I've heard every single one of these
(but I've only used two myself...)
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
So, What IS an ISBN?
The International Standard Book Number, or ISBN is one of those contemporary ideas which were supposed to make an Art into a Science using mathematics, or at least numbers. Aside from being an ugly mark on an otherwise well-designed dust jacket, it is the means by which publishers' warehouses and, finally, bookstores can control large volumes of inventory by treating each item as an entry line in a ledger (or digital device) rather than an actual physical object. This is a function that used to be performed by the Title and Author's Name, as well as other pertinent information about the Publication (Publisher, City, Date, Edition, etc.) as well as some judgement about Type or Category, all of which required some "sense" of what the book was. Now all that has been condensed into a string of integers.
Once upon a time, the books themselves were their own filing system: each being assigned to a certain position on a topically arranged shelf by procrustean individuals known as "librarians." These gentle souls thought their main function was to assist the reader in locating the information that would further his education. In order to do so, they needed to have some knowledge, themselves, about the content and quality - such a very un-capitalistic notion! Now, of course, we know that books are just another form of Product, the purchase of which is the ultimate goal, having very little to do with education or even curiosity, beyond that which can elicited by Marketing.
The idea of having a unique and descriptive number for every title published is not, in itself, a bad one. The Library of Congress has been attempting to do that for just the titles produced in the United States as have the other national libraries of the world for their own literary outputs. In principle it is a sound and historically worthwhile enterprise. The problem arises when the same concept is applied to the very messy world of commerce, with reprints, rip-offs, revisions, short-runs, review copies, translations, condensations, collections, pirate versions, in a multitude of different languages, being produced in major cities around the world. Even an infinitely expandable system begins to break down.
Worse, though, it creates the illusion of having solved a problem which, in fact, it only causes to grow more acute: every piece of writing is not equal to every other, every publication of that work varies in quality and accuracy, fakes abound and falsehoods proliferate! Yet each is stamped with a number which gives it equal validity to all the rest. At a time when critical judgement has become a dire necessity, we've applied a system that makes no judgement at all. Ultimately, what we will get is a thin uniform gruel of digital scribendi perfectly suited to the Kindle and the iTablet. Unless we can find a way to evaluate quality without enforcing hierarchical value judgement, we are doomed to drown in a sea of digitally encoded pablum.
As an aside: Updates of the bookstall have been interrupted (temporarily I hope) by my ISP's inability or unwillingness to provide broadband service on anything like a regular schedule. Thus an upload of data from the letter I to mid-M has been held in check for 24 hours, awaiting what is laughingly referred to as 3G Service. I pray this post will make it through!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
While I wasn't looking, because I was concentrating so hard on my new Bookstall, the number of people visiting this blog passed 3000! Thank you everyone for visiting! Let's hope I can continue to balance all my online projects without injuring myself...
Artwork by Moebius
Friday, March 5, 2010
I had, originally, intended to start another blog, specifically related to book matters, in general, and the ongoing saga of my attempts to sell my library online through the Bookstall, in specific. But then I began to tackle the enormous task of simply uploading the thumbnails and brief information on each of 1200 books, and decided that the last thing I need is yet another excuse to avoid the tedium of pricing, measuring, weighing, verifying and cataloging. So I'll stick with the feature-column format in my usual blog, for now.
I've spent the last couple of long nights doing data entry (shades of my Tattered Cover days) and have managed to reach the mid-Cs - just to give you an idea of what's involved. It's a good thing I rather enjoy the task, and always have - I've often suspected I really should have been a librarian - the more tedious and daunting, the better. One of the best things about books is that, even in the midst of the most repetitive data-entry, there's always something to learn and inevitable surprises. Like anyone with an unhealthy obsession, I'm forever imagining the discovery of a rare and expensive treasure in among the dusty volumes. So, picture my surprise when I found that this:
Steve Reeves, Building the Classic Physique the Natural Way
Access Publishers Network, ISBN 9781885096050
is one of those rarities! It was bought on a lark, when a co-worker (female) in Small Package Receiving at the Tattered Cover (hereinafter called "TC Receiving") and I were joking about how our young lives had been affected by the Steve Reeves/Hercules sword & sandal epics, probably as we were receiving somebody's special-order for one of these or something similar. After some investigation, what I really found I wanted was the Steve Reeves Fan Club black silk baseball jacket, but it was much too expensive on a book-clerks salary. So I settled for the book. I do, in fact, have a small fixation on Steve, muscles, and the whole posing-strap phenomenon of the Fifties - it seems a fundamental part of my adolescent struggle to find and identify myself and, therefore, retains a special fondness.
As to why this paperback, in particular, has become valued at $148.99, I suspect it's a matter of a small original printing combined with a resurgence of interest in body-building in general and in Reeves as an historical figure, a remarkably handsome man, a survivor, and generally, it seems, a nice guy who made the best of what he was given and followed his dream to Cinecittá. I must confess I've hardly even cracked the book - fixations notwithstanding, exercise is something I tend to avoid. But I think it's a small price to pay for a fragment of the One True Hercules!