Tuesday, 11 December 2012

What I really got up to in Edinburgh.

After visiting Edinburgh recently I wrote a nice, if slightly lengthy,  post on the various things I had got up to during the single day I had to go sight seeing.  However the real reason I was up there was to attend the 12th Annual Scottish Ebooks Conference so here is the report I wrote as a result of the conference.


If I'm honest, I did enjoy the conference just as much as the sight seeing. Just don't tell anyone I'm that sad!

Make sure you look out for Penny Andrew's report in the forthcoming edition of Information Scotland.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

3D Printing in Education

3D printing has been popping up in the most unlikely of places. While you may have seen recent articles in the technology supplements how many of you would have expected to see a piece while reading Easyjet's inflight magazine? I didn't, but it certainly distracted me from the man with no sense of personal space on my flight to Cyprus last month.

Some people might be surprised to learn that the process has been around since the 1980's. As with much technology the cost was prohibitive so while engineers, manufacturers and universities have been using the technology to create prototypes it has, until recently, not been available to the general public. 
The sudden surge in interest has been mainly down to costs significantly reducing recently, allowing more people access to the technology.  While top end machines still run into the hundreds of thousands machines such as the the Makerbot Replicater2 can be bought for a little over $2,000. Not quite on par with your average desktop printer but not exactly millionaire territory either. And if you don't want to buy a machine yourself there are plenty of online services willing to create your object for you. 3D printing is rapidly becoming a serious commercial entity.

Anyone watching 3D printing for the first time might be forgiven for attributing it almost magical status. However the process is relatively simple. Using a 3D scan or model as a template 3D printers work in much the same way as your desktop inkjet. The difference is that instead of just one layer of 'ink' a 3D printer continues to build up layers until the finished model is created.

These layers can be made up of nearly anything - liquid, gel, plastic, powder, even chocolate. For complex shapes some machines use a support material which is removed once the final model is complete. Other techniques involves using an laser to solidify a synthetic liquid. Another, such as this one from Mcor, uses paper as it's raw material. Regardless of the technique the beauty of this type of fabrication is that it is flexible, relatively fast and doesn't have the large start up costs of traditional manufacturing. Basically, if you can model it (or get someone else to model it for you) you can print it. 

In the US 3D printers have already infiltrated the public library with them now available in some MakerSpaces such as this one in Westport Library. Having worked in public libraries I can easily see why business services such as those run by Manchester Libraries might embrace 3D printing as part of their remit.  When you consider the issues surrounding copyright and IP there really might be no better place to have them. Not only could an inventor learn about patenting their creation they could see it realised as a prototype at the same time.

However 3D printing caught my interest initially due to it's artistic possibilities. I flirted briefly with 3D modelling  while studying sculpture and the major disadvantage to me was that it was prohibitively expensive to have anything created in a physical form. Even though there may have been a 3D printer squirrelled away in the engineering department, as a lowly art student I certainly didn't have access to it. My 3D renders stayed just that, renders on a 2D screen. Yet if I was working on the same items today it would be a relatively simple process, and certainly a much cheaper one, to send my model off to one of the numerous online services who offer to make it a reality.


Once on the subject of art and design it didn't take long for me to start thinking about other uses in  education. While it might be tempting to dismiss 3D printing as a gimmick, especially while print quality on the cheaper machines is still questionable, there are seem to be some interesting applications that shouldn't be discounted.

This case study from the British Columbia Anthropology Museum explains excellently just one of these application - giving students access to objects that would normally be to precious or fragile for students to handle. While in this case the objects are museum specimens the same process could easily apply to unusual medical items such as deformed bones or organs. Take this a step further with the consideration that 3D printers are already capable of printing living tissue  and the applications within medical schools, and indeed medicine in general, is endless.

As an FE librarian however my focus is a bit more mundane. While it would certainly be beneficial for our students  to have access to specimens from other institutes I'm not sure how much it would really excite them. For me it is the process of seeing a creation come to life which would really engage students and so it is these applications that I see as the real selling point of 3D printers. It's exactly this process which is described by the University of Nevada who have recounted the enthusiastic response to their newly acquired 3D printers.

