Thesis idea

March 2, 2010

I often think about how the advance in technology changes the way artifacts are designed, functioning, and used. A lot of things, that were one day very usable and were thought to be innovative, nowadays just cease to exist or are in a continuous process of eliminating from the market. One of these artifacts are books. One may suppose that in digital information era books are on the verge of dying out. I want to look closer into tactile physical world of conceiving information versus digital virtual world. In the end, even though this literature review contains references drawn from the Internet, I stand for keeping book culture alive.

The following questions concern me:

  • How do books survive in digital age? Why is there a tendency of choosing the Internet sources and portable digital media over books?
  • The role of books in everyday life (besides delivering information). The aspects of human interaction with books.
  • Physical attributes of books? Who are they made?
  • Who reads books? Who collects them?
  • What makes people fill their shelves with certain books?
  • and other questions that will come up during the research

One of my assumptions would be that it is the physical characteristics of books that make people acquire them. Tactility, ways of manipulation, visual aesthetics – these are some main factors, which contribute to that and which I would like to research.

This are some sources for my research that I have found:
1. Striphas, Theodore G.  The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control. New York: Columbia UP. 2009

The downloadable version of the book is provided by Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial – Share Alike 3.0 License

Review from Columbia University Press (link)
“Neither overly alarmist nor excessively nostalgic about the fate of books in a digital age, The Late Age of Print provides a lucid, balanced view of how books are changing in response to a fast-evolving media environment. Ted Striphas proves to be a highly reliable guide to the question of what might happen to books and book reading in the years to come. He will interest anyone who has ever wondered how writing and reading will be conducted in the future.” — Janice Radway, Northwestern University, and author of A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire

Reading and publishing in print’s late age: an interview with Ted Striphas (link)

The author
Ted Striphas is an assistant professor of media and cultural studies and director of film and media at Indiana University. His book, The Late Age of Print, has just been published by Columbia University Press.

2. Lupton, Ellen. Indie publishing : how to design & produce your own book. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2008. Print

The book is available in Toronto Public Library
Reviews from Princeton Architectural Press website (link)

“Indie Publishing is a practical guide to creating and distributing printed books regardless of your background, skill set, or ambition … Readers are taken step-by-step through the process of designing a book to give it personal style as well as visual coherence and authority. Design principles such as scale, cropping, pacing, and typography are explored in relation to each example, along with commentary on how to create effective title pages, tables of contents, captions, and more …
Ellen Lupton is a writer, curator, and graphic designer. She is director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. She is the author of numerous books, including Thinking with Type (2004), D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself (2006), and Graphic Design: The New Basics (with Jennifer Cole Phillips, 2008).”

“If it is true what insiders claim, that public interest is shifting away from the mass media to independent and small productions, then this book is both a good start and a helpful guide for artists who are producing their own books. Developed by a team of students and professors, it gives readers both confidence and an overview of small publishing houses and artist books. It also explains necessities such as ISBNs and marketing in the book trade and describes in short steps the use of InDesign and how to create hand-crafted artist books. And since this book itself originated from a workshop on book design, every page is a pleasure to behold, and excellent visual solutions are found for all type of difficulties. In recent years, niche products, at least the trust of buyers and now command more on bookshop shelves. More and more, the independent nature of publications is inversely proportionate to the size of the publishing house.” –Foam Magazine

The author info
Ellen Lupton is a writer, curator, and graphic designer. She is director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, where she also serves as director of the Center for Design Thinking. As curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum since 1992, she has produced numerous exhibitions, books, and contributions to design magazines such as Print, Eye, I.D., Metropolis, Readymade, The New York Times. Here some of the books:

  • Mechanical Brides: Women and Machines from Home to Office (1993);
  • Mixing Messages: Graphic Design and Contemporary Culture (1996);
  • Letters from the Avant-Garde (1996), and Skin: Surface, Substance + Design (2002);
  • Thinking with Type (2004);
  • D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself (2006);
  • D.I.Y. Kids (October 2007);
  • Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things (St Martin’s Griffin, 2009)
  • Graphic Design: The New Basics (with Jennifer Cole Phillips, 2008) and Indie Publishing: How to Design and Produce Your Own Book (2008);
  • Graphic Design: The New Basics (with Jennifer Cole Phillips, 2008);
  • Indie Publishing: How to Design and Produce Your Own Book (2008).

3. Watson, Angela P “The Internet vs “Real” Reading.” Web Log post. The Cornerstone. 15 Jan, 2009. 2 Mar, 2010 <http://thecornerstoneforteachers.blogspot.com/>

The article discusses some reasons why internet reading is preferred over “real reading” of books and how these two ways of reading are perceived.

The author info:
Angela Powell Watson has written for dozens of print and online resources, and recently published her first book. Watson holds a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Art from Hood College, a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Western Maryland College and National Board Certification as an Early Childhood Generalist. Her blog profile here

4. The post and discussion on In Media Res by Lisa Gitelman: interesting views and comments about the ontology of books.

Gitelman, Lisa. “What Are Books?”  Web log post.  In Media Res.  2 Dec, 2009. 2 Mar, 2010  <http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/2009/12/02/what-are-books>

Lisa Gitelman is Associate Professor and Director, Program in Media Studies, at Catholic University, Washington, D.C. She is the co-editor (with Geoffrey B. Pingree) of New Media, 1740-1915 (MIT Press, 2003) and the author of Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines.

5. Other useful links:
Bookstrapping: Make you printed book interactive. <http://www.ozwe.com/products4/books/>

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