Bookmarking Book Art – Architecture

Architecture — be it theory, principles, practices or instances — inspires book art. Lay the book flat; you have a foundation. Open and turn it on its fore-edge; you have a roof beam or arcade. Stand it upright; you have a column or tower. Turn the front cover; you open a door. Put the text and types under a microscope; you have a cityscape. As the examples in this virtual exhibition show, architecture-inspired book art goes beyond these simple analogies.

There are seemingly unrelated texts that help considerably in going there. The Eyes of the Skin (2005) and The Embodied Image (2010) by Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, teacher and critic, are two of them. He writes as if he were an artist preparing an artist’s statement or descriptions of the book art below. The title of his earlier book gives away his alignment with the visual and tactile nature of book art. Pallasmaa’s two books will enrich anyone’s enjoyment of the works shown and mentioned here.

From the Books On Books Collection

Helen Malone

Malone’s Ten Books of Architecture is a good place to start in the collection. Like Pallasmaa, Malone takes a broad historical and, most important, haptic view of architecture from Vitruvius to Hadid. Each of the ten books is a bookwork that exemplifies its subject.

Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio

The columns in this accordion book are made by embossing; the marbling effect comes from diluted Sumi ink.
Photo: Books On Books Collection

Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis

Adapted tunnel book with accordion sides
Photo: Books On Books Collection
A watercolour at the tunnel’s end to evoke the stained glass clerestory windows in the Basilique Saint-Denis, Paris
Photo: Books On Books Collection

The aspiration to fuse the cosmic and the human, divine and mortal, spiritual and material, combined with the systems of proportion and measure deriving simultaneously from the cosmic order and human figure, gave architectural geometries their meaning and deep sense of spiritual life. The Embodied Image, p. 23.

Leon Battista Alberti

Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection

The texture of this book, its adapted accordion structure and Alberti’s words remind me of Geoffroy Tory’s Champ fleury: The Art and Science of the Proportion of the Attic or Ancient Roman Letters, According to the Human Body and Face  (1529) and its argument for finding the ideal shape of the letters in the human form and face. The alphabet as book art’s bones, bricks and beams?

And further apropos the link between the book and architecture, consider the connection that Vasari drew between Gutenberg and Alberti:

In the year 1457 [sic], when the very useful method of printing books was discovered by Johann Gutenberg the German, Leon Batista [sic], working on similar lines, discovered a way of tracing natural perspectives and of effecting the diminution of figures by means of an instrument, and likewise the method of enlarging small things and reproducing them on a greater scale; all ingenious inventions, useful to art and very beautiful. Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, vol. 1, trans. Gaston Du C. de Vere (London: Medici Society/ Philip Lee Warner, 1912-1914), 494.

Filippo Brunelleschi

Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection

In “An Architectural Confession”, Pallasmaa writes:

One’s most important teacher may have died half a millennium ago; one’s true mentor could well be Filippo Brunelleschi or Piero della Francesca. I believe that every serious artist — at the edge of his/her consciousness — addresses and offers his/her work to a superior colleague for approval. The Eyes of the Skin, p. 82.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

“A paradox of enrichment and reduction”
Photo: Books On Books Collection
“New technologies”
Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection

Le Corbusier

This curiously textured cube sits perfectly alongside Pallasmaa’s observation: “The basic geometric shapes have their symbolic connotations, but more important than their conventional meanings are their conceptual and visual organising powers” (The Embodied Image, p. 58).

Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection

I.M. Pei

Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection
A short trip around this small pyramid as a reminder of the entrances that were always on the far side of museums you visited
Photo: Books On Books Collection

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Photo: Books On Books Collection
“Reading” the perspex accordion invites reconfiguring your own hi-rise and skyline.
Photo: Books On Books Collection

Daniel Libeskind

It is no surprise that Pallasmaa has written extensively on Libeskind.
Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection

Zaha Hadid

This edition of Malone’s Ten Books is unique in its inclusion of Hadid, who is not mentioned in either of Pallasmaa’s books but whose artistry and turn to the organic and curves of nature certainly fit with their spirit.
Photo: Books On Books Collection

Malone’s Ten Books has a predecessor in Laura Davidson’s contribution to the 1994 Smithsonian show on book art inspired by its collection of rare science books (see section below). Although there is also Karen Wirth’s sculptural take on the Ten Books as well as Ron Keller’s take (see section below) on Palladio’s Fours Books of Architecture, which is Palladio’s take on Vitruvius, I have not found any other Vitruvian-inspired works of book art. (Pointers welcome.)