With a little research it didn't take me long to come up with some ideas, many of which will already have been put into practise elsewhere, such as can be seen in this video from  Clevedon School. These include:

  • Edible decorations for catering students.
  • Specialist tools and parts for engineering students
  • 3D models across a variety of courses including geography, architecture and science.
  • Character creation across a number of courses including English and Game Design
  • Various applications in ceramics and 3D design where imagination could literally be the limit.
  • Design and creation of unique musical instruments.
  • Design and creation of circuit boards in computing and electronics.

One idea I especially like links into the enterprise remit of many colleges, including my own. Instead of asking students to develop a business idea why not give them a design brief and have them see the process through from market research to finished prototype. What better way to end such a project than to have the finished designs created by the students!

I'm sure many teachers could find an application for 3D printing in their work and although machines are few in schools and colleges at the minute it's likely that the situation will rapidly change. It'll be interesting to see the outcome of the current government study that is exploring the capabilities of 3D printing by providing equipment to a number of schools across the country.  I just hope that this equipment won't become the jealously guarded property of IT departments because their scope for use across the entire curriculum seems endless, limited (almost) only by imagination.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Russian Dictionary Recreated

Yet another refugee from our recent weeding exercise this small dictionary had never been out on loan. I like to think I've given it a new lease of life by saving it from the recycling bin,  even though this work isn't particularly original it does have  a tactile element to it that I like. It also makes a lovely feathery sound when moved, sort of like autumn leaves rustling. 

The major mistake I made with this one was not leaving a few untouched pages in the centre so it looks a bit unfinished when open. A couple of whole pages would have solved this problem so as always it's a case of live and learn. I also have a few more plans for this particular piece so it may feature again once I have had another play. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Edinburgh in 48 Hours

First I have a confession to make. I went all the way to Edinburgh last week, spent nearly 48 hours there and in that time didn't set foot in a single library. I did buy a very smart dress from The Library Room in Debenhams  but I'm not sure this counts as genuine library research. Therefore I am officially a bad librarian!

I was in Edinburgh for the 12th Scottish E-Books Conference. I'm not going to write much about it here, I'll be doing a proper article for a newsletter. I did enjoy it immensely, especially a very interesting talk over lunch about the feasibility of a national e-lending service that authorities could buy into. 
I also bumped into an old library school friend, one I hadn't seen since the course ended nearly seven years ago. I must apologise again for not recognising you John. Don't take it personally, I'm well known for my terrible memory for faces. Anyway, a coffee turned into a beer, a beer turned into dinner at The Cafe Royal and the result was a very enjoyable evening with someone who it turns out has a very similar job to my own. 

I'd taken Friday off work  to see Edinburgh proper and had promised myself I'd run Arthur's Seat before checking out of my hotel. Despite a slight hangover I made it out of bed in plenty of time and set off to blow the cobwebs away. My route took me down the Royal Mile, past the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace, up the Radical Road and on to Arthur's Seat proper via some stone steps. I won't even pretend I ran all of it, it was a hard slog not made any easier by the early onset of winter. However the view from the top was well worth the effort, as was the easy downhill jog through Holyrood Park. 
After getting back and defrosting with the help of a shower I set off to explore Edinburgh proper. I didn't have a particular plan for the day but soon found myself at The National Gallery where I immediately sort out the Turner's. I also discovered the Scottish Impressionist, William McTaggart, who impressed me with a storm swept seascape. You'd need more time than I had to do the galleries justice, I could only afford a fleeting visit before I left. I did however take time to visit the neighboring Royal Scottish Academy which is currently exhibiting Of Natural and Mystic Things, a suitably ghoulish exhibition for this time of year. Many of the pieces would have looked perfect in a Victorian Cabinet of Curiosities including a mix of science, mythology and nature. If you lean more towards modern art I would take the time to pop in if you are passing. It's just round the corner from one of the open top tour stops and is worth a visit even if your time is limited. 

