The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany, April 15th, 2009

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The #amazonfail shitstorm — from Amazon’s awful “ham-fisted”  glitch (a phrase so dirty it’s probably de-listed from their own searches) to the seething self-righteous indignation on Twitter — has been enough to make me want turn off the internet and go back to bed. But if you need  an overview of the whole sorry story, business reporter Andrea James has done a very thorough job following it for Amazon’s local newspaper the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and summaries, shivering with schadenfreude, can be found in the New York Times, The Guardian, Wall Street Journal, and the National Post.  No doubt the other major dailies were all over it too…

Former PW editor Sara Nelson at The Daily Beast , Evgeny Morozov at Foreign Policy, and the Vromans Bookstore Blog offer some alternative perspectives.

But I’ve got to say I agree with Jessa Crispin at BookSlut: “I’m bored with this.”

(UPDATE: Clay Shirky has written perhaps the most thoughtful post on #amazonfail I’ve read to date: The Failure of #amazonfail)

Lets. Move. On…

Straight Up — Knopf designer Peter Mendelsund who moonlights as art director of Vertical Press and blogs at Jacket Mechanical,  interviewed at the always ace FaceOut Books (Smell Man by Munenori Harada, designed by Peter Mendelsund pictured above).


Contact — Filmmaker and writer Adam Harrison Levy on William Klein’s recent appearance in New York and the importance book-signings (William Klein: Buicks, 2 tiered, New York, 1955, Howard Greenberg Gallery, pictured above):

A book signing is a manifestation of an urge to recover something that we, as a culture, fear losing — namely the hand of the artist in the age of mechanical (and digital) reproduction. Now more than ever it seems that we want to get close to creativity: to hear the voice and see the skin and experience the physical presence of the person who made something that we deem to be meaningful. Is this because so much of our lives now is mediated through a screen?

What Went Wrong? — An interesting article (and something of a mea culpa) in the Boston Globe about the mistakes and missed opportunities made by newspapers underestimating the impact of the web.

In Perpetua — MyFonts strike up a ‘dialogue’ with Eric Gill (1882 – 1940), stonecarver, graphic artist, type designer and writer:

If we insist on the ornamental we are not making the best of our system of manufacture, we are not getting the things that system makes best. The process by which a railway locomotive has become the beautiful thing it now is, this process must be welcomed in all other departments of manufacture. … And ornamental typography is to be avoided no less than ornamental architecture in an industrial civilization.

We Love Typography —  “FFFFound for all things type, typography, lettering, & signage” created by I Love Typography in collaboration with Kari Pätilä.

And finally, I would like to pass on my condolences to the friends and family of Derek Weiler, editor of the Quill & Quire, who died at the weekend, aged 40.

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