I haven’t been posting anything but links lately, have I? Sorry about that. I’m leaving Japan and returning to San Francisco in 6 weeks (!!!!!), so I’ve been pretty busy cleaning, sorting, doing paperwork, canceling contracts, and just enjoying all the things about Japan that I won’t be able to experience back home. Also, for what it’s worth, the 5k race went better than I could have hoped for—I ran the entire way and finished in 34:24! I’m really proud of myself, especially since I also climbed a mountain yesterday (which was a blast). This has really been an amazing year for me.
Anyway, today I have two links for you. The first one is a New York Times article (a couple weeks old now) about San Francisco’s last public typewriter:
“Not so long ago, Ms. Nyhan tells me, as many as 10 people a day used the Typewriter Room, but now it’s down to around two a day. They’re people who need to fill out forms, or people who never took to computers. As long as such users exist, so will the Typewriter Room.“
This has been making the rounds on Twitter and other social media sites, and at first glance I wasn’t sure why, although I found it compelling in spite of myself. It’s a rather short piece on a not-so-romantic piece of equipment falling into disuse in a back room of the Main Library; what’s the big deal, right? But it made me think of these wonderful posts I read recently about libraries, their inner workings, and the social services (whether book-related or not) they provide. Fascinating stuff, and a great reminder that libraries are a place where you can not only check out books but also join a writing group, get adult literacy tutoring, learn how to use a computer, find out about community events, get resume feedback… or use a typewriter.
So we’ve covered the past; to give equal weight to the future, I have a fantastic and well-illustrated essay from Craig Mod about book cover design in the digital age:
“The cover image may help quickly ground us, but our eyes are drawn by habit to number and quality of reviews. We’re looking for metrics other than images — real metrics — not artificial marketing signifiers. Blurbs from humans. Perhaps even humans we know! And within the jumble of the Amazon.com interface, the cover feels all but an afterthought.“
He goes on to say that a cover no longer serves the function it once did (to orient the reader and to provide title/author information), that in the age of Amazon pages and iPad reading apps it functions more like an icon—but far from wringing his hands over this, he instead provides plenty of examples of innovative cover designs that have embraced this role and really work as a miniature element of an Amazon.com page, or as an icon on an iPad, as well as as a traditional cover.
Also great is his three-part essay on pointability in digital texts—basically, is it interactive? Is it linkable? Can you tweet or blog or network not only a text itself but specific passages within the text? Both these questions and the observations in the previous essay are completely game-changing for me. I am definitely still learning about publishing, and design and technology are two huge blind spots of mine, so for all I know publishers are talking about this stuff all the time and I’m just out of the loop. But it is interesting that despite all the publishing and books-related sources I follow on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and newsletters, I ended up hearing about this essay from dooce.com. I always seem to get linked to essays bemoaning the fall of the traditional book without providing a solution, so to me this is really mind-broadening. It’s not strictly San Francisco-related, but I thought it was important enough to share.