Are books becoming obsolete?

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Guest » 01/14/05 07:48 PM

I received an interesting email from Denny & Lee today. It's basically an editorial that raises several interesting points about magic books. I asked Denny and he gave his permission to post it here. What do you think?

"I had a strange experience on Ebay last week. I had put up about 25 items. Twenty were tricks and five were books. Strange.....all the tricks sold for more than what I had expected and yet the books didn't even meet the reserve. Is there a trend????

If you will look at most magic dealer websites, the accent seems to be on the latest hot trick of the month. Everybody seems to be selling the same new trick just because it's new. NEW, NEW, NEW!! What about GOOD, GOOD, GOOD??? Do you realize that most of the "new" magic tricks you buy are things that end up going in your drawer never to see light again?? Magic is a wonderful art. Reading about it should be a pleasure, done at your own pace. It should not be drudgery.

We tried an experiment in this shop about eight years ago. We opened a book, read and learned a card trick, printed up a label and sealed this card trick in a plastic bag. It was a trick using regular cards, nothing more. We put a price tag of $15.00 on the trick and then demonstrated it to our customers. Many wanted to buy the trick at $15.00. When I told them that we just got this out of a $4.95 book and then showed them the book, they were surprised. Guess what!!!! MOST didn't buy the book. They were willing to pay $15.00 for the trick in a plastic bag but would not buy the $4.95 book with the EXACT SAME TRICK IN IT. The book also contained well over 25 extra tricks. There is definitely something wrong here!!!! Anyway, I'm finished ranting. I like to make money as well as the next guy BUT I'm really trying to help."

What will the future of our art/craft be without books? --Asrah
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Postby Frantz » 01/15/05 01:44 AM

Hi,

I totally agree with that it has been written in the previous message... From one point, it seems to be a pity that most of the new "magicians" don't realize all the treasors which are hidden into the books...

But, on the other hand, we can see it as a good news... There are so many easy "exposures" nowdays, and a lot of "wanabies" don't take the time to learn, to understand and to appreciate... the best things are hidden in books, and only the ones who take to time and the effort to go inside these books will have access to these secrets... It's a good way to continue preserving our secrets... ;-)

Very cordially,
---
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Postby magicam » 01/15/05 01:52 AM

"Are [magic] books becoming obsolete?"

Answer: "No"

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Postby cataquet » 01/15/05 04:42 AM

The form of the magic book will change. Take a look at Mike Close's Secrets to see what the future holds: e-books with embedded videos. These are much cheaper to produce than a book (ie, there is no printing costs), and they can be updated with ease. Unfortunately, the downside is that these are easily re-distributed (putting many potential authors off the idea). Also, the ability to do this at home with just a webcam will encourage a lot of dross to come out of the cracks and crevises as well.

Books will continue to be the source for the hidden gems. Videos and DVDs are too accessible for the viewing audience to miss something.
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Postby Guest » 01/15/05 08:49 AM

Some "new" magicians read. The rest will likely not amount to much in this field.

Important to remember the most important Magic books were not written by Magicians.

The reading problems in American culture run far deeper than just amongst magicians. The overall results of such idiocy will likely be in the same vein, however.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 01/15/05 09:20 AM

If Barnes and Noble is any guage to reading in America, there isn't much of a problem. The place is always packed and long lines on the checkout. I think there may be too much empahsis on the non-reader(magicians too).

As for most of the best magic books being written by non-magicians, that's not really so. I would say 90% of the classics in magic were written by magicians.

Just my opinion.
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Postby Guest » 01/15/05 09:21 AM

It's interesting, back when I used to demo. for Howard Hale at Magicland in Dallas, I would do the same thing. Find an effect in a book, learn it and when the "usual suspects" would show up, usually on saturdays asking the oft heard and dreaded "What's new?", I'd show them the routine.