Mandy Brannan

These two works — 30 St Mary Axe: Diagrid (2009) and 30 St. Mary Axe: Cladding (2009) — are among several architecture-inspired works of book art that Brannan has created. The text in one of those several — Situated — could have come straight from Pallasmaa, Bachelard or Merleau-Ponty:

Being situated is generally considered to be part of being embodied, but it is useful to consider each perspective individually. The situated perspective emphasizes that intelligent behaviour derives from the environment and the agent’s interactions with it.

30 St Mary Axe: Diagrid (2009)
Mandy Brannan
London has nicknamed the building at 30 St. Mary Axe “the Gherkin”.
Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection
30 St. Mary Axe: Cladding (2009)
Mandy Brannan
Photo: Books On Books Collection

By integration of image, colour and structure, Brannan situates the “Gherkin’s” architecture in your hands.

Sarah Bryant

The Radiant Republic (2019)
Sarah Bryant
Photo: Books On Books Collection

In the The Radiant Republic (2019), Sarah Bryant (Big Jump Press) brings together concrete, wood, glass, paper, ink and embossed printing, sewn binding, box container and texts from Plato and Le Corbusier.

Note the embossed text on the verso. Across the five volumes, the embossed text is the same as that printed in ink, but it runs in fragments backwards from this last page of the last volume to the last page of the first volume.
Photo: Books On Books Collection

Bryant’s insightful integration of Plato’s and Le Corbusier’s texts and ideas and her setting them in the physicality of the blond wood, linen cover, embossed type and sewn papers could easily be a response to Pallasmaa’s comment in The Eyes of the Skin: “The current overemphasis on the intellectual and conceptual dimensions of architecture contributes to the disappearance of its physical, sensual and embodied essence.” (p. 35)

Helen Douglas and Telfer Stokes

Chinese Whispers (1975) is conceptual, visual and spatial narrative that takes the reader into a “game of embedded games”: a game of Chinese Whispers used by the artists to combine the process of making a book with the process of recovering an old cottage, making a corner cupboard, making jam, making ideas and making an exit.

Chinese Whispers (1975), Helen Douglas and Telfer Stokes, Photo: Books On Books Collection

The selection of images above begins with the front cover’s photo of a patch of grass outside an abandoned farm building and ends with the back cover’s photo of the underside of the patch of grass. In between, the pages take the viewer through the trimmed hedge and the doorway into the room, through the building, the stocking of the shelves, using of the stock and closing of the shed cupboard, and so back to the other side of the patch of grass. As Stokes explained in the Journal of Artist’s Books (Vol. 12, 1999):

We started with the corner cupboard, that was the part that occupied our thinking most, that and the two colour vignettes (as we called them) printed on different stock. But then we started to think backward to what might be before the cupboard’s construction. To the thing before that, and the thing before that, and the thing before that which was cutting of the hedge and before that which was the boot brush which we called the hedgehog- that was where the book started. Then we started to photograph from that point forward, through the book.

The work blends the features of book structure, collage and montage to create something that resonates uncannily with Pallasmaa’s approving citations of Bachelard’s central idea of the hearth and domicile as central to our time-bound “being-in-the-world”.

Heather Hunter

Folded book pages rarely generate a work that rises above mere craft. Heather Hunter’s Observer Series: Architecture (2009) achieves the necessary height. It combines the altered book with an accordion book that incorporates a found poem composed of the words excised and folded outwards from the folded pages of The Observer’s Book of Architecture.

Observer Series: Architecture (2009)
Heather Hunter
Photo: Books On Books Collection
Photo: Books On Books Collection

The very fact of a found poem made of excised words that happen to fall at the folds shaping a column from a book on architecture chimes with the title of Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.

