Books on Tape… and 45, and Flip Phone

books_on_tapeOne of the things you’ll hear a lot about in any self-respecting MLS or Media Studies program is digital forensics—a good term, a little bit geeky and a little bit CSI. The idea, of course, is preservation. Archival collections are no longer just about flat fibrous printed stuff, but all the material used to carry information: bits, bytes, vinyl, magnetized tape, polycarbonate plastic. The media change pretty reliably—a full generation, when it comes to recording, is maybe five years—and a large part of preserving matter involves being able to read it in the first place. That shoebox of 3-1/2 inch diskettes with all those baby pictures on it? Good luck with that.

As you might imagine, digital forensics in practice is pretty cool, and a whole science unto itself involving hardware, software, and good old-fashioned deduction. But sometimes, at the end of the day, you feel a little less like a digital Sherlock Holmes and a little more like a digital Bartleby—you’d just prefer not to.

Which is what’s great about Woody Leslie’s Books on Tape series. Leslie takes obsolete media—your cassette, your VCR tape, your three-upgrades-ago flip phone—and makes blank books from them. Using the media as cover stock and the cases as… well, as cases, the coptic bound volumes are surprisingly dignified and actually look like something you might want to write in. Leslie’s One Page Productions is a small artisanal press currently based in Brooklyn, whose products cover “a range of genres from poetry to pornography”—Books on Tape is just a side project. But he also teaches bookbinding, and the whole idea of repurposing found objects—particularly with a wink to the whole idea of readability—is something that bears more thought. Not all data can be migrated, or should be; sometimes media might have an entirely different story to tell. I’m not the only fan of writing things down by hand… who knows, maybe that 8″ floppy has more than a lowly megabyte to offer.

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