Virtually the same result. Few if any would buy the book, some of course would but they were usually either readers anyway or were a bit more financially stable and understood the value they were getting.
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Postby David Acer » 01/15/05 11:31 AM

It's true that overall, magic books aren't selling as well as they used to, but just when it looks like the market has bottomed out, something big comes along that goes into multiple reprints - Roberto Giobbi's CARD COLLEGE Aaron Fisher's THE PAPER ENGINE, and Paul Harris's THE ART OF ASTONISHMENT, or just a little further back, THE MAGIC MENU - THE FIRST 5 YEARS, THE MAGIC OF MICHAEL AMMAR and Gary Ouellet's CLOSE-UP ILLUSIONS. These are just some examples that I'm aware of - I'm sure there are others.

Moreover, the massive Stewart James books sold out fairly quickly, and anything by Jim Steinmeyer flies off the shelves in a blink.

Conversely, of course, there are some excellent books that for some reason just never took off. The Flicking Fingers' THE BOOK and SAWA'S LIBRARY OF MAGIC come immediately to mind.

It certainly doesn't help that there's a societal trend towards reading less, not to mention the fact that the magic book market suffered severe flooding in the eighties and nineties. But all in all, I believe that there are still book-buyers out there, watching, waiting, wringing their hands in anticipation...
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Postby Bill Duncan » 01/15/05 12:17 PM

I'm not sure there's a societal trend towards reading less. There may be a trend towards reading fewer bound books but if the number of posts and online forums are any indication people are reading more. It's just a question of what, where, and how, they are reading.

It certainly seems like videos are taking the place of magic books but I'm not convinced that it's really happening. I think, perhaps, what is happening is that there are a lot more people dabbling in magic at the present moment, and they have more disposable income. So the folks who would have purchsed expensive magic tricks back in the day are now purchasing DVDs. They wouldn't have purchased books anyway. They would have spent their cash on "tricks".

Jay Sankey seems to have recognised this and is selling, as "tricks", things which he published many years ago. You can, for example, buy the coin through bill (with a piece of "space metal" instead of a shell and coin) and Airtight, as tricks.

There are also folks like me, who are "book guys" but who purchase a lot of DVDs in order to watch magicians I wouldn't otherwise get to see. I have, for example, never watched the explaination section of my Rene Levand dvd.

That cuts into my book budget a bit, but not much... It probably does impact how much I spend on films however. I can't remember the last movie I purchased.
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Postby Guest » 01/15/05 12:58 PM

Like Bill, I buy DVDs mainly for the opportunity to see the performance sections of magicians I never get to see. In fact, I'd like to see more performance only DVDs, especially with some of the greats who are no longer with us. Even with buying DVDs, however, I still buy the same amount of books, and can't imagine that'll ever change -- unless a technology comes along that can provide more enjoyment than reading.

I think he's also correct in that those who buy mainly DVDs are the folks who would've bought individual tricks and the creators of the DVDs realize this. These are the same people who for whatever reasons never bought books anyway.
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Postby Matthew Field » 01/16/05 04:25 AM

The sad fact is that younger people (however one defines it) seem to be less willing to absorb information from the printed page than from the screen. I have recounted (here) that once, in Tannen's, a kid asked about a move he was interested in and I recomended a book. He said he never read books--was there a video it was on?

The cost of producing a video is minuscule compared with a book. Get a magician for a week in front of a camera and in a month you've got a three or four DVD set for $100-$120 retail. Writing a book takes months (or years), then the time and cost of illustrations, layout, production and storage, for $45 retail or (in Todd Karr's instance) $100. (I'm kidding, Todd!)

I don't think books are dead, and I dearly love them, but the magic market is both small and fickle and the people involved in magic books often produce them because of decisions of the heart rather than the brain or pocketbook.

I could go on forever about this, but I'll stop. People like Richard Kaufman, Stephen Minch and Jon Racherbaumer are much more qualified to expound.

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Postby Guest » 01/16/05 06:38 AM

It is curious to me that people will gladly pay over $100 (at places like Pebble Beach several hundred dollars) to play a round of golf that last four hours yet have a hard time paying $40 for a good magic book that will give hundreds of hours of satisfaction and can keep giving over and over and over.

I know I've done both and never think twice (well maybe twice but if its a nice course and I want to play it I accept the price readily) yet when I enter a magic shop or look online I do think about how much I really want or need this or that book for $40 or so.