Afterwards I treated myself to lunch at The Dome, recommended by one of the suppliers the day before. I was quite taken a back by the extravagance of the Christmas decorations considering it was still October but regardless found the converted bank worth a visit due to it's classic architecture. I enjoyed my glass of fizz and food but found the service left a bit to be desired. Don't get me wrong, the team were professional, just not particularly attentive - something I have found all to common when eating alone.

From here I did a bit of shopping, picking up a lovely dress from Debenhams. (I was tempted by a tartin number but thought I might regret once back over the border) I then took the Edinburgh open top bus tour. The one I choose had live commentary and although it is difficult to compare (having not taken the equivalent in Edinburgh) having previously taken a couple of others with recorded commentary thought that I preferred the latter.

The tours are an excellent way to see the city and I did learn a lot about the history of Edinburgh. I just wish I had had more time to listen to  some of the alternative commentary,  available on the same bus. However having done a complete circuit I made my final stop the Castle which I had decided I wanted to see before I caught my train. If you are going to visit yourself make sure you take the time to wait for one of the guided tours which will explain the main layout and history before allowing plenty of time to see all the museums. 

Easily my favorite part was the National War Memorial. I challenge anyone not to be moved by this somber place of remembrance which will hopefully remind all who visit of the ultimate sacrifice made in the past and present. I was also drawn to the contemplative space of St Margaret's Chapel, in fact much more so than any of the other exhibits in the various museums around the castle proper. The exception to this was the National War Museum of Scotland which was well laid out and included the everyday detail and commentary that I always find intriguing when studying the past. There is currently an moving exhibition called Reconstructing Lives that traces the history of prosthetics, geared no doubt towards this years Olympics and the many ex-military personal who have competed successfully after suffering disabling injuries. However the whole museum was fascinating and must be even more so for anyone with more than my tiny knowledge of Scottish history. If your time is limited at the castle make sure you make this a priority.

All of this was done in one day so I was very glad to get on the train and snooze. Hopefully I will be able to go back and visit again sometime as there was so much I didn't have time to see. Maybe I'll have to go to the 13th E-books conference next year. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Classic Fairy Tales

This book was one of many withdrawn from our library over the last 6 months. It's fate was sealed due to it's lack of movement and the amount of notes some considerate student had made over several of the pages. I was drawn to it because of it's numerous and varied illustrations which immediately brought to mind the work of artists such as Alexander Korzer-Robinson  and so I saved it from the recycling bin. 

I make no claim for originality here, these cut away books have been made better and bigger than this one, certainly it is nowhere near as intricate as Korzer-Robinson's creations. However the process was fun and educational  - I'd never realised before just how tough hardback covers are, it's a miracle I didn't do myself injury hacking away at it.  I think I'm either going to have to make some friends in the construction department or add an electric saw to my Christmas list if I want to do another one of these.

With hindsight I made several mistakes. I discarded too many illustrations, (and more importantly threw them away before I had seen the finished item) and then made the front window to big. The cover is also a bit of a hack job, mainly because I was too impatient to find the proper tools. It is also lacking depth because many of the illustrations I kept were from the back of the book. However making it was fun and although I won't be attempting another in a hurry it was a fairly satisfying process.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

E-Books Round Up (Pre Conference)

This week I'm off to the Scottish E-books conference this week thanks to a sponsored place from MmIT. I'm really looking forward to both the conference and visiting Edinburgh as well as meeting a few new librarian people.

As someone else is paying I felt it only right that I do a bit of swotting up on e-books beforehand. I've been a bit neglectful of my favorite subject recently and am long over due a post on the subject anyway. I thought I'd take the opportunity to do a round up of some of the most relevant news since I last did a serious post. 

