Imagine that you must overcome a cable interruption or automotive dysfunction on our own without resort to tech support. Linotypes once had tech support, but this has disappeared. In a breakdown you can be on your own unless you can make contact with the underground cable repairpeople from “Brazil”. Even then these few gypsy Mergenthalers are using as much wit and wile as factory procedure.
Here we find Mary and Larry Raid and Beth and Dave Seat on call at the Homestead Rocket print shop. (strange Lulow sticks)
Bibliographic study of the materiality of books frequently deviates into discussions of a “materiality” of reading. Such a skew is not about upholstery or lighting but about transactions of paratext interpretation. Typographic and watermark identification, edition status, collation features are examined as if they were physical features when they are abstract ingredients of legibility, reading strategies and conventions of text management.
Materiality does abide in the physical book copy. But for bibliographers such materiality converts to provenance interpretation and then transcends itself to configure the edition exemplar; all abstractions. Engagement with the physical binding, when it occurs, is skewed to generalization and evades experience of manufacture, use and manipulation of a physical codex.
One result of this deflection is an evasion the materiality that bibliographers wish to distinguish and define. Another implication is possible as well. That is the discount of the consequence of materiality as a compelling attribute of the physical book in a context of its screen display. Both materiality and immateriality may play lesser roles in a complementary interaction of source and surrogate.
Exercises in authentication use material evidence. Search, for example, has repeatable, overt result in a material book and a variable, immaterial outcome from bibliographic screen resource. The overt presence or overt absence of features in a physical book copies exercises its material nature.
“Other information industries, from journalism to music to book publishing, enjoyed similar periods of success right before epic change enveloped them, seemingly overnight. We now know how those industries have been transformed by technology, resulting in the decline of the middleman — newspapers, record stores, bookstores and publishers.
Colleges and universities could be next, unless they act to mitigate the poor choices and inaction from the lost decade by looking for ways to lower costs, embrace technology and improve education.” NYT
There is that curious progression of sequence; some enclaves experience change before others. The pioneers are libraries. And libraries have more advisories for the larger information base. One is that patron services need to transcend patron desires.
Perhaps the last enclave to assimilate the screen book will be academe. Scholarly authors wish not to share their authorship with a software enclosure and, as they study and write for posterity, they wish not to flicker away.