Marlene MacCallum

Chicago Octet (2014) by Marlene MacCallum embodies the collaborative creative approach often taken in architects’ practices. Collaborative working arises almost as frequently in book art. Think of Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay, Helen Malone and Jack Oudyn, Julie Chen and Clifton Meador, Robin Price and Daniel Kelm. Many more can be added. As described by MacCallum:

From May 19 – 26, 2014 a group of eight gathered at the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts for a final collaborative project. This event was organized by Clifton Meador and myself and included David Morrish, Scott McCarney, and four Grenfell Campus BFA (Visual Arts) grads, Stephen Evans, Maria Mercer, Virginia Mitford, and Meagan Musseau…. The letterpress printing consisted of a word selected by each participant printed on one of Scott’s folded structures. The images were a digital layering of every cityscape photograph that I made and then inkjet printed on top of the letterpress. The final folded structure was designed by Mary Clare Butler. The case was designed and built by Scott McCarney, the front cover embossment was by David Morrish and Clifton Meador.

Chicago Octet (2014)
Marlene MacCallum
Hand bound artist’s book with folded paper structure, letterpress and inkjet printing, 6.5 × 3 × 0.5 inches (closed dimension).
Photo: Books On Books Collection

Photo: Books On Books Collection

Chicago Octet fully unfolded, 17.5 × 11.5 inches
Photo: Books On Books Collection

Can you hear the traffic and sense the layers of experience? What Pallasmaa writes here of rock art in Africa and Australia reminds me of Chicago Octet (or is it vice versa?): “

At the same time that great works of art make us aware of time and the layering of culture, they halt time in images that are eternally new. … Regardless of the fact that these images may have been painted 50,000 years ago, … we can … hear the excited racket of the hunt. The Embodied Image, p. 109.

Salt + Shaw (Paul Salt and Susan Shaw)

Mill: A journey around Cromford Mill, Derbyshire (2006) is the result of the artists’ exploration of Cromford Mill in Derbyshire, the first water-powered, cotton-spinning mill developed by Richard Arkwright in 1771. Solid, plaster cast blocks are held softly between calico pages containing hidden texts, bound in recycled wooden library shelf covers that indicate there is history to be found within.

Mill: A journey around Cromford Mill, Derbyshire (2006)
Salt + Shaw (Paul Salt and Susan Shaw)
Photo: Books On Books Collection

Having Mill is like having the building inside your house.

Karen Wirth

Architecture plays more than an inspirational role in Karen Wirth’s portfolio. As mentioned above, she has created her own take on Vitruvius’ Ten Books. She designed the Gail See Staircase at Open Book and the Hiawatha Light Rail Station, both in Minneapolis. The collage work Paper Architecture is based on an architectural installation at the Minnesota Center for Arts Design and draws on Wirth’s photos of Ayvalik, Amsterdam, Florence, Istanbul, New York City, Rome, San Diego and Venice.

Paper Architecture (2017)
Karen Wirth
Photographs in the book © Karen Wirth
Photo: Books On Books Collection

In The Embodied Image, Pallasmaa singles out “the collaged image” as creating “a dense non-linear and associative narrative field through initially unrelated aggregates, as the fragments obtain new roles and significations through the context and dialogue with other image fragments” (pp.71-72). The materially disparate words in the title of Wirth’s work imply the dialogues she creates among paper, designs of letters and architecture, buildings across time and the globe, and photos tinted, four-colour, and black-and-white in palimpsest.

For Wirth’s own comments about the intersection of book art and architecture, see her interview with Betty Bright.

J. Meejin Yoon

Former professor and head of the Department of Architecture at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning, Yoon is now Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University. She is also cofounder of Höweler + Yoon, a design-driven architecture practice. Absence appears to be her only work of book art so far.

When you hold this small white brick of paper and turn its thick pages, a small pinhole appears on the page. Then two larger square holes emerge, one of which falls over the pinhole. Page after page, the two square holes repeat, creating two small dark wells in the field of white, until on the last page they take their place in the cut-out schematic footprint of the city blocks and buildings surrounding the Twin Towers of New York City. What you hold in your hands at the end is an object of art and book of memorial prayer.

Absence (2003)
J. Meejin Yoon
Photo: Books On Books

Architecture-themed works from other sites

Twice a semester, the Environmental Design Library at the University of California, Berkeley hosts “Hands On: An Evening with Artists’ Books”. In 2017, one evening’s theme was “Building on the Built”, illustrated by 25 works of book art. Organised by 23 Sandy Gallery in the same year, “BUILT“ was an international juried exhibition featuring 66 artist books by 51 artists examining the relationship between contemporary book art practices and architecture, engineering, landscape and construction.