One of the biggest developments has been in the Apple price fixing case with three publishers agreeing a settlement with the Justice Department in September. Although Penguin, Macmillan and Apple continue to fight the accusations the settlement will see customers who bought e-books from the other 3 publishers receive a partial refund for their purchases. Amazon have already started contacting customers who have bought eligible e-books and will in all likelihood be reducing the prices of relevant Kindle books now that  it is no longer tied to the agency model. 

Back on the right side of the pond there is equally big news in the form of the government review into e-books in libraries. Now I'm not really a fan of the government sticking it's nose into the e-book situation like this, they've been all to keen to take a step back and keep their distance as councils cull library services across the country. However if the review results in a resolution to the stand off between publishers and libraries then it's got to mean progress, certainly we don't seem to be getting anywhere ourselves. What I worry about is the lack of understanding of the role of libraries displayed by the government and therefore the sustainability and feasibility of any outcomes from the review. It'll be too easy for them to see e-books as a cheap replacement for expensive buildings and staff without really thinking the long term problems through.

More recently there has been other developments with Amazon as they announced the introduction of their e-lending scheme for UK Prime members in mid October. Allowing Prime members to borrow 1 book a month the scheme is hardly a serious rival for libraries but it does raise a couple of questions. With Amazon approaching publishers to opt into the scheme a few have asked whether publishers can do so without first getting agreement from authors. Also, given that Amazon seems to rolling out schemes previously proved in the US, will we also soon see an Overdrive / Amazon collaboration in the UK similar to that in use in public libraries in the US.

There's other news of various importance and scale. Avon's imprint are launching DRM free e-books in response to demand for books that can be read across a variety of devices. Not huge news in itself but yet another example of a small publisher going down the DRM free route. 
There are also a couple of commercial e-lending enterprises launching in the UK that could pose a threat to public libraries plans for e-books. Bilbary is already live and a similar service, Oyster is in the pipe line. The press describes them as  subscription based e-lending service similar in nature to Spotify for music. Having had a quick look around Bilbrary I'm not sure where the e-lending process comes in as it seems the books I found were only available to purchase. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough or have missed something. It'll be interesting on Thursday to see what other people make of these services. 

I'll be tweeting during the conference and writing a blog and a piece for the MmIT newsletter afterwards. I hope more than anything that I'll learn a lot while I'm in Edinburgh, I have high expectations for the conference given the high profile of e-books and e-lending over the last few months. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Making the Cut

This weekend I had promised myself I would write a proper post. By this I mean one about work. I had been thinking of investigating the capabilities of the 3D printers currently being used in America or catching up with the government e-lending and e-book review. I just knew that I wanted to do something a little less frivolous than my recent posts. 

This went out the window thanks to Facebook and it's sponsored ads. Now, I'm not normally a fan of these ads, they rarely interest me. But on Wednesday Facebook presented me with one which I not only found interesting but which I would have been willing to travel across the country to see. 

This was ad was for The First Cut at Manchester Art Gallery, a new show that will run between 5th October and 27th January. The reason it excited me was because it's about artists who use paper, and more specifically, a number who recreate, reuse and recycle books. 

On Saturday there were a number of artist talks planned so I rushed down after my hockey match and managed to make it for the last 4. I haven't been to an artists talk for years and I have to admit I cringed slightly when a eager art student (with obligatory oversized sketchbook) piped up to compare her own work when asked of there were any questions for the exhibitor. However it was nice to feel part of the art scene again and to learn a bit about the process and methods employed by the artists. 

I don't want to repeat what they said, suffice to say most of them were genuinely passionate about their work, if maybe a little tired from the stresses of installing over the previous few days. I've tried to sum up in a few words how the works came across below:

Andreas Kocks (Paperwork) : epic, meticulous, depth, raven.

Andrea Mastrovito (Exodus:8:13) : floral, layers, humor, bright.

Mia Pearlman (Roil) : storm, deconstructed, spontaneous, strokes.

Nicola Dale (Sequel) : dry, dead, unloved, reloved.

