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<nettime> A proposition for book publishing
noemata on Sun, 25 Jan 2004 22:58:10 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> A proposition for book publishing


Define a book as the set of pages containing the book's ISBN.

By this proposition the book is essentially unbound.

In addition, no bound book is possible. Considering a bound book, there
will always be pages containing the book's ISBN outside its bounds - a
minimal example being a record in the ISBN administration system, if not,
the book would simply not be part of the ISBN system. So being part of the
ISBN system the book will be unbound per se.

With objective irony the ISBN system make the unbounding of books not only
possible but the logical conclusion - if a book is uniquely identified by
its ISBN, then why not uniquely identify a book by its ISBN?!

Following the proposition the books could be considered 'hyperbooks' in
the traditional sense, being non-linear, extra-dimensional, fragmented,
fractal, viral, etc in varied forms of open-ended, possible, mutable, or
generative structures. Another suggestive term could be 'cypherbook' -
cypher/cipher meaning 'writing/volume'[1] in general; 'number, zero'[2] as
the book is defined nominal empty and by its ISBN only;
'transformed/coded/symbolic'[2] as the content is transformed/coded more
extensively by its (unbound) dispersal in different contexts, and with
structures codified to a higher degree than traditional books; in
addition, an anagrammatic relation to the 'hyperbook' term. A generic term
might simply be 'net.book'.

The term 'book' itself may take on some specific meanings - the basic
notion of a written document, writing on beech, collection of sheets of
paper or other material[3]; as cortex, etym. from 'bark', as inscriptions
in the outer regions of a structure[4] (in fact, any inscription is
'outer' and marginal in regard to the book as cypher), which brings the
image of neural networks closer to the idea of the book; the verbal 'book'
links 'booking' up to the nominal use of ISBN to define them; or as
'making a book', bookmakers running the numbers, rackets, a possibly
illicit, anarchic use of the international standard book number system.

By inverting the definition of a book, actually turning it inside out, the
concept of book is attempted brought back to writing, like an expansion of
the void towards the periphery through an anti-gravitating force. "The
idea of the book, which always refers to a natural totality, is profoundly
alien to the sense of writing."[5][6].

Any writing containing the ISBN would be part of the book, thereby the
notion of content is also altered, say, like matter of the universe, where
only 4% is estimated atomic matter - the rest being dark matter (23%) and
dark energy (73%). The content of a book could spread out in any degree in
the spectral dimensions public-private/information-noise/text-cypher/etc,
making book a body of matter in the more physical sense, like consisting
of atomic text, dark-ambient text, dark-ambient writing.

Concerning licensing, since the books are inherently unbound no overall
copyright can apply. If a book cannot be bound, surely it cannot be
copyrighted. In fact, copyrighting the book would violate the ISBN system
- the ISBN system itself would actually be violating the book's copyright
by recording it - which again would violate the book, making it
impossible. Copyright issues would therefore have to be partial to the
book and in practice distributed to its pages and actual writing which
could be copyrighted in the usual manner. Following this, an open
source/content copyleft licence[7], would seem the proper thing and
default modus for the book and assure its essentially open and free
distribution and mutation.

Expanding on the idea of constituting the book on its ISBN only, other
usages and notions of the book concept could be opened up for creative
investigation, one reason being that technology and new media
immaterializes and fuses different forms into basically one digital form,
and since the content of that form often is aggregates into one big,
interconnected blob - or so we would like to think, alltogether
emphasizing the virtuality of the book, freed from its material basis. In
a more general interpretation, the book could constitute any kind of real
or virtual intellectual 'work', ranging from physical artwork to networked
ideas, by being its possibly unique identifier, like a signature, tag,
etc, and thereby help and preserve different kinds of distributed,
networked arts and gain identity - by analogy, maybe as the IP identifies
a machine in a network, the ISBN would identify a work in the cultural
net, dispersed or immersed into it.

To begin with, announcing the publication of 12 books accordingly: ISBN
82-92428-05-4 ISBN 82-92428-06-2 ISBN 82-92428-08-9 ISBN 82-92428-10-0
ISBN 82-92428-11-9 ISBN 82-92428-13-5 ISBN 82-92428-14-3 ISBN
82-92428-18-6 ISBN 82-92428-19-4 ISBN 82-92428-20-8 ISBN 82-92428-21-6

True to the initial proposition these books are defined by their ISBNs
only, the content of a book being the (possible empty) set of documents
containing the ISBN. Actually, some of these specific books already have
some form of content from preliminar usage and are based on various
topics[8], but that doesn't change their status or limit their usage as
they are principally open, subject to writing, being what is actually
written into them, being written, written beings.

