Still not dead!

So, where’s the Book Roadie these days?

Mostly you can find me on Twitter and Facebook. I’m also working – I have several custom orders in my queue and made my first sale to a local shop! I will definitely be posting when the order for them is filled and you can go to the shop and buy my stuff. 🙂

For now, I leave you with a quick photo of one of my custom books in process:

Back in the saddle


When is a Book not a Book?

Last week I finished a two-part class at the San Francisco Center for the Book which was ostensibly about making multiples of a structure (say, making a bunch of blank journals with the same number of pages and style of binding), but which turned into a guide to making small art books once we exhausted the planned curriculum.

Tiny bits of bookish art

Our teacher owns a small specialty press in the East Bay, and specializes in custom editions of things like invitations. She also makes amazing tiny art books like the one pictured here.

IMAG0737It was interesting to look at the structures she had made. In some ways, they were clearly books: they had pages and covers, and most of them had text in them, even if it was just something like “Happy New Year! – Jocelyn.” And yet, they’re not quite what I think of as books — they have odd constructions, and are meant to be decorative more than to hold information.

What IS a book, exactly?

I’m a big believer in defining my terms! I define a book as: a physical structure which holds information in an easy-to-access, analog format (ie, markings on its surfaces). Books can be made of just about anything, really — metal, vellum, parchment paper, wood, whatever. Those cardboard books designed for babies are still books. I don’t consider an ereader to be a book, though. If it can run out of batteries or break irretrievably when you drop it, it’s not a book, it’s a piece of electronics.

By that metric, these little art books are indeed books — hell, a scroll can be a book, depending on whether you think it’s easy to read a scroll. It’s easy to slide into a philosophical discussion about what is and is not a book. What about those folks who take discarded books and carve them into strange shapes? Are the items they produce still books? I’d say no, as they’re not holding information in markings on their surfaces; they’ve become sculptures, and a sculpture is not a book.

What do you think?

Where do you draw the line between book and not-book?

Bookbinding 1!

Oh, man, I had the best time up at the SF Center for the Book over the weekend! I took Bookbinding 1, which consisted of building two flat-back hardbound books under the guidance of Rhiannon Alpers, who has both her BA and her MA in book arts. How cool is that?

I took a bunch of photos of the process, so here they are for your viewing pleasure!

I had a lot of fun, and am going to take Bookbinding 2 at the end of the month. Rawk!

It’s a lot of fun learning how to do this — not only does this enable me to build my own books, soon I’ll know enough to start repairing books as well!

Busy Week for the Roadie!

There are two exciting things coming up this weekend for book-lovers. The first is third biennial CODEX International Book Fair and Symposium taking place February 6-9 at UC Berkeley. There will be lectures (alas, they’re pretty pricey) and a book fair with vendors from all over the world. I am planning on hitting the book fair for sure.

The Codex Foundation is dedicated to preserving the art and craft of the book, and they’re offering a series of workshops on Saturday February 5 at the Kala Art Institute. The Kala Art Institute offers printing and typesitting classes, and is well worth checking out.

I’m particularly excited about a different event happening this weekend: The San Francisco Center for the Book‘s Bookbinding I class! It’s a two-day workshop covering the fundamentals of hardcover bookbinding, and I’m psyched. This is one of the classes that will enable me to repair old, damaged books, and is the first of several I’m planning to take at the SFCB. They offer a ton of workshops related to books, from printing to art to binding.

Looks like February is going to be a good month for book-lovers in the Bay Area!

Book Nurseries

Man, I think my books breed at night.

That’s the only explanation I have for why I am constantly short on bookshelf space. Every time I move or reorganize my books or otherwise try to get them all sorted and properly sitting on shelves, I find I have nowhere near enough space for them.

My To-Read Shelves
I have a few books I haven't read yet. Just a few...

I don’t buy that many books every year. Or get that many as gifts, even, these days (people who have seen my to-read shelves tend not to give me books. I’m not sure why).

