[UPDATE: As of July 16, 2012, the sale of everything on the NewLights Press site has ended, but money raised from the sales of the Day 8: Waldo Canyon Fire broadside will continue to be donated.] 

As I’m sure many of you know, our home city, Colorado Springs, has been fighting a very serious wildfire since Saturday. The fire tripled in size from Monday to Tuesday. Parts of the city have burned. Over 32,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. Team NewLights is luckily, thankfully, away from the danger zone (though we are much closer to the evacuation zone than I ever thought we would be when this thing began). And this is just one of many fires burning in Colorado and all over the western US. So always the question: what can we do?

The answer: what we do—make & distribute books. And so on that note, effective today, is the FIGHT FIRE WITH LITERATURE BENEFIT SALE. All money from the sale of all NewLights books & broadsides will be donated to the local Red Cross to help them help people who have been displaced by the fires.

The main item for this sale will be fellow Colo-radical writer J.A. Tyler’s fittingly apocalyptic book ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ [an island]. The price has been reduced to $10.

You can find all of the info about the book here. Again, the benefit sale is for all NewLights books & broadsides. Please help spread the word about this sale. This is a small thing, for sure, but every little bit helps. And hey, books are neat too.

If you’d like to donate directly, you can do that here.



& it’s also important to note that a well-made physical facsimile has many advantages—the most important one being that the reader actually gets the sense of a book as an object: its size, weight, materiality (sometimes), how it moves, etc. A physical reproduction definitely gets closer to the real thing, but that’s one reason why I’m not interested in making them—they’re too close sometimes, and the closer they get the wider the gap between the facsimile and the real thing becomes, like listening to an MP3 that is slightly “pixelated”—it’s frustrating—you can hear it enough to know that you’d like to hear it clearly. Sometimes it’s just better to listen to the MOOG version, the electronic translation, and appreciate the difference.



I remember at least two books where people asked me if I was considering the possibility of making a “mass-market” version—Art Into Life (an altered book) and The Drownable Species (a variable edition printed book). My answer was “no,” though I saw the advantage of both. I still think that was a good decision—but why are the digital versions acceptable, even desirable, and a mass-produced reproduction not?

I think that it has to do with the difference between the idea of “archiving” versus the idea of “reproduction,” the translation that has to occur from one media to another, and the object that each ultimately produces. Both a physical reproduction and a digital archive create an image of the book, but how that image functions is different in each case. The physical reproduction creates an image-in-multiple, a surrogate meant to stand in for an “original.” The reproduction is explosive, outward-reaching. The digital archive creates an image-of-multiplicity, a document of the object (book) in question. The archive is implosive, inward-drawing, and allows for the original multiplicity of the object-in-question to be maintained.

The Drownable Species can provide us with a specific example. That book is a printed work, made in multiple, but the edition is variable—every copy is different. There is no “original” or even a “match” or BAT that each copy tries to emulate. The difference in the repetition of the individual copies was part of the process of printing, created by pouring and brushing water and ink wash onto still-wet inkjet printed images. So, if one was to make a physical reproduction of the book, how does one choose which copy to reproduce? The “best” one? The “most average” one? And, is it possible that if there was a more accessible reproduction (more numerous, more affordable) that only replicated a single copy, that that single reproduction (the image-in-multiple, the surrogate) could supplant the variable edition and create the false idea that there is an “original” or a “best” copy? Would the reproduction actually create an aura for an original that was never supposed to exist in the first place?

The other, more mundane problems that would come along with a physical reproduction are the problems that come with every book—how to pay for it and how to get it out in the world. Ordinarily those are good challenges, but they are less enticing to take on when the book being produced is just a shadow-copy of one already made.

How would a digitally archived version of The Drownable Species be different? First of all, the digital version doesn’t have the same problems of distribution and expense to produce. It’s more about time than anything else. And, because of that efficiency, other opportunities are allowed. When The Drownable Species is finally archived (& it’s in the works) there will actually be three different copies posted—the multiplicity of the original will be built-in, and readers will be able to look at all three copies and see how they are different. (The idea of which came from The William Blake Archive, where one can compare the same page from all of the copies of one of Blake’s books.)

But what about a unique book? How can the identity of the original be embedded into the digital version? The image files for the digital version can be built in a certain way that alters their “transparency”—they can be constructed to show their construction. More on that soon.