There is some similar pschology at work here where people will pay $15 for four ungimmicked cards in a plastic bag but are unwilling to pay $4.95 for the book that tells you how the trick and many more work.

Maybe it's he instant gratification thing of knowing I'm going to be hitting the ball "now" or working the trick "now" as opposed to having to do some work to make something happen.

I just hope Richard can finish "Mr. Jenning's Takes It Easy" before videos and such end the magic book biz once and for all. Heck, I'd probably pay a green's fee worth for a pre-publication slot if I thought it would somehow help him generate the hours in the day to get it done.
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Postby Guest » 01/16/05 12:15 PM

Like others, I began buying videos (now DVDs) because I wanted to see the greats perform and I wanted to see how these effects should look.

I think part of the trend towards DVD is the instant gratification one gets when viewing an effect. One can instantly decide if he/she likes the effect and is willing to learn it. One of the downfalls is that the viewer will perform the effect using the same patter as the performer explaining the effect. They become parrots, not performers. (That has been a problem even before the video age, but I digress.)

Another of the downfalls with the person who prefers DVDs to books is that they don't get the joy of finding their own hidden gems in books. Many times I have found an effect in a book that really blew not only me away but those who I have performed it for. Also, a book usually has details that may be glossed over on a DVD.

That being said, I think that there are many great performers who realize the short-comings of DVD and try to thoroughly cover every detail in their explanations. Max Maven, Tommy Wonder, and Michael Close are a few that quickly come to mind.

I think that there will always be a market for the books. It would appear that those who have more than just a passing interest in magic understand the joys a book brings.

Gotta go. Gotta watch the DVD I won on Ebay. (just kidding!!) :p
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Postby Erik Hemming » 01/16/05 03:54 PM

This is a topic near and dear to my heart...and wallet.

(Warning: Analysis filled with sweeping generalizations--many of them supportable--follows. Some of it is very telegraphic. Some, self-indulgent. Ponder at your own risk.)

I don't think the U.S. is reading less. I think it's stable, or has grown some.

I agree with Mr. Duncan. I think people are reading less hard-copy printed material.

Certainly, independent booksellers are having some difficulties. (If you are interested, here is an article set on current trends: A.B.A. Bookweb Statistics/Articles

Newspapers and magazines have also shown a marked drop in general circulation.

More and more, folks are gleaning their news and information from online sources. Why subscibe to the New York Times when it can be had immediately, at one's desk, for free? No more smushy grey mess in the bushes on rainy days. (There are lots of good answers to that one, but I ask you to simply cede the point for the moment. Newspaper ciculation is down nationally. Newspapers are becoming increasingly national with less truly local content.)

Books are a mixed issue. The total number of books being purchased may be stable or increasing slightly. What appears to be decreasing (rapidly) is the total number of titles being published. This may appear to be a paradox, but it isn't: A relatively few titles are garnering a HUGE proportion of the market. Because a few entities--I won't mention them here, but their initials are A., B., B.& N. and O.--are marketing a specific set of titles NATIONALLY.

(Those fans of Wendell Berry out there will note the symetry of monoculture creeping from agriculture to culture in general and be morbidly gratified.)

There is no inherent wrong-doing in this. What is wrong is the effect: Almost everybody is adhering to the same fairly limited set of entertainment and study possibilities. Intellectual monoculture predominates over diversity. This is no difficulty at all...unless the system fails.

(Here, I pause to remember the words of my grandfather, uttered to me in a jovial, if weak, way from his death bed, "It's a great life...if you don't weaken.")

The same can be said about the culture of magic.

Academic presses--once the lifeblood of the scholarly community--are gradually succumbing to economic factors and many are folding OR are scaling back the range of their publications to what is immediatly profitable.

In many ways, magic is similar to an academic discipline in that it appeals to a very specialized market. Unsubsidized publishers in niche markets often have to struggle with rejecting or delaying meritorious books simply because the economics of the market can break you quickly if you publish in error.