I also saw work from Sue Blackwell, Noriko Ambe, and Claire Brewster and will be going back to spend more time exploring the works that I missed. I especially want to spend some time in Manabu Hangal's Wonder Forest without the crowds of small children running about. Don't get me wrong, I love that the exhibition excites children, nothing is better for art than that. However there is something about the suspended forest that calls for contemplation rather than shrieking!
I didn't like all the work. As a librarian I found Nicola Dale's talk of 'the death of books' a bit twee and I'm not completely sure Mia Pearlman's work translated successfully from it's normal room sized scale. However I did love the way the curators placed additional pieces throughout the main galleries, matching paper dresses, feathers, butterflies and skeletons with epic sea scapes from Turner and the grand neoclassical entrance. If you're visiting the exhibition it's worth doing the rounds of the other galleries to see these additions.

The overarching theme I took from the exhibition was how vital appropriate scale is to the success of a peice of work. Whether it was the tiny work of Peter Callesan or the room sized creation of Andreas Kocks the size seemed to either draw you in or overwhelm. Both these artists made a huge impression on me although their work is vastly different in both scale and concept.

The First Cut is worth a visit if you have anything more than a passing interest in art, books or craft. There are a number of events planned including workshops, family events and a series of additional artists talks. There is also additional work at The Gallery of Costume in Platt Fields Park. I certainly found it interesting, beautiful and inspiring in equal measure.

 So I supose I should say thanks to Facebook. Although I'm sure I would have stumbled across The First Cut eventually I wouldn't had made those first weekend talks if it hadn't been for the adverts. Although it pains me to say it Facebook actually got it right this time.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Flowers and Mushrooms

When I was studying art at university one of the characteristics of my work was that I would rework and reuse pieces. Very little of what I made was ever intended to be permanent, my work was often perishable and transient, captured in photographs before being torn apart and made into something new. As such my work continuously evolved with many of the pieces in my final year able to trace their roots back to my initial experiments during my Foundation Degree. 

It seems you can never escape your past and in this case I don't really want to. Over the weekend, in between the baking, cleaning, running and hockey playing, I took my wax flowers a step further. Staying to form I also reworked some paper mushrooms I made back in March. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Annual Scottish E-Book Conference 2012

I found out today that I had won one of the MmITS sponsored places to the annual Scottish E-Book Conference. To say I am excited would be an understatement, not only do I get to spend a day learning and talking about e-books but I also get to visit Edinburgh, somewhere I haven't been before. 

Now that my place is confirmed I thought I'd blog the application I wrote back in August. I'm not really sure if this is good practice or not but I put a lot of work into this piece  and want to share it. If it's on here at least I don't have to worry about finding it in a few years.

If Twitter was a classroom and the announcement of the MMITS E-book conference sponsored place a question I’d have been the geeky kid at the front bouncing up and down with my hand in the air.
The thing is that I really like e-books and not just because I no longer have to make impossible choices between shoes and books when holiday packing.  Whether it’s supplier platforms, e-lending, DRM, publisher supply or the ongoing debate about PLR payments, just mentioning e-books is guaranteed to get my attention. So when I saw these sponsored places retweeted I knew I had to apply. However I’m not going to write a list of reasons why I want to attend the 12th Scottish E-Books Conference. I’d rather try and explain how passionate I am about e-books and e-lending and how important I feel they will be to the future of library services. I want to show that while I’ll be attending the conference to develop myself I have my own knowledge and opinion to offer to the table.

To see some of this passion you only have to look at my blog,  Jenny’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Created a little over a year ago it was originally a mix of professional posts combined with my love of art. After starting Chartership in 2012 I made the decision to use the blog to reflect on events and my CPD. I also started writing opinion pieces which increasingly have focused around e-books and e-lending. I never intended for the blog to become so bias towards one subject but I’m glad it did. In discussing e-books I’ve opened my eyes to wider issues in the library and publishing sectors, both here and across the pond in America. 

