Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Video: Future of print

"EPILOGUE is a lyrical student documentary about the future of books by Hannah Ryu Chung, featuring a number of interviews with independent bookstore owners, magazine art directors, printers, bookbinders, letterpress artists, and other champions of bibliophilia." This is  a beautiful video with some stunning images. Here are some quotes from it:

  • a book is a sensory experience ...
  • it's an incredible aesthetic intellectual experience to read a book ... to read through a book ...
  • ... can you even buy floppy disks .. yet, you know, there are books from the fifth and sixth century (that can still be read)
Yes, it is that kind of video. It is for those who love the printed book, though it does not completely rule out the e-book. This 24 minute video is a must watch. Some of the visuals are quite a sight to behold.

Why are typos so hard to catch?

After reading this piece in Optical Illusions, I don't feel so stupid any more. According to Esther Inglis-Arkell, "It turns out, this is partly a matter of the way your brain processes text — and partly something that's specific to English and a few other languages."

Have you heard of the Stroop Effect? I hadn't either, but when I read the explanation I realised that I had read it somewhere before. "The Stroop Effect happens when the words for one color are printed in ink of another color ... If the word 'GREEN' is printed in blue ink, even though their eyes see blue, their brain thinks 'green'. It takes people a while to sort it out."

I am not a speed reader; I like language too much. Speed reading is good for those who like to know the ending. (Of course, you could peek at the last page.) I am one of those who hates a good book to end; its like parting after a long meaningful relationship with a good friend. One could revisit, certainly, but it will not be the same. There will no longer be the same serendipitous quality about it. So I read good books slowly, and bad ones quickly to get it over with.

But, coming back to proof reading, I am still dreadful at it. One problem is the familiarity of the text. Researchers at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit found that "... It's possible to scramble those letters around while keeping them near where they would be, if the word were in its correct order ..." without losing comprehension. Apparently, this is possible only with a few languages including German. (They failed when they tried it with Hebrew.)

Read the whole story here.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Are profits the only consideration for the (printed) newspaper?

We have been hearing about the impending death of the newspaper for almost a decade now. We have considered it as inevitable. With the e-book and the iPad, we are even more sure that conventional newspapers are doomed. I was too, until I read this article in the Fortune magazine, Profits are not the only consideration for newspapers. It starts:

"One of the challenges of discussing the besieged newspaper business is that it's not like just any business, or it shouldn't be. There is a public-service component to newspapering that is often at odds with the pursuit of maximum profits. That, in fact, is the industry's core problem as readership and revenue continue to dwindle: Many of the nation's newspapers are owned by corporations that are concerned primarily or solely with profits, which often isn't good for journalism. The only way to maintain profits in the short-term is to cut costs."

Recently, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, announced that it would cut production from daily to three days a week. The paper reportedly is profitable -- but not profitable enough for its owners, who want to squeeze out as much as they can in as short a time as possible. People can always read it online, one could say. Fact is, "... more than a third of New Orleans' population has no internet access."

If one third of a major city in the US has no internet access, what about Malaysia? I was asked recently, in a survey conducted on behalf of the Ministry of Culture, why I considered it important for local publishers and authors to have more support from the print media (namely, newspapers) in this country. Isn't social media good enough?

The latest audited reports for July to Dec 2011, by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, indicate that a little over 2.5 million print newspapers are sold in the peninsula in all languages every day (not including Sundays). If we assume a readership of 5 persons per newspaper, we are looking at 12.5 million eyeballs! Granted, local authors are not as glamorous as Lady Gaga, but to quote Harry Shearer of the Columbia Journalism Review: do the owners 'owe a little something back'? And '... at what point does the pursuit of profit begin to do serious harm to the communities served by newspapers?'

This is not to say that local newspapers are raking in the money, but they do get into an unwritten social contract the moment they decide to publish one, as opposed to, say, setting up a char kweh teow stall. Do print newspapers have a social responsibility more than any other industry? And which country's cultural landscape do local newspapers consider themselves to be part of?

Interior design with books

It has been the private joke amongst booksellers for the longest time -- a customer comes into the shop and buys hardbacks by the yard (or metre) to decorate a room in his house. We once had two women customers who wanted us to order several dozen copies of books by Jane Austen which they were going to cut up and roll into beads to make a 'literary' bead curtain. Wired Magazine reported recently: 'What happens when product designer Philippe Starck needs 1,500 books?all with white spines?to fill out the shelves in a posh new Miami hotel? He calls on Thatcher Wine (that's a name, not a varietal) to curate the collection. Now Wine isn't a book designer, but he does design with books.'

The story has it that Wine started by browsing thrift store and Ebay to fulfil special orders by customers. But this ended in him looking for books to outfit entire rooms in building. Wine, who owns  Juniper Books, fills his shelves with custom of classic works and curated selections of current works.

I was shocked by the ladies who wanted to cut up the books for beads, but this I can take. Anything to sell books!

Silverfish Books Marketplace

It is not uncommon for us to receive phone calls or emails from people looking to dispose of books (both text and general) that they no longer want. On one hand, we understand their needs. But on the other, we don't want to become a dumping ground for old books and a paper-lama merchant. So we at Silverfish have come up with the next best idea: free classifieds. Yes, you read that right: FREE classifieds. Silverfish will not charge for these classifieds, nor be involved in the transactions, and will not take a percentage of the proceeds, either. It's all yours. Call it community service. Here are the rules:

Terms of use:This service is provided by Silverfish Books Sdn Bhd on an 'as is' basis, free-of-charge, without any expressed or implied warranty or guaranty, in response to frequent requests to sell or give away old books. Silverfish Books Sdn Bhd will not be involved in any storage or transactions (whether selling or giving away) between third parties, although you are welcomed to use the book-store as a meeting place to finalise your transaction. Classified advertisements posted here will be valid for 14 days, renewable up to a maximum of three (3) times. (An email notification will be sent to the publisher three (3) days before expiry, all you'll have to do is to click on the link provided.) Expired ads, that are not renewed, will be automatically deleted after a further three days.Use this site as you wish, but please keep it clean. Offensive material will be removed without notice. (All prices in Malaysian Ringgit -- MYR -- only.)

Guidelines to posting. 1. Only registered users can post. 2. After registration, login and post. 3. Suggested .jpg image size is 30 to 50 kb. 4. If you cannot read the captcha image (the first time), request for a new one (click circular arrow) until you get something you can read, or click on the sound icon and listen.

Although the site is meant primarily for transactions involving books, we have provided facilities to post items in other categories too. Please observe, your address is not a compulsory field. We have done this with privacy considerations in mind. We suggest you use the email for initial contacts and take it further only when you are more comfortable. Enjoy! Some samples have been posted as a guide. (They are real!)