One quick away around the issues of economics is the road followed by many in magic: Publish yourself in "eformat". Ebooks, usually at lower costs than a printed tome, are becoming common. Mr. Cataquet's comment about Close's last ebook is on the money.

The same is true for other specialized information. Many volumes of standard information in the medicine, engineering and law are now being produced in ebook format. Computers and PDAs are manditory in many--if not most--professional programs in the U.S. The format is changing.

So, whither the book?

Unless I miss my guess, specialty publishers will be pushed increasingly in two directions: "E-format" or "book-as-luxury-item." We see it already in magic. Lybrary.com on one end and Todd Karr, and increasingly, Mike Caveney, on the other. In the middle we have stallwarts like Mr. Kaufman and Mr. Minch solidering on doing their best to produce a range of books but relying heavily on highly relevant, highly sought items that will, in terms of their market, be bestsellers.

Anyone making their livelihood in publishing these days is brave. (Or foolish: But the fools don't last long.) Making a livelihood by counting on bestsellers in a niche market is somewhere between epic heroism and a gambling addiction.

Furthermore, the distribution chain for "eformat" is already beginning to rationalize. Lybrary now distributes for clients.

I note that, today, there are collectors of stone & clay tablets, scrolls, winter counts, codexes and various incunabula. Those modes of recording information thrived for thousands of years and were supplanted by the hand-bound book, which was supplanted by the mass-produced book...which is now being supplanted by a variety of e-formats.

Will the book go away? Absolutely not. Will the form change and the number of titles dwindle? Certainly and almost certainly.

Culturally, is this a good thing for either magic or the culture as a whole? The degree to which we rely solely on electronic media is the same degree to which I am dubious.

Culture relies on the intellectual equivalent of the second and third laws of thermodynamics. (1) Ideas can neither be created nor destroyed: They can, however, wax or wane depending on their propagation. (2)Obscured ideas have a tedancy to remain obscure without active propagation.

In the comparison of systems where ideas are hooked immutably to a complex distribution system requiring plentiful energy for its simple operation, complex production and retrieval technology, and huge industrial support just to maintain the distribution of the information, versus a system where the energetic production costs are loaded on the front end; I think systemic "failure" is much more immanent in the more complex system.

In simpler terms: Much has to work, permanently, for electronic media to serve it's purpose. A book--the materially printed word--simply has to be produced and stored somewhere moderately weather-proof. It will endure centuries without additional maintainance.

To wit: I have thrown away my 5" disks. I am eyeing my 3" disks, wondering what might be buried there. I am looking at my cassette tapes and pondering their immediate future.

I listen to the first CDs I bought which are starting to skip and stutter. My CD-R, CD-RW and DVD-R media seems permanent...but is it?

On the other hand, I just started reading my set of Journeys Through Bookland to my son.
Journeys Through Bookland was purchased, used, by my grandmother in the 1940's to read to my father as he grew. In the 60's and 70's, my father read them to me. And I am looking forward to my sons reading it to my grandchildren....

Similarly, I read John Carney's Secrets a year or two ago. I love the book and have been playing with it ever since. I picked up his DVDs, too. They are excellent.

Should my sons enjoy magic as I do, I am most certain they will receive and benefit from Secrets. Whether Mr. Carney's performances will survive into their hands, I cannot say....

Finally, to Asrah's query:
Magic will not be without books.

But the true secrets of our art may fade from the flurry of electrons available to the many and reside increasingly in the candle-lit pages of tomes preserved by the few.

Whether they will languish or propagate, is the only question.

And, truly, that is not much of a question....

Gordo
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Postby Grant McSorley » 01/16/05 05:34 PM

Gordo,
Great post (as usual).
I've seen plenty of people lose information (important and not) because of problems with electronics. Whether it was because of their ignorance, or because the system was faulty, the fact remains that with a book, you can just put it on a shelf, and not have to worry. I'm not saying this because I don't think e-books are a good idea. They're great if done properly and the user knows how to work with them. But the printed word is still more reliable.
There's only one part of your post I'd like to correct. The physical laws you equated to intellectual ones are actually The Conservation of Energy Law (which was derived from the First Law of Thermodynamics, but isnt' the same thing) and Newton's 1st Law of Motion.

