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• Shelf life: just check out these items.

By LESLIE SCRIVENER [Toronto Star] – On Felton Place, a residential street in Madison, Wis., there is a very small library holding about 20 books. Not much bigger than a bird house, the little library is of rustic construction. A door adds to the charm and to the notion that the books are to be valued and protected.

It belongs to retired professor Marshall Cook and his wife Ellen. Within three kilometres of their house, there are a dozen more little libraries, each with an ever-changing assortment of books.

Look at the titles. There’s something for everyone. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson, Pippi in the South Seas by Astrid Lindgren and even Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV.

It’s based on the pay it forward principle…

Continued in The Toronto Star |

A connoisseur of literary art art.

By DAVID KENNEDY JONES [New York Times] – You’ve probably been wondering what the tidy rare-book librarians at the National Library of France — that storied caretaker of French literature — have been up to these past couple years. It so happens that they’ve been huddled among the dark shelves of their naughtiest stacks, digging through dusty boxes of pulp pornography, detective stories, light erotica, a Dutch magazine called Suck and “authentic novels of flagellation from the early 20th century.”

Rest assured that these efforts of France’s finest have gone to a good cause. The long-forgotten volumes that emerged from that excavation were quickly funneled through the occasionally deviant filter of none other than Richard Prince, the artist who for decades has been compiling and reworking the artifacts and autographs of what he calls “anything Beat, hippie or punk,” along with everything else that has struck his eclectic fancy over the years. It’s a peculiar way to make a living, and one that more than a few of us wish we’d thought of. His process is to head over to Christie’s and buy, say, an 1899 copy of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” with “the only known dust jacket gracing its boards,” then take a photograph of it. Last step: hang that photo in a gallery and become famous.

That’s not all. He’s been known to package these rare books inside new, custom bindings, then place them on a shelf in his living room. The result? Art. And sometimes, he buys the original painting that was used for the cover art of a midcentury dime novel that few people have read, then frames it next to a copy of that same dime novel. The result of that effort? Also art.

Of course, more than a few people insist that Richard Prince is no artist, and that his little projects are not art…

Continued in The New York Times |

A library quickly  buries its own ‘treasure’.

By CHARLIE TAYLOR [Irish Times] – The National Library of Ireland spent €98,000 on a book which had to be withdrawn shortly after it was published in 2009 because of errors and defects.

Ancillary costs of €33,000 were also incurred for the book, which was meant to highlight the library’s “treasures”. The successful applicant was to have a range of skills including “the ability to write in a clear and concise fashion”. Successful tenderers would be put on a panel and the library would award contracts.

An investigation carried out by the library found just one staff member had reviewed the tender for the contract to write the book, entitled National Library of Ireland, and that there was no documentary evidence of the evaluation. There was no documentary evidence to suggest that any of the three other tender submissions were evaluated and nobody else was assigned to the panel to produce the book and nobody else was awarded a contract…

In another incident, a history of the Office of the Public Works, which is due to be published later this year, is estimated to have cost €350,000 more than originally envisaged.

Continued in the Irish Times |

A guilty publisher’s  cover story.

By PETER BRANTLEY [Publishers Weekly] – A few years ago, I opened the proceedings of a summit that brought together publishers, technologists, funders, and librarians by ripping the cover off a paperback book. I was attempting, feebly, to make a point about the inviolability of books. Having once worked in the mass market division of a major trade publisher, I knew that the life of a mass market paperback was often Hobbesian: brutal and short. Nevertheless, my actions gave me pause.

Today we are living in this incredible moment when we are all tearing off the covers of books. We look inside to see how they are written (by authors), produced (by publishers), and placed in the market (by distributors and retailers). Often, we realize that although much of the work of making books has not disappeared, it has been digitally shifted, and the organizational fabric of publishing is being rewoven before our eyes. The functions a publisher performs; what a book looks or sounds like; how books are authored; how authors make a living: all are changing.

When technology disrupts culture, the impacts reach far beyond economics. The book as we have known it—an object of a certain size, rectangular form, and weight—was an industrial product resulting from a set of complex economic, legal, and social relationships. What we can do with books is wrapped in a collective understanding that has been constructed through the work, and often the struggle, of women and men over many decades. It is because of that social understanding that I found it hard to tear the covers off a paperback; it is the reason why the burning of books is an act commemorated with plaques and ashamed solemnity.

It is also what makes libraries possible…

Continued at Publishers Weekly |

The evolving library of Future Man.

By ZACH SYLVESTER [The Western Front] – One of Future Man’s current roommates, Jeff Krajewski, had heard about a man who started his own library and decided to visit the library in person during the fall of 2007.

“It was only a few bookshelves,” Krajewski said, chuckling, “but you could see how excited he was, and determined.”

The initial collection consisted of about 50 books and has since ballooned to more than 3,500…

“I enjoy tracking the books down,” Future Man said. “It’s how I wanted this library to work: a library built by the community, for the community.”

Future Man checks local book stores, as well as eBay and, when looking for request-list books. The library has a few dozen genres, including economics, psychology, classic novels, gardening and visual narratives such as comic books. Future Man takes pride in finding the obscure books people often ask for. He once located a book for a girl on how to make corn whiskey.

In his eyes, his legal name no longer exists…

Continued in The Western Front | More Chronicle & Notices.

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