Anyway, it’s a neverending dilemma, and when I moved to my new apartment, things were complicated by the fact that it uses baseboard heaters for warmth… and they are mounted along the nice, long walls in the main area. Walls with no windows. Walls which are perfect for bookshelves. But it’s unwise to block a baseboard heater, and I didn’t really relish the thought of having bookcases several inches out from the wall anyway (here in earthquake-ridden California, it’s wise to have bookshelves bolted to the wall, or at least shimmed to lean back against it).

I found enough wallspace for my existing bookshelves, but that wasn’t nearly enough.

After much angsting and gnashing of teeth and swearing at the friends who suggested tentatively that I consider *tfu tfu tfu* purging my collection, I hit on the somewhat-obvious solution: wall-mounted bookshelves!

So I hied myself hence to Southern Lumber and got myself some lumber and hardware. I had to backorder the brackets — I needed twenty-four of ’em, and they only had twelve — but by the end of this week, I will have my bookshelves. Forty-two more linear feet of space for my books to rest on between their bouts of breeding more books.

We’ll see how long it takes for this bookshelf to fill up.

Churchill and Books

“What shall I do with all my books? was the question; and the answer, “read them,” sobered the questioner. But if you cannot read them, at any rate handle them and, as it were, fondle them. Peer into them. Let them fall open where they will. Read on from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of uncharted seas. Set them back on their shelves with your own hands. Arrange them on your own plan, so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.”

– Winston Churchill, “Hobbies” in Thoughts and Adventures

There’s an awful lot to like in this quote, which I found in A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas Basbanes (his books are must-reads for all bibliophiles), but I think my favorite is the first sentence. I get asked all the time by people who see my book collection whether I’ve read them all, whether I’m going to read them all, what I am going to do with them, why I have them.

It’s always kind of fun to reply that yes, the ones on the main shelves, I have read. All of them. Many more than once. Then I always point out my to-read shelves. That’s fun, too, watching people’s eyes widen in comprehension as they realize that I own more books I haven’t even read yet than they own books at all. With some of them, it’s more books than they’ve read in their lifetime.

Some folks just don’t seem to get the voracious appetite for reading that bibliophiles of my stripe tend to have. I’m always reading at least one book in my spare time, usually more. I have a stack next to my bed, and others scattered around my apartment, in my field bag, in my car. Every so often I go on a simplifying spree and try to get down to just one or two books at a time, but the number invariably climbs back up.

I suppose it’s a crazy concept for some folks, but I buy books in order to read them. As a voracious collector, I can kind of understand people who collect books they never read — it’s like collecting action figures and keeping them in their packaging — but it is so not my style.

The other thing I love about the quote up there is the way he talks about books — they’re an ocean, a group of people, items to be held and touched and opened so that the eye may fall upon the page. The ocean bit in particular strikes me, since I’m one of those people who falls into books the way you might dive off a cliff into the sea. If I’ve been reading long enough, getting me to stop reading and come back to regular life is a little like hauling a drowning person through the surf and doing CPR on the beach until they cough up all that water and sit up. I come up from books confused and bedraggled and tired — and wanting desperately to dive back in.

It’s kind of a masochistic thing, being a bibliophile. But we can’t help ourselves, any more than a rock’n’roll fan can help going to shows that leave her battered, with ringing ears and a huge smile.

Book Drive!

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled updates with this special bulletin!

Every year, I do National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). Basically, it’s a world-wide event where people decide they’re each going to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November… and do. Pretty awesome.

This year, the organizers of NaNoWriMo are doing a book drive, in partnership with Better World Books. All proceeds will be going to the free, nonprofit creative writing programs these awesome folks offer kids and adults. I’m the bookdriver-in-chief for my region, the South San Francisco Bay Area, and I want you to send me your books!

You know, that book you thought you’d like but wound up thinking was only so-so, that monstrosity your distant (or not-so-distant!) relative gave you in a clear sign they don’t know you at all, the book you’ve got multiple copies of because people keep giving it to you… we all have books like that. Hell, even I, the person who usually starts backing away in horror and whispering “heresy!” when people talk about culling books, managed to find some I’m going to give to the drive.

Got some books you don’t need anymore? Send ’em my way! Drop me a line or leave a comment here with your email address, and let’s set up a handoff (or I’ll send you my mailing address).

Let’s do this!