Your friendly neighbourhood engineering geek,
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Postby Erik Hemming » 01/16/05 07:30 PM

Grant-

Bless you for aiding this poor, addled history geek.

Best,

Gordo
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Postby Bill Palmer » 01/16/05 07:43 PM

Yes, books are obsolete. Please pack all of your books in sturdy cardboard containers and send them to me. This will make room for your DVD library.
:D :D :D :D
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Postby Guest » 01/16/05 10:30 PM

I was TVP for Virginia for 8 years ( untill 4

years ago. I hate to tell you how many magicians

told me they could not learn a trick from a book.

They had to have a video ( before DVD's ) or see

it in a lecture. I would tell them I'm glad you

are a magician now because there were four movie

magic lectures and very few live ones, and I was

willing to travel 100 miles. In this world of

instant gratification it will soon become like in

the movie " Total Recall " where they will inject

the knowledge in your brain while you sleep.

Mike : :sleep:
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Postby Guest » 01/17/05 08:16 AM

I'm surprised no one's touched on the scientific facts that people learn in different ways. There are people who learn well from reading, and those who learn from seeing and doing. If I recall correctly, there were three types of learning styles. Visual, auditory, and Tactile/Kinesthetic. There are many tests on the internet that take only a few moments to go through.

Having done some corporate training, it's something we had to be very aware of when trying to teach people. We had to design all our training to include all types, so you didn't end up teaching the auditory learners, and sending the visual learners out the door wondering what just happened.

A quick example I can think of would be car mechanics or just people who like to work on cars. The majority of them do not sit around reading books and getting well versed in the details before tackling a job. They "do" it and learn from seeing it and doing it. That's a visual learner at work. They can read the manual 10 times and get little from it, yet, do it once or see it done once, and they remember it with amazing accuracy. Many people who assemble things and make things are visual learners.

The magic community seems to always want to plot one side against the other for some reason. In this case, it's not an "against or for", it's about having the ability to choose the method of input that suits your particular learning style (which can be determined by testing). There are many techniques to try and help auditory learners learn more visually, and also to help visual learners learn without seeing as much.

I haven't seen any data that shows we're heading radically one way or the other as a nation, due to any long term education practices.

It's along the same lines of left brain/right brain thinkers. Some people are left, some are right, and it's just a fact. One group will always be more creative, while the other is far more structured.

If you are interested it learning about it, do a search for auditory and visual learning and you should find loads of information, along with many sites to find out your style, along with methods to pull you closer to the other style, so you learn from either.
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Postby CHRIS » 01/17/05 08:18 AM

Just a correction on a fundamental issue:

Digital content can in principle last forever. And I mean that in a precise sense. Analog content (books) cannot. Digital information has error margins and can be restored. Or in other words, done correctly with redundancy and backups one can preserve digital content forever. Books, although they can last a long time will eventually deteriorate, even under the most favorable conditions.

If we add usage and cost of preservation, then e-books win by a huge margin.

Also, what has not been mentioned yet is cost of ownership. A book requires a shelf and floor space. Relocating a book cost significantly more than an e-book. For a few books that is not an issue. But once your library has grown to hundreds and thousands of books it matters a lot.

I also think that the searchability of ebooks will stimulate reading. If I can search say 1000 magic books and find a few passages that look interesting, I am more likely to read these than working my way through 1000 books where 99% of the material is uninteresting to me. In other words the search capability of ebooks will allow me to better access and find the parts I am really interested in.

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Postby Michael Edwards » 01/17/05 08:34 AM

Actually, book production has been increasing dramatically for the past several years. R.R. Bowker, the leading provider of bibliographic information in North America, reported that U.S. title output in 2003 had increased a staggering 19% to 175,000 new titles and editions, the highest total ever recorded. According to Bowker, since 1994, new titles have increased 50.8%....at an average hardcover price of $27.62. So what's happening to all these volumes if nobody is reading them? ;)
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/17/05 08:53 AM

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
Just a correction on a fundamental issue:

Digital content can in principle last forever. And I mean that in a precise sense. Analog content (books) cannot. ...
We have text analog text that has been preserved quite well for thousands of years. And we have digital data which has degraded to almost comical nonsense in the last twenty years.