Currently working in a FE College I started my career in public libraries. I left just as Overdrive was starting to find a foothold in the UK and despite most academic platforms being very different I followed developments in both sectors. Meanwhile I led my college in building up our own collection of e-books and continue to look at ways of getting the most out of available resources. Our most recent project is investigating the feasibility of introducing PDA on a small budget. 

Just as the internet instigated radical change in the LIS sector during the 1990’s I believe e-books will contribute to an equally radical transformation in the next five years. The problem is that we have issues around licenses and format to sort out first, not to mention the image of library e-lending as a threat to publishing and authors. We also have to stop thinking of e-books as flat, unengaging copies of a printed book. E-books have the scope to be so much more than this and although small steps have been taken we are a long way off reaching their full potential. 

With e-books and e-lending regularly featuring in the national press their profile has risen significantly in the last few months. As a consequence I think we will soon be at a pivotal point for e-books and the issues surrounding them. There needs to be ongoing dialogue between the right parties in order to reach a resolution and at the moment this dialogue is only just starting to get going.  As a developing professional I want to be involved in these discussions, whether it’s through consultations, blogging, Twitter, or conferences. 

I’m well aware that the implications are far reaching, while e-books in public libraries are currently high profile any resolution or legislation is bound to have wider reaching implications across all library sectors. Although I can’t hope to keep up with every development in the library and information sector, e-books are a subject where I want try to do just that. Most of all I want to see all sectors of libraries in the future able to offer the e-books their users need, whether this be the latest best seller, a core text book or an obscure medical text. I just hope that I can be part of making that happen.

I'll be Tweeting during the conference and will be writing a report for MmITS afterwards so I will share that when it is published. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Another (Very Pretty) Departure From E-Books

I've not written about e-books recently. This isn't because I haven't been thinking about them, in fact a letter of mine regarding lending third party content was published in Update this month. It's just that with the new term starting the last thing I want to do at the weekends is start researching a new blog post. 

That said I have been busy, last week I ran a half marathon and yesterday saw our first hockey game of the season. Even so, rather than retreat for my customary Sunday afternoon nap today, I decided to follow up on an idea developed from an article on 3D printers. While the modern printers in the article use plastic I had a vague recollection of older models that used wax. This reminded me of the lost wax castings I did at university and by proxy the other work I did with wax during my art foundation year. 

I used to do a lot of work with wax, some of it very successful. It got me thinking about the flowers I had made and how wax would change them. I even toyed with the idea of whether they could be cast themselves if coated in wax. So, with it being a particularly cold and rainy afternoon I decided to have a little play.

The observant among you will notice I've snuck some tissue paper flowers in. Tissue paper and wax work SO well together so I couldn't resist. However I'm equally pleased with my recycled book flowers, I tried to use a variety of techniques so each is slightly different although they are all made from just the original paper flower and wax, nothing else. The differences are due to the temperature of the wax, the way it is applied and the thickness of the layering.

Creating these flowers took less than a couple of hours and was a lot of fun. If you want to have a go I would suggest using a bain marie, such as you would melt chocolate in, to melt the wax. Be careful not to heat the wax to much as it has a flash point, I kept taking it off the heat, letting it cool and then reheating once it got to thick. Apart from that all you need is some paint brushes and bulldog clips to hold the "stem of the flower" while the wax hardens. Enjoy.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Chartership Progress - September 2012

I've been working on my chartership portfolio for over 8 months now and at last I feel like I am making some real progress. Over the last week I have made a list of the evidence I want to use, made notes on how each meet the criteria and started collating it all in a folder. I also have a near completed CV, my job description (haven't read that for a while) and an updated PPDP which sort of relates to the evidence I have decided upon. I am struggling to get hold of a organisational structure but that's just because the current restructure means it is constantly changing.

As someone who has worked professionally since completing my MA six (seven? - I should probably know that) years ago I could have backed dated my portfolio evidence. However I made the decision early on that I wanted to go through the full year of chartership and really commit to my CPD. Even though doing chartership has been difficult at times, especially with work and home life hectic, I haven't regretted that decision at all. 
Throughout I have enjoyed the process of chartering but recently it has dawned on me that my attitude to chartership itself has really changed in those eight months. When I first started I saw it as a box ticking exercise. I thought I would go through the year as I had gone through previous years with the only difference being that I would keep better records. 

