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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Double, Short, Skinny Book

We were at the University Bookstore today, and so took a look at the Espresso Book Machine, the new print-on-demand machine that's getting a lot of attention.  There's a big sign in the middle of the store with an arrow pointing to the beast.  Much like Homer Price's Uncle Ulysses' donut machine, the Espresso B.M. has plexi-glass sides so you can see into the works.  On one side there's a big printer that has normal, opaque sides.  Apparently the printed pages are stacked inside a holder which probably shakes them so they are aligned (we ourselves own an electric "paper vibrator," salvaged from a print shop that was closing), then they are perfect-bound, somehow trimmed, and spit out a chute.  The guts that you can see must be the binding apparatus, as there are many signs warning "hot" . The machine wasn't running while we were there, but the operator was posing shiny p.o.d. books around the base of the machine and taking photos of them.  The books were bound in a plain blue and white glossy paper that had a really bad chemical smell.  They didn't look terrible, but they didn't look that great, either.  As a used book dealer, I know that p.o.d.s, like all books, will eventually make their way into the used book trade, where they will be just another book, not a special magically appearing publication.  I spent a little time at the keyboard and computer screen rather awkwardly mounted on a post, typing in "Chomsky"  to see what came up on the database of  p.o.d. books.  The only ones that my search brought up were a few books about Chomsky, not by Chomsky, and they were fairly expensive, $40 and more.  I didn't see a better search page, with an author field, but wasn't really thinking about how I should be researching this carefully for the blog while I was there....
Reading Notes:

The problem with reading a book aloud with someone, as Sean and I have been doing with True History of the Kelly  Gang, is secret reading ahead by your so-called reading partner.  Yes, Sean read several chapters of the bloody Kelly story at 4 a.m. while I was asleep, and then he read some more by himself in the park on a sunny afternoon while I was away visiting my mother.  Since True History was getting a little repetitious (Ned Kelly gets into a fight and goes to gaol, time and time again), I just asked for a summary of events from him, then he read the last chapter, depicting Ned Kelly's meeting with the hangman, aloud to me.

I'm also getting tired of The End of Oil.  A blow-by-blow of OPEC's pricing strategies in the seventies just doesn't hold my interest.  I have a policy of not forcing myself to read things I start if I really don't want to anymore, so I might give up on that book.

Meanwhile, I finished Jean Thompson's Do Not Deny Me and have started The Best American Short Stories 2009, edited by Alice Sebold.  This series is a great introduction to short story writers, both established and new, who have been published in magazines for the year in question.  There's a biographical note and contributor's comments at the back of the book, arranged alphabetically by author, like the stories are, which I always turn to as I finish each piece.

We also have a subscription to The New Yorker, mainly because I was offered this extremely cheap deal of $25 for a year.  (Which has supposedly expired, but I'm still getting them.  They've been very persistent in trying to get me to renew, even telephoning. The chipper call center girl hung up on me shortly after I complained about The New Yorker having sold my name to junk mail lists.)  I like to read the restaurant review in every issue, "Tables for Two", it's called.  This column often exhibits lurid example of food porn: 

"Keenly constructed appetizers such as the charred octopus and the cauliflower soup topped with trout roe and a creamy soft-poached egg were undermined by the likes of smashed potatoes flash-fried in duck fat-- 'out of this world,' according to the waiter, but, in essence, a cafeteria's greasy spuds." 

There's a lot I don't read in The New Yorker:  much of it is local, of course, or about the Obama administration, which I have zero interest in.  And there's the time constraint - it arrives every week!  But there's usually an article or two each issue I enjoy, and of course there's the fiction. 


  1. Wow! Print on demand, while you wait. What a unique idea. [insert sarcastic wink here] ...and here with that title and the McCloskey book, I thought it might first serve you coffee and a donut! LOL! What they won't think of next. *SIGH* [shaking head]

  2. OMG, that book cover brings back memories! That famous book likely turned thousands of impressionable youngsters into either Luddites or power-mad engineers...