Links We Liked for October 30, 2007
This week's Links We Liked has the smell of the scriptorium. First up is an amazing post about a robot arm that is perpetually writing out the Lutheran bible on a roll of paper using a calligraphy pen. Click here for some thought-provoking images. The combination of robot, writing, religion, and the history of the book is almost too much to bear. Now what we need is a room full of monks writing out advertising copy for double glazing firms. A surly nod of acknowledgment to Boing Boing.
From low-volume to the bestseller list. Kirsty at Other Stories has pulled together bestseller lists from 1963 and 2007. While this year's list is full of TV series tie-ins, celebrity crash-and-tells and the perennial Highway Code, 1963's list is headed by A.L. Rowse's William Shakespeare: A Biography and includes in the top 6 books by Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark, and Osbert Lancaster. It's easy to see this difference in literary class as a sign of publishing's populist decline, but at the same time I suspect that fewer people actually bought and paid for books in 1963 and those who did were among the more affluent and better educated of the population. More encouragingly 'classic' literature continues to sell extremely well in 2007 as it has for year after year. It's just that Mansfield Park doesn't sell as well in a given month as Jordan: My Life and Breasts. What happens to the mid-list author in the face of this celebrity onslaught is the real worry.
Which brings me to the other front in the publishing wars: The Internet. Anthony Grafton has a link-packed piece on the New Yorker website summarizing some of the developments in libraries and online archives in the last few years. There are some real gems here: an online copy of Alice in Wonderland and recommendations for the excellent Project Gutenburg, the Internet Archive, and the Open Library. For those of us with access to large libraries, Grafton celebrates JStor; I would add that it is best used in conjunction with the Zotero extension for the Firefox web browser. In fact for anyone doing any kind of online research Zotero is the thing.
Posted by Chris Routledge