Monday, July 12, 2010

eBook or not eBook

I've considered, from time to time, whether or not to go ahead and buy a Kindle or a Nook. There are some obvious plusses: books are cheaper if you buy them online, you don't have to carry a bunch of books around with you when you travel, and if you want to read something Right Now, you can have it in seconds. You might be saving a tree or two. And recently the prices have been falling, so that's an attraction.

But there's another voice in my head saying, basically, let's wait. I hadn't worked out the reasons behind that counsel, but the other day I found that D'Arcy Norman had been there and done that. Why do without an eReader? Let us count the ways:

They’re awkward. The digital tools that would make digital books worth the hassle, most notably copy and paste, are disabled via DRM.

And ebooks don’t offer analogs for the best parts of the experience of owning and reading dead-trees books. I can’t write in an ebook. I can’t dog-ear corners. I can’t flip back and forth. I can’t compare passages in different sections (or books) easily. I can’t slip pieces of paper in between pages. I can’t hand an ebook to my wife to read, or to a colleague. I can’t loan my copy to someone. I can’t give it away when I’m done. I can’t leave it in an airport for someone to find and read on their own trip.

Ebooks don’t feel right. They don’t smell right. They’re still not ready for prime time. I’m not sure they will be.

He's onto something there. The whole experience of having a book in my hand is a personal, textural, textual experience. I do all the stuff D'Arcy is talking about: marginal notes, crossreferences, dog-ears, flipping back and forth, passing them along. (I've got four books passed along to me on my desk right now, a little inventory of pleasures waiting to be tasted.)

I use the Kindle app on my iPhone and like that, to a degree. But the only time I really use it is as a fallback, when I'm stuck somewhere with nothing to read. I'm like having the option. I don't mind visiting. But I don't want to live there.

Followup, July 20: Here's a post by Leslie Gates doing an analysis of the pros and cons of each.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Art

A month or so ago I went to a joint exhibition at the Linekona Art Center and saw for the first time some monoprints by Linda Spadaro. I especially liked some of the effects she created using chine collĂ©. I did not at that time have access to a printing press, but I had been doing a lot of pretty detailed doodling in my notebooks, and I thought I’d try to see what effects I could generate by combining the color glue-ons with black-and-white pattern drawing. I did a couple more or less like the one you see here, using Pigma pens of various sizes on 140 lb cold-pressed watercolor paper.

Shortly after the show, I found out about a Tuesday night printmaking course at the Linekona. I went to the first class, had to miss the second because I was attending a conference in San Francisco. Since coming back I’ve been to two more and I have to say I’m liking it a ton. This is the first print I made. It’s printed from two plexiglass plates on the surface of which there are various inscribed and superimposed aberrations. Materials include paper, cloth, masking tape, aluminum foil, watercolor crayon, and etching ink.

There are some things I like about this print. I liked the basic color pattern, the geometry of it, and some of the textures. But there are also a lot of things wrong with this print that even a tyro like me can see. The ink is not laid on evenly. Actually, you lay it on and then wipe it back dwon until there’s very little left. But one of the things I’ve learned is that any porous surface, like the cloth to the left, absorbs ink, and then when the pressure from the roller hits it the ink gets pushed out onto the paper in dark gobs, and unbalances or even messes up the print entirely. But hey, it was a start. I’m doing a series of prints from the same plate, trying new things with each print. And I’ve got a couple of other plates I’m working with as well. Eventually I’ll get a print I like.