Arranged alphabetically by artist’s name, this section provides links to favourites from these two exhibitions as well as other collections, exhibitions and installations.

James Allen: The Golden Section (2016), Architectural Graphics (2018)

Architectural Graphics (2018)
James Allen
Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Charlene Asato: Black & White (2013)

Alicia Bailey: Cities & Eyes (2016)

Carli Boisjolie: Places of Theirs (2016)

Amy Borezo: Raising the Supine Dome (2010)

Raising the Supine Dome (2010)
Amy Borezo
Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Inge Bruggeman: A Crisis Ethicist’s Directions for Use: Or How to be at Home in a Residence-cum-Laboratory (2003)

A Crisis Ethicist’s Directions for Use: Or How to be at Home in a Residence-cum-Laboratory (2003)
Inge Bruggeman
Photos: Courtesy of the artist

On her site, Bruggeman writes, “This book/box project is built around excerpts from Architectural Body by Madeline Gins and Arakawa…. incorporates a blueprint of their Bioscleave House as part of the imagery….”. Somewhat like A Clockwork Orange or perhaps more like Heideigger’s tomes, the Gins and Arakawa book is a challenge to the reader’s expectations of diction and syntax.

R D Burton: Structures II (2015)

Carol Chase Bjerke: Homage to Peter Mullin (2014)

Julie Chen and Barb Tetenbaum: Ode to a grand staircase (for four hands) (2011)

Susan Collard: Work in Great Cities (2011); Quixity (2017)

Guylaine Couture: Everyone Needs a Home (2017)

Laura Davidson: Ten Books of Vitruvius (1994), Venice : Piazza San Marco (2010)

Olafur Eliasson: Your House (2006)

Elsi Vassdal Ellis: Here is the church. Here is the Steeple. Here are questions for the people. (2017)

Alisa Golden: Woods in the City (2013)

Woods in the City (2013)
Alisa Golden
Photos: Courtesy of the artist

Christiane Grauert: Folding City (2016)

Karen Hanmer: The model architect: the panic of ’09 (2010)

Hongtao Zhou: Textscape-TONTSEN Eye (2019)

Textspace-TONTSEN Eye (2019)
Hongtao Zhou
Photos: Courtesy of the artist

Johan Hybschmann: Book of Space (2009)

Ronald Keller: Palladio, Andrea (1508-1580): excerpts from the four books on architecture (2008)

Louise Levergneux: Finding Home (2016)

Marlene MacCallum: Townsite House Bookwork (2006). See also Gail Tuttle, The Architectural Uncanny (Newfoundland: Sir Wilfred Grenfell College of Art Gallery, 2007).

Richard Minsky: Model of Buckminster Fuller’s Tetrascroll (1979). See also Polly Lada-Mocarski, Richard Minsky and Peter Seidler, “Book of the Century: Fuller’s Tetrascroll“, Craft Horizons, October 1977 (Vol. 7, No. 35).

Marta Minujín: El Partenon de Libros (1983)

Howard Munson: The Architects (2018)

Sumi Perera: Building Blocks Book XVII (2017). Further information available at Saatchi Art.

Building Blocks Book XVII (2017) Sumi Perera Photos by artist’s permission

Going against the usual structure of the book, that of a beginning, a middle and an end, Perera provides a space for infinite possibilities and multiple authors, creating “modules that can be re-sequenced and re-aligned to develop variable permutations and encourage participatory involvement, to share the final editorial control with the viewer to transform the ever-evolving work”. These possibilities for variable permutations are no more evident than in her constantly evolving project, Building Blocks Book, and its numerous subsequent iterations including The Negative Space of Architecture and The House That Jack Never Built (2008). Once again we find Perera exploring human interaction, not only with the concepts and her quizzical ideas surrounding architectural and public spaces and how we build between and move within, but also the physical interaction with the artists’ books she produces – the rearrangement and reinsertion of pages which allow the audience and participants new opportunities and pathways to proceed. Through the positive and negative space of the page or the type font, the Underground versus over ground, the artist takes us on journeys that are at once fluid and at other times obstructive. In these cityscapes, the U-turn is as common as the page turn – a necessary rupture in a free-flowing narrative. Chris Taylor, From Book to Book (Leeds: Wild Pansy Press, 2008).