Can we really recover the data/content/context from a digital file once taken out of context?

Then again we are still working on decyphering those cave paintings.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/17/05 08:58 AM

Originally posted by Steve Shepherd:
I'm surprised no one's touched on the scientific facts that people learn in different ways. There are people who learn well from reading, and those who learn from seeing and doing. If I recall correctly, there were three types of learning styles. Visual, auditory, and Tactile/Kinesthetic. There are many tests on the internet that take only a few moments to go through...
This from the same community that gripes about the rest of NLP?

The ONLY significant difference between the video and textual learning is that one is free to interpret from the text, while the video captures what works well for the teacher. There is much merit in V/A/K formats and such is NOT the issue in discussion.

Where folks get stuck is REQUIRING the visual input in order to learn. That is a limitation. Likewise the impulse to imitate what is seen as opposed to interpret material is a challenge to learning as well. When the context is presented in a form that is distinct from its context/application... there can be deeper learning.
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Postby CHRIS » 01/17/05 09:48 AM

Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
We have text analog text that has been preserved quite well for thousands of years. And we have digital data which has degraded to almost comical nonsense in the last twenty years.

Can we really recover the data/content/context from a digital file once taken out of context?
There is a theoretical part and a practical part to it. Even though some texts have been preserved for thousands of years, they still will eventually fall apart, decay and turn to dust. With digital content that is not the case. That is the theoretical part.

The practical part: That does not mean that bad management of digital contents can lead to loss, as we have seen in a few publicized cases.

My point is that if we apply to both forms, analog and digital, good and knowledgable care, the digital contents will outlast analog contents. That is a simple property of the format itself. Bits vs. paper and ink.

If we go a step further then we clearly see the benefit of digital content. Say you have your precious Gutenberg bible. Who is allowed to touch it, read it, turn pages, take it home??? Essentially nobody.

Digitizing such a book makes it available for many, cheaply and without danger to the original. Even if one can preserve a book for thousands of years, to do so nobody is allowed to touch it or read it. This makes little sense to me. In digital form no such limitations exist.

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Postby Guest » 01/17/05 09:57 AM

Where folks get stuck is REQUIRING the visual input in order to learn. That is a limitation. Likewise the impulse to imitate what is seen as opposed to interpret material is a challenge to learning as well. When the context is presented in a form that is distinct from its context/application... there can be deeper learning.
In my training of people who were very good visual learners, I have found they rarely are keen to "do it as shown", but rather use the method shown as nothing more than a reference to come back to and build off of, modify, or interpret in ways I never imagined myself.

That was in a non-magic related field, so I won't assume it's the same with magic, however, a presumption often made is that when learning from a video or being shown something in person, the person learning is unable to develop anything past this point, which is nonsense.
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Postby Randy Naviaux » 01/17/05 11:30 AM

This is also a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I do not know if people are reading more or less than fifty years ago. I would hazard a guess that with the advent of television people are reading a lot less.

My concern is that people don't understand what they are reading. (Thus the need to "show" them how it is done.)

I too have experienced the customer coming into the store paying for an expensive trick or video and yet refusing to buy a book which is the far better deal. The typical comment is something to the effect of 'I can't learn from a book.'

A more accurate statement would be 'I can't understand things I read.'

Out of the last three hundred individuals I have tutored not one of them understood the differences between reading and understanding.

Mr. Hubbard has some interesting things to say on this subject:

http://www.studytechnology.org/10-barr.htm


Sincerely,


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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/17/05 11:59 AM

Originally posted by rnaviaux:
...My concern is that people don't understand what they are reading. (Thus the need to "show" them how it is done.)...
http://www.studytechnology.org/10-barr.htm
Agreed about understanding taking much more than just streaming and sounding out the words as they go by... with incidental ability to recall.

Not so sure Mr. Hubbard's work in this