This hasn't been the case at all, I am more reflective, I actively seek out opportunities to improve my knowledge and most of all I am more confident in myself and my skills as an information professional. I have started using learning logs, I make public commitments on this blog (not all of which I keep but I do try) and I engage actively with the profession through Twitter. Best of all I have met (both physically and virtually) people from other sectors who I might never have crossed paths with otherwise. I now see chartership and CPD not as an exercise to satisfy someone else's requirements, like an exam or a test, but as something much more personal and self rewarding.

Doing chartership has created a sort of momentum that has seen my professional development snowball over the last few months. I hope that once I complete in a few months I will be able to keep this momentum going. I like to think I will, it certainly helps that I'm in a stable job that I enjoy and that I have this blog to update regularly. I find it acts like a sort of virtual conscience nagging me to put something out there.

In the mean time I'm going to press on with the hope that I will be able to submit my portfolio before Christmas. I still have a bit to do, not least organising a NW Chartership meet up, but I hope I will get it done this year and that it will be good enough for the board. 

Monday, 27 August 2012

Here Comes the Sun (Briefly)

I spent a lot of this weekend either napping or working on my Chartership portfolio. Not exactly rock and roll but then I'm not as young as I used to be.

In between the sleeping and working I started writing a Week In the Life of a FE Librarian post for this blog. However it's not turned out as I thought and I'm in two minds whether to post it. What I did manage to do, in the very brief period of sunshine on Sunday, was to get out and take some photos.

It was only after I had gathered all my bits together that I realised I had left my SLR at work so armed only with my ipod I went out to make the most of the sunshine. The glare meant I was essentially shooting blind so the resulting pictures are a bit over exposed and lacking depth but a good starting point for other work. Because some of the images weren't brilliant I had a fiddle on iPhoto, something I rarely do nowadays.

 I'm still not sure about the colour photos, I suspect that this might be the last time I work with colour in this context. However I think there is much more to be done with the black and white work once I find the time so watch this space.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Of Books, Bears, Bogeymen and Bibles

Anyone who reads my posts regularly (possibly just my mum) knows I spend I lot of time waffling about e-books. You'll also know that I'm quite the advocate. However something that annoys me are people who think that just because I like e-books I have turned my back on paper and print.

Alright, so I don't often buy printed fiction from bookshops any more, but then I never really did anyway. I always borrowed or bought books second hand or got hand-me-downs from the parents. I still buy (and love to receive) photography and art books and I don't think this will ever change. Yes, there are things you can do with e-books that you can't do with printed but that doesn't make them better, just different. 

This post is a self indulgent look at why I will never totally give up the printed book and which books I can never imagine reading as an e-book. It's also one of the most personal blogs I've ever written. Some people may contend what I have to say here but these are my views and I stand by them. Just like only an e-reader will fit when you have to squeeze 2 weeks of reading material into a Ryan Air luggage allowance, there are also times when only the printed book will do. These are my top three reasons.

1. Books carry memories.
When I was 13 a boy, who would 3 years later become my first boyfriend, gave me Clive Barker's A Thief of Always. I had never read anything like it and I quickly consumed most of Clive Barkers back list, reveling in the mix of bogeymen and sex. God knows what my parents would have thought if they knew what I was reading but to this day I continue to be a huge Barker fan.
The relationship didn't end well, it was never going to really, but I still have that book. Despite it being dog eared and tatty it sits next to my signed edition of Galilee, and I would never consider getting rid of it. It's a little reminder of my teenage self and carries memories that go far beyond the story itself.