Maria G. Pisano: Tunnel Vision (2004), Hecatombe 9-11 (2007)

Laura Russell: Casa Mila (2006)

Marilyn Stablein: Grids, Lines, Blocks: Basics Tools to Build Linear Habitats (2017)

Barbara Strigel: Visible Cities (2016)

Nikki Thompson: A Tribute to Alvar Aalto (2008)

A Tribute to Alvar Aalto (2008)
Nikki Thompson
Photos: Courtesy of the artist

Andrew Topel: Blueprints (2012)

Christine Trexel: Building the Universe (2017)

Amanda Watson-Will: The Great Library (2011)

Rachel Whiteread: Nameless Library (2000)

Thomas Parker Williams: Spiral Dome: Sculptures in Paper and Steel (2016)

Spiral Dome: Sculptures in Paper and Steel (2016)
Thomas Parker Williams
Photos: Courtesy of the artist

Further Reading

Sophia Kramer, “Variations of Vitruvius: Four Centuries of Bookbinding and Design”, The Met, 22 August 2018. This essay reviews and illustrates the conservation and rehousing of ninety-five copies of De Architectura libri decem (The Ten Books of Architecture) by Marcus Pollio in the collection of the Department of Drawings and Prints. They are part of a donation of 356 publications from the architect William Gedney Beatty (1869–1941). For book artists, the section on a 1556 edition with double volvelles to display a theater design should be of interest.

Elizabeth Williams, “Architects Books: An Investigation in Binding and Building”, The Guild of Book Workers Journal, Volume 27, Number 2, Fall 1989. This essay not only pursues the topic of architecture-inspired book art but turns it on its head. An adjunct professor at the time, Williams set her students the task of reading Ulises Carrión’s The New Art of Making Books (Nicosia: Aegean Editions, 2001) then, after touring a bindery, “to design the studio and dwelling spaces for a hand bookbinder on an urban site in Ann Arbor, Michigan”. But before producing the design, the students were asked “to assemble the pages [of the design brief and project statement] in a way that explored or challenged the concept of binding”. In other words, they had to create bookworks and then, inspired by that, create their building designs. Williams illustrates the essay with photos of the students’ bookworks. [Special thanks to Peter Verheyen for this reference.]

Bookmarking Book Art — Andrew Eason

clock
Clock Watching, 2006, Andrew Eason
“What happens when we’re not watching the clocks? A short piece where ordered Newtonian time gives out and something a bit more interesting takes over instead.”

Based in Bristol, Andrew Eason creates and teaches book art.   One of his more interesting bookworks is Clock Watching, but he is more than a book artist watching the clock or posterity.  Consider these concluding paragraphs to “The Critical Commonwealth,” his essay contributed to the 2010-11 Book Artists’ Yearbook.

If we are to say that artists’ books count in contemporary art practice, we have to connect those circuits up with the wider critical discussion. Books have made this difficult, because in themselves, as objects, they harbour an insular perfection of their own. They have a persuasive individual completeness that only a wider context can begin to describe and elucidate. This security is part of their appeal, of course. But it also trips us up as we try to write about them, as the temptation is to treat every book as a world in itself, separate from any other and from the world outside. Walter Benjamin, writing of the early books of his childhood, confides, ‘whereas now content, theme and subject-matter are extraneous to the book, earlier they were solely and entirely in it’.

We should move towards a perception of practice, tactics and desires extraneous to the insufficiently-permeable identity of ‘artists books’. Like Benjamin, we should allow our perception of what is inside books to be informed by that which is outside them.  The critical commonwealth that artists’ books belong to is none other than that of contemporary art practice. This realisation reframes the question of how to discover the relevance of artists’ books. It has nothing to do with their definition, or categorisation, and everything to do with what they say and what they make possible. They’re art.