Lately I’ve been spending a great deal of time on making the digital versions, the archives, of the out-of-print NewLights books. I’ve been doing a small amount of scanning, file correcting (color balance and straightening), and assembly of the PDFs that are uploaded to the Issuu site every day, trying to chip away at the large project that is the archive. It feels good to be doing it, to finally be able to put those books back in circulation. But of course nothing is simple, and the process is not as straightforward as I initially thought (hoped) it would be. The conversion of Art Into Life, the first NewLights altered book, has highlighted many of the issues that come with this project.

First of all: why archive in the first place? The answer seems obvious—so that more people can read the books, and so that there is some accessible record of the work that the press has done. But I resisted the idea of producing digital versions for a long time, for two reasons: I had yet to find a technical system that I thought worked really well, and, more importantly, I was worried that the translations of the books into digital form would compromise their “integrity,” by breaking apart the (sometimes) carefully considered relationship between form, content, processes of production, and processes of reception.

I like the way that the Issuu reader works. It’s not perfect, that’s for sure—it can be clunky at times, it’s based on Flash which makes it problematic with Apple devices that don’t support it (How will the whims/wars of tech companies determine the future of our cultural memory? I guess we’ll have to wait & see, but, Apple, Google, et al, please remember that we have to remember.), and the way that the books are indexed on search engines (or not indexed in many cases) is less than ideal. [These problems were all brought to my attention by this blog post by Devan Goldstein.] I also dislike the “effects” to simulate three-dimensionality that are automatically applied to the files. But there are some distinct advantages to the Issuu reader: it’s relatively inexpensive (free if you’re okay with ads), and it’s very shareable—the books can be linked to, posted like YouTube videos on blogs and Facebook, emailed, downloaded and printed out. When I discovered Issuu via the Ugly Duckling Presse website I got really excited because at some point I had made the decision that archiving the books was a good idea.

Why the change? Perhaps because I work in a library now (The Press at Colorado College is part of the (fantastic) library at CC), and my colleagues are a bunch of militant radicals when it comes to access to information. Or maybe the digital world is gradually eroding my reticence/resistance to its heady simulacra. Or maybe I desperately want some more mileage out of the first 12 years of NewLights. But more on all that tomorrow….



I've been spending a great deal of time with these digital "reprints" lately, and there are a few issues with them that are becoming more apparent—small ones, tiny details—but things that can change the entire experience of reading/viewing the books. Something about verisimilitude. But we’ll save that for later in the week. And now:

Open publication - Free publishing - More artists books

Poems by Kyle Schlesinger
44 pages, double signature pamphlet stitch with folded jacket
4.375” x 8.75” (closed)
Letterpress printed in three colors from photopolymer plates
Edition of 100
All copies are signed by the author



A preview of one piece that is being assembled for the digital archive. There will be others sooner than this....



From the essay “The Mysteries of Reading,” part of The Case for Books by Robert Darnton (New York: PublicAffairs, 2009), 149-150:
Time was when readers kept commonplace books. Whenever they came across a pithy passage, they copied it into a notebook under an appropriate heading, adding observations made in the course of daily life. Erasmus instructed them how to do it; and if they did not have access to his popular De Copia, they consulted printed models or the local schoolmaster. The practice spread everywhere in early modern England, among ordinary readers as well as famous writers like Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, John Milton, and John Locke. It involved a special way of taking in the printed word. Unlike modern readers, who follow the flow of a narrative from beginning to end (unless they are digital natives and click through texts on machines), early modern Englishmen read in fits and starts and jumped from book to book. They broke texts into fragments and assembled them into new patterns by transcribing them in different sections of their notebooks. Then they reread the copies and rearranged the patterns while adding more excerpts. Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it; and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one stamped with your personality.

It will be interesting to see (this will be a while, maybe this will just be a blip) how the “networked commonplace book” of contemporary people will be archived and studied. Blogs, tumblrs, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. all show one way in which we move through, read and write through, the world. Social media are, perhaps, fundamentally different than the traditional commonplace book in the sense that they are inherently public, and the material gathered and broadcasted there is used to create an image of ourselves (however subconsciously) through “communication.” The traditional commonplace book was essentially private, meant only for the maker (although who is to say that they were not composed with a future reader in mind). But regardless of intent, of how “honest” they are, all of these social media broadcasts will be useful to researchers in the future.

I know that some libraries that have purchased the archives of still-working artists are making copies of hard drives and emails. I assume that someone has found, or is trying to find, a way to (efficiently) archive social media. I wonder if there are already papers being written that document and analyze the construction of a public figure through social media. We are, perhaps without even being fully aware of it, creating a collective treasure trove of information for researchers in the (near and far) future.