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  • Michael Krakovskiy 10:34 pm on June 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Chippewa Falls, , , Hardcover, , , , online ordering, , Paperback, Plonking, , , Rocketbook, , , , , , , Web fiction   

    Memories of Obtaining Books 

    Early 1980s (Odessa, Soviet Union)

    Most of the walls of my parent’s apartment were lined with bookshelves. When bored, all I needed to do to get a good book to read was to climb the shelves, read the titles and colophons, and taked one. It was best to look in the areas that proved fruitful previously, mining the locations full of science fiction anthologies and historical prose. All that I needed to do was to replace the book when done and not let my father catch me leaving the book open face up or otherwise mistreating it.

    Mid 80s (Odessa, Soviet Union)

    I remember sitting in a public library while my father combed the bookshelves for something interesting. It always took him hours because 99 percent of the books contained political propaganda, speeches by various politburo members and turgid prose of social realists. The pickins were slim.

    Late 80s (Odessa, Soviet Union)

    Decent foreign and homegrown sci-fi books were available for purchase in an outdoor market. While pricey, my dad purchased everything good in sight. The home library was overflowing. This is also when I learned the meaning of arbitrage.

    Early 90s (New York City)

    I spent hours in the bowels of Strand Bookstore. My hands were plenty sore bringing home stacks of hardcovers and paperbacks that cost me from 25 cents to $3. I could not understand why anyone would want to spend more than 25 cents on a paperback. Besides Strand there were library sales – I once bought a dozen tete-beche pulps for a quarter each.

    Mid 90s (New York City)

    Besides raiding Strand, I would sometimes go to Barnes and Noble and splurge on paperbacks that I really wanted at $6.99 each or worse.

    Early 2000s. (New York City)

    My first job at a publishing company introduced me to free review books. My library swelled. I also purchased my first real ebook readers (reading on a Palm device does not count): a Softbook and a Rocketbook (at the time I worked at a company that produced both of them). Converting text files and web pages into .rb format was a pain in the ass, but these kinds of “books” were free. After reading a Rocketbook for a couple of hours in a dark bedroom I’d see the glow of its backlight for the next 15 minutes. The future of the book was freaky. The official ebook pricing for Rocketbook was the same as for hardcovers (if I remember this correctly) and seemed like an insane waste of money. Rocketbook died a slow death, so it actually was.

    2000s. (New York City)

    The online ordering of books at Amazon, ABEBooks and the like revolutionized book buying for me. Now I could get exactly what I wanted for a few bucks over what a paperback would cost me at Strand. An average price of a purchase was $3-$5. Sometimes I’d splurge on a rare or an autographed book (this is how I ended up with a $250 Cray at Chippewa Falls. More free books at work – working for publishing companies is awesome.

    Now (New York City)

    My home library is a drag: finding a book is hard, searching inside a book – well, impossible. Plonking down $13 on a Kindle copy does not seem like insanity any more: the book arrives in minutes and is completely searchable. But staring me in the face is a $2.99 paperback of the same book on Amazon. The cost of instant delivery, searchability and the cost of keeping the clutter down turns out to be about ten dollars. But what about books that are not available on Kindle and have a $2.99 used copy available? These are heartbreaking.

    I keep wondering about the fate of my library – should I purge it? Should I donate it? Should I have the nice people of Strand Bookstore drag it away completely? Should I put every book into a database and then pack everything away into plastic boxes and store in the basement?

    In the past I was usually heartbroken because I could not obtain a book at all, or could not afford it. The modern book buying heartbreak is of a very different type indeed.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:02 pm on June 4, 2003 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Chippewa Falls, , , , , Pun,   

    Some pictures I took today on my way home. 


    One thing I noticed upon reading the text that accompanied Lee Friedlander’s photographs in the awesome, awesome and ultra rare “Cray at Chippewa Falls” (some photos from which I scanned and posted earlier) is that Friedlander often made tiny visual jokes or puns. These details are very hard to notice. It’s also very hard to tell if the pun was intentional or not. Once explained, these little jokes make the image much more special and enjoyable.

    The special thing in the previous photo is very hard to see. The traffic cop has a little sticker of an American flag on the cover of his ticket book. A 911 remnant.

    I actually keep my notebook in a leather binder like that. My 911 reminder is a little flag button on my bag.

    In the speech class that I took last semester I chatted a bit with an intern from New York Post. He told me that the tabloid format of newspapers was influenced by the fact that blue collar workers liked to keep a newspaper in the back pocket of their pants. He also gave me a blank New York Post reporter’s notebook (which is actually the same format as the aforementioned ticket book).

    Kids playing in Brooklyn.

    Hey, you never know. The New York State Lottery guy is out of a job. Strangely enough I can’t find any information about him online.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:15 pm on July 20, 2002 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , chip making equipment, Chippewa Falls, , , Cray Research, , , Lee Fridlander, , , Supercomputers, , Wisconsin   

    Untitled 

    Ok, I’ve made an extravagant purchase. But I wanted it so, so much!

    What was the object of my desire? It was a book of photographs called “Cray at Chippewa Falls”.It was an album by Lee Fridlander that was commissioned by Cray Research. The book was given to employees and was sold in Cray company store to visitors, but there were only about 5000 copies made.

    The photographs are of unspeakable beauty. Friedlander starts with outskirts of Chippewa Falls – the waterfall, forest, fields. Then the photographs depict a typical small town – a railroad track, broken down pickup truck, suburban houses. Then the center of the town: a barber shop, Radio Shack, some fast food stores. Nothing extraordinary (except for Friedlander’s photographic talent). But then the magic begins. The book is full of photographs depicting highly concentrated men and women among chip making equipment, chassis of supercomputers with garlands of wires, computer terminals. Everybody is filled with a sense of purpose and pride – they are making the most advanced thinking machines in the world!

    Seymour Cray, the Superman of Supercomputers

    That’s Cray 1 in the background. Notice a nice little leather covered bench around the chassi. It was meant as a place where technicians could sit and warm themselves after spending a long time in an air conditioning room. In reality, few technicians would sit there for the fear of breaking the multimillion dollar machine.

    Aaaaa! I am swallowed by a supercomputer!

    That’s a lot of wires. But if they put their heads together…

    Even though I paid $250 for this album (and it is worth every penny), the copyright of course does not belong to me. But I am pretty sure that showing you these photos falles under “fair use”.
    From http://www.louisville.edu/~ddking01/mmgdl01.htm :
    “Under these guidelines a photograph or illustration may be used in its entirety but no more than 5 images by an artist or photographer may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of an educational multimedia project”
    So if anybody asks – this is an educational multimedia project.

     
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