The digital revolution is one of those extraneities that Eason and other book artists must have in mind.  As is evident from the link, his Clock Watching is a pdf flipbook and seems to be viewable only on his website — a book in a browser.  Any critique of the work would take into account the artist’s accommodation for non-Flash browsers and his choices of the application’s functionalities (automated page-turning, click to turn, click and drag to turn, thumb-nail presentation, print not allowed, download not allowed, etc.).  On the iPad, the ability to zoom in to appreciate the chalk-drawn figures over the tinted collage of landscape foreground and background surpasses that of the cursor-bound MacBook Pro (circa 2009), but the work is dated 2006, and one would have hoped for greater visual control to pore over the tinted rocks and roots in the twilight scenes.  But attention to technical extraneities are not the only ones Benjamin or Eason expect of the artist and viewer.

The work poses its question of measured time in words and then in images that suggest the vegetal, cultural and mortal passage of time.  The strangely tinted foliage is moving through its seasons.  The chalked characters are from different times and suggest Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the influence of other literary and artistic forebearers.  But does Clock Watching succeed in bringing what is outside the clock and outside its medium — book, book-in-browser, book art — within itself?   Time, as they say, …

In addition to making his own bookworks and inviting us onto the grounds of the critical commonwealth, Andrew Eason has posted a tunnel book:  The Thames Tunnel.   Be sure to hover over the holes in the cover and click on the dropdown “Look through.”

Here is the collection citation should you happen to be near the Brunel Collection in Bristol and wish to make an appointment to see the work:

Repository University of Bristol Library Special Collections 

Level Collection  Ref No DM327

Title  Illustrated booklet advertising the Thames Tunnel

Date  1827
Extent  1 item
Description  ‘Sketches and Memoranda of the works for the Tunnel under the Thames from Rotherhithe to Wapping [London]: published and sold at the Tunnel Works, Rotherhithe, and by Harvey and Darton, 55 Gracechurch Street, 1827’.

26 p., [13] leaves of plates (4 folded). Copy available in the Eyles Collection, TA820.L6 SKE.

Bookmark for your browser or your ereader? | Updating the debate — the cloud gathers

The original posting (20120815) begins beneath the image.  The updates are flagged below.

 

 

Somewhat similar to the discussion kicked off by Jason Pontin in Technology Review, this collection of viewpoints pulled together by Anna Lewis of ValoBox for The Bookseller‘s digital blog FutureBook puts the case for HTML5 over the app/device.

“. . . HTML5 has laid down a new marker in browser standards. Not only does it enable offline capability through caching of content, it also lets you create websites that feel like native apps. The browser is certainly becoming a very different beast. So, does this mean publishers should rethink their approach to the browser, and see it as a way to deliver content, not just discover it?”

How the answers to this question play out affects the evolution of the book.   Bookmark the concept if not this web page.

Other books in browsers covered include 24symbols, Padify and the Internet Archive.  Follow these up on Lewis’s FutureBook posting.  Offline, commentators have suggested Amazon’s Cloud Reader and Firefox’s EPUB Reader as well.   

Also a three-part series of postings by Bill McCoy, Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), has begun at Tools of Change today (20120816).  The first in the series articulates a key point about the book as content,

“. . . over time there will continue to be an increasing ability to conveniently publish directly to the cloud, as well as increasing acceptance by end users of cloud-based consumption. Perhaps someday the idea of a “file” will even become obsolete. But, at a minimum for many years to come – and possibly forever – it seems obvious that there will continue to be a significant role for reified content objects [italics added], particularly portable documents.”

Books On Books will add links to the second and third of McCoy’s postings by as they occur.  The concept of the book as a reified content object (techy as the phrase may be) has its bibliographic and critical forerunners (in the work of McKerrow, Benjamin, Barthes, Ong and others) and its contemporaries (in the work of Illich, Hayles, Michael Joyce and others).

On its surface, the debate in which HTML5, EPUB 3, iOS apps, the ebook, the cloud are swimming seems to be a competition of technical approaches and tools.  Beneath its surface, however, stirs something vital to the future of the book.

Updated bookmark begins here (20120817) . . .

Before Bill McCoy’s next posting (see above for the first), Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World (DBW) usefully flagged a timely collection of postings supporting “the cloud trumps the future” perspective on ebooks:  Hachette’s return on its investment in the cloud, the State Department backing off its Kindle deal in order to research other options (cloud-based being the implication), the major textbook publishers’ adaptation to Virtual Learning Systems and MOOCs (massive open online courses), etc.