Sometimes the memories carried by books are not those of the current owner. I'm currently undertaking research on my hockey club and managed to track down an old minute book to the library at Chetham's in Manchester. When I went to see it my reaction to a mass produced ledger was extraordinary. OK, so technically it isn't a book in the way a novel or a bible is but the principle is the same. That A5 notebook, crammed with history and indecipherable notes, evoked more emotion in me then any word processed document ever could. I bet in 60 years time no one will be sitting in a library crying over our modern digital minutes and agendas.

2. Books can both be, and convey art.
Some books are beautiful in a way that cannot be replicated or digitised, take the Guttenberg Bibles for example. Not only do they represent a technological revolution but they cry out to be touched, scrutinised and poured over. There must be millions of copies, both printed and digital, but non will ever match the originals as objects of beauty. 

This type of classic beauty is often, and sadly, a thing of the past. Yet books continue to be made that are unique, that through either their content or physical form, stand up as works of art in their own right. If you ever doubt this make a visit to the book design library at Manchester Metropolitan University. You won't be disappointed. 

However the thing that I really love about printed books is that even the most mundane novel can be transformed into a thing of beauty when given to someone with the right inspiration. You only have to type book art into google images to see the wealth of creations that have been made from or inspired by books. I'm sure artists will eventually find ways to make art with e-books, there is already plenty of digital art out there. What I don't believe is that it will ever be as beautiful or emotive as work such as the mysterious paper sculptures that have been left by an anonymous artist around Edinburgh. 

3. Some books just have to be, well books.
This last point is easily the most subjective, after all we have no idea what the future of e-books hold. However I am of the opinion that some digital editions can't elect the same emotion and excitement as their print equivalents, purely because their format or content would not transfer successfully. For me this is best illustrated by two books from my childhood.

We all have favourite books as a child, books that stay with us, which we'd buy for our children and grandchildren. My favourites are The Haunted House (Jan Pienkowski) and Trouble for Trumpets. (Peter Dallas-Smith, Illustrations by Peter Cross) While both these books carry fond memories it is more their format and content that means they just wouldn't work in a digital format.

The Haunted House is a delicate pop up book quite unlike the Spot and Ball picture books usually made for children. In fact my dad used to keep this one on a high shelf so being allowed to read it was an event which only made it even more special. It was dark and creepy and fun and it really wouldn't have worked as an e-book, even one with added content and special effects. 

The second is a beautifully book illustrated by Peter Cross (He later made the Harbottle greeting cards) It's very hard to get hold of nowadays but if you do come across a copy at a reasonable price - buy it. The plot is simple; good bear/hamster type animals versus evil bear/hamster type animals. But the pictures are beautiful and intricate, full of quirky little sub plots and incidents. Even better throughout the book there are a couple of dozen hidden faces for you to find, something you don't discover until the end. As a family we spent hours searching through the pages for those hidden faces. I just can't imagine my family huddling round a computer screen in the same way.

I suppose what I'm trying to show with this blog is that while e-books may represent the future of publishing, loving one doesn't necessarily mean you can't love the other. Printed and digital books fulfill different needs for different people and just like the record and the MP3 player can continue to exist in the same space. Yes, in the not to distant future one may be considered to be retro and quaint. But, hey, who doesn't like a bit of retro. 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Flower Power (Read, Reuse, Recycle)

I've been recycling our withdrawn books again. In this case just the one book, aptly titled, Essence of Creativity. It's one of the many business books we've withdrawn recently and given the serendipity of the title I couldn't help but have a play. In case you are interested I used these instructions from Origami Fun.

Making the flowers was actually quite a challenge, the paper is good quality and so difficult to fold repeatedly. The smaller ones especially were difficult to form which is why some of them have fewer petals than others. It's easy to fold the 'petals' back on themselves to hide them if you find the full eight won't fit.

I'm pleased with the flowers themselves but not sure about the context of the photographs. I missed out on the good weather yesterday but when it improves I think I might experiment in a more natural environment. I also have some colourful flowers created from an old recipe book which I also need to come up with a context for. Initially I was thinking of using the library again but I think they need a more monotone environment to make them really stand out.