous generation’s access format. So hard drives are just another physical format that stores information. This connection showed us that physical archiving is still an important function in a digital era.

Recognizing that a book is just another device is important. It’s way too easy to make all sorts of cute analogies and comparisons between books and the digital world, so I’ll avoid it. How our society consumes words and images is bound to shift, but the book will still be here in fifty years.

The Last Ringbearer

Imagine being on the losing side of the battles in The Lord of the Rings — Russian author, Kirill Yeskov did just that, and produced The Last Ringbearer. From an article about the book:

In Yeskov’s retelling, the wizard Gandalf is a war-monger intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science “destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!” He’s in cahoots with the elves, who aim to become “masters of the world,” and turn Middle-earth into a “bad copy” of their magical homeland across the sea. Barad-dur, also known as the Dark Tower and Sauron’s citadel, is, by contrast, described as “that amazing city of alchemists and poets, mechanics and astronomers, philosophers and physicians, the heart of the only civilization in Middle-earth to bet on rational knowledge and bravely pitch its barely adolescent technology against ancient magic.”

An English translation by Yisroel Markov is available for download, although just in PDF at the moment.

An Awesome Book!

An Awesome Book! cover

Dallas Clayton created An Awesome Book! for his son. The story is about dreaming big and never giving up. The book is self-published and is currently in its twentieth printing. Dallas started a foundation to give away a copy of his book for every copy that he sold. It’s not limited to schools and stores, he’ll walk up to random parents and give them a copy. You can read the book in its entirety and then buy a copy.

Time-lapse book cover design

A two minute time-lapse video of a book cover being designed. Lauren Panepinto, the creative director of Orbit Books, lets you see the process behind creating the cover for Blameless by Gail Carriger. You can read Laura’s blog post about the video to glean a few more details about the process.

Over 6 hours of my onscreen compositing, retouching, color correction, type obsessing, all condensed down to a slim sexy one minute 55 seconds of cover design. Trust me, no one wants to watch it in real-time.

Lastly, design:related has a few more details about the cover, including one of the early comps from the series.

Jane Austen manuscripts

Jane Austen excerpt

Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts is a joint project from the University of Oxford, King’s College and the British Library, that seeks to create a digital resource from all of the author’s surviving manuscripts.

Jane Austen’s fiction manuscripts are the first significant body of holograph evidence surviving for any British novelist. They represent every stage of her writing career and a variety of physical states: working drafts, fair copies, and handwritten publications for private circulation.

Great care has been taken to provide a digital record of the original materials, as well as an accurate transcription which can be viewed simultaneously.

Austen’s handwriting and punctuation are agreed to be of great importance in the understanding of her work but have hitherto been little studied. The mark up scheme has recorded orthographic variants and punctuation symbols in minute detail for subsequent computational interrogation.

The flash interface is somewhat awkward to use, but the “diplomatic display” is quite impressive.

Street-fighting Mathematics

Sanjoy Mahajan’s book, Street-fighting Mathematics, is about the art of educated guessing and opportunistic problem solving.

In problem solving, as in street fighting, rules are for fools: do whatever works—don’t just stand there! This engaging book is an antidote to the rigor mortis brought on by too much mathematical rigor, teaching us how to guess answers without needing a proof or an exact calculation.

The book is available in traditional dead-tree format and also for download under a Creative Commons license.

Awesome things

The Book of Awesome

A recent interview with Neil Pasricha, author of 1000 Awesome Things, celebrating the release of The Book of Awesome.

His blog — some entries are nostalgic, reflective, but always positive — now gets about 40,000 visits a day, more than 11 million hits in total. His email box is regularly packed with readers’ messages, spilling out their woes and thanking him for lifting their spirits.

Neil was one of my editors at Golden Words years ago. He’s incredibly funny and well-deserving of the attention that the site has garnered. I hope the book sells really well, I’ll be picking up a copy when it makes it to this side of the pond, or next time I’m back in Canada. Congratulations Neil!

The Alice 100

The Alice 100 collection at UBC contains hundreds of editions of the Alice in Wonderland, as parodies, film productions, stills and other works by Caroll. This article discusses the collection, and the variety of artwork that it has inspired over the years.

In other Alice related news, the British Library has made the first edition of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground available in its entirety, and there’s a version of Alice for the iPad.