For practical purposes, once the books attain some sort of substance,
stabilizes, or in other ways attain a reportable identity they'd be
reported and updated to the appropriate ISBN office by the publisher
owning the ISBNs, and thereby available like any other book in their
information system.

Since the books are unbound they won't have any interface other than their
pages' immediate contexts, so if any overall interface at all, it would
have to be made, which is precisely an etymologic meaning of 'face' (from
facere, to make), so interfacing the book would in a sense also be the
making of it (and be part of it in a selvreflexive way). Such interfaces
could be readily made for instance using search engines or scripts in
indexing/gathering/filtering material into different partitions.

Additional structuring of the books could be made using cyphers for
signing, authenticating, encrypting material if they were intended for
special authoring or ways of reading.

A closing topos, restating Baudrillard in his exposition of value[9],
query-replaced into this setting of book publishing as seen apt for the
purpose: Book stages: natural books, commodity books, structural books
(hypertext), fractal books (viral, radiant). Fractal books prolificly only
refer to themselves, radiating in all directions - publishing as
contiguity. The book no longer has any equivalence, an epidemic of book,
metastasis of text, haphazard proliferation and dispersal of book. We
should no longer speak of 'book' at all, for this kind of propagation or
chain reaction makes all books impossible. Yet things continue to function
long after their idea have disappeared and in total indifference to their
own content, the paradoxical fact is that they function even better under
these circumstances. The book is no longer a metaphor for logos etc or
anything at all, but merely the locus of metastasis, of the machine-like
connections between all its processes, of an endless programming devoid of
any symbolic organization or overarching purpose: the book is thus given
over to the pure promiscuity of its relationship to itself as ISBN - the
same promiscuity that characterizes networks.

Finally, three small images of books for the occation:
http://noemata.net/books/b02.jpg (6k) http://noemata.net/books/b03.jpg
(8k) http://noemata.net/books/b06.jpg (7k)

(Redistribute where appropriate, comments are welcome.)


[1] cipher - This word has a comprehensive meaning in Scripture. In the
Old Testament it is the rendering of the Hebrew word _sepher_, which
properly means a "writing," and then a "volume" (Ex. 17:14; Deut. 28:58;
29:20; Job 19:23) or "roll of a book" (Jer. 36:2, 4).
-- http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=Cipher

[2] ci.pher n, often attrib [ME, fr. MF cifre, fr. ML cifra, fr. Ar
sifr empty, cipher, zero] (14c) 1 a: zero 1a. b: one that has no weight,
worth, or influence: nonentity 2 a: a method of transforming a text in
order to conceal its meaning--compare code 3b b: a message in code 3:
arabic numeral 4: a combination of symbolic letters; esp: the interwoven
initials of a name
-- Enc. Britannica

[3] book - [Middle English bok, from Old English bc. See bhgo- in
Indo-European Roots.] Word History: From an etymological perspective,
book and beech are branches of the same tree. The Germanic root of both
words is *bk-, ultimately from an Indo-European root meaning ?beech
tree.? The Old English form of book is bc, from Germanic *bk-, ?written
document, book.? The Old English form of beech is bce, from Germanic
*bk-jn, ?beech tree,? because the early Germanic peoples used strips of
beech wood to write on. A similar semantic development occurred in
Latin. The Latin word for book is liber, whence library. Liber, however,
originally meant ?bark? that is, the smooth inner bark of a tree, which
the early Romans likewise used to write on.
-- http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=Book

[4] cortex (krteks), n., pl. -tices (-t sz).  1. Anat., Zool. the
outer region of an organ or structure, as the outer portion of the
kidney.the cerebral cortex. 2. Bot. the portion of a stem between the
epidermis and the vascular tissue; bark.any outer layer, as rind. 3.
Mycol. the surface tissue layer of a fungus or lichen, composed of massed
hyphal cells. [1650?60; < L: bark, rind, shell, husk]
-- Random House Dict.

[5] The End of the Book: In Of Grammatology, Jacques Derrida equates the
culture of The Book with logocentrism, the belief in a signifier which
is both outside of structure, and hence beyond scrutiny or challenge,
and at the very centre, providing it with a central point of reference
that anchors meaning... It is the encyclopedic protection of theology
and of logocentrism against the disruption of writing, against its
aphoristic energy, and ... against difference in general.
-- http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/elab/hfl0248.html

[6] The Book: The west has been called "the civilization of the book"
(Derrida, Of Grammatology 3).
-- http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/elab/hfl0246.html

[7] In short, open source/content licences assures different degrees of
open and free copying, modification and distribution.
-- The Open Source Initiative, http://www.opensource.org
-- Creative Commons, http://www.creativecommons.org

[8] Books published by noemata.net
-- http://noemata.net/books/

[9] From J Baudrillard, Transparency of Evil. verso.

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