The “cloud” view, however, recalls an apt caution Michael Joyce made in his Adam Helms lecture in Stockholm in 2001:

    Digital culture reels and swaggers like a drunken plowman who dreams of taking flight, relieved of mortal weight and presence. . . . an old dream, perhaps the oldest of human culture . . . . Much is made of how the digital escapes fixedness, . . . from electrons hurtling along copper corridors, upward to switched registers of transient values, and ultimately to brilliant phosphor letterforms which disappear like fireflies in a billion recurring twilights of a nanosecond’s duration.

    However we situate ourselves in place and time alike.  Cyberspace is not exempt from the mortal and moral geometry wherein we place our hope and find out future.

This from one of the pioneers of the ebook.  What is ironic here and now is that Joyce made these comments while comparing ebooks to print books, yet today they are equally applicable when comparing ebooks in ereaders to ebooks in the cloud.  As the ebook in the ereader stands with the printed book as a “reified content object,” the cloud gathers.

Bookmark for your browser or your ereader? | Updating the debate — the cloud gathers

The original posting (20120815) begins beneath the image.  The updates are flagged below.

 

 

Somewhat similar to the discussion kicked off by Jason Pontin in Technology Review, this collection of viewpoints pulled together by Anna Lewis of ValoBox for The Bookseller‘s digital blog FutureBook puts the case for HTML5 over the app/device.

“. . . HTML5 has laid down a new marker in browser standards. Not only does it enable offline capability through caching of content, it also lets you create websites that feel like native apps. The browser is certainly becoming a very different beast. So, does this mean publishers should rethink their approach to the browser, and see it as a way to deliver content, not just discover it?”

How the answers to this question play out affects the evolution of the book.   Bookmark the concept if not this web page.

Other books in browsers covered include 24symbols, Padify and the Internet Archive.  Follow these up on Lewis’s FutureBook posting.  Offline, commentators have suggested Amazon’s Cloud Reader and Firefox’s EPUB Reader as well.   

Also a three-part series of postings by Bill McCoy, Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), has begun at Tools of Change today (20120816).  The first in the series articulates a key point about the book as content,

“. . . over time there will continue to be an increasing ability to conveniently publish directly to the cloud, as well as increasing acceptance by end users of cloud-based consumption. Perhaps someday the idea of a “file” will even become obsolete. But, at a minimum for many years to come – and possibly forever – it seems obvious that there will continue to be a significant role for reified content objects [italics added], particularly portable documents.”

Books On Books will add links to the second and third of McCoy’s postings by as they occur.  The concept of the book as a reified content object (techy as the phrase may be) has its bibliographic and critical forerunners (in the work of McKerrow, Benjamin, Barthes, Ong and others) and its contemporaries (in the work of Illich, Hayles, Michael Joyce and others).

On its surface, the debate in which HTML5, EPUB 3, iOS apps, the ebook, the cloud are swimming seems to be a competition of technical approaches and tools.  Beneath its surface, however, stirs something vital to the future of the book.

Updated bookmark begins here (20120817) . . .

Before Bill McCoy’s next posting (see above for the first), Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World (DBW) usefully flagged a timely collection of postings supporting “the cloud trumps the future” perspective on ebooks:  Hachette’s return on its investment in the cloud, the State Department backing off its Kindle deal in order to research other options (cloud-based being the implication), the major textbook publishers’ adaptation to Virtual Learning Systems and MOOCs (massive open online courses), etc.

The “cloud” view, however, recalls an apt caution Michael Joyce made in his Adam Helms lecture in Stockholm in 2001:

    Digital culture reels and swaggers like a drunken plowman who dreams of taking flight, relieved of mortal weight and presence. . . . an old dream, perhaps the oldest of human culture . . . . Much is made of how the digital escapes fixedness, . . . from electrons hurtling along copper corridors, upward to switched registers of transient values, and ultimately to brilliant phosphor letterforms which disappear like fireflies in a billion recurring twilights of a nanosecond’s duration.

    However we situate ourselves in place and time alike.  Cyberspace is not exempt from the mortal and moral geometry wherein we place our hope and find out future.

This from one of the pioneers of the ebook.  What is ironic here and now is that Joyce made these comments while comparing ebooks to print books, yet today they are equally applicable when comparing ebooks in ereaders to ebooks in the cloud.  As the ebook in the ereader stands with the printed book as a “reified content object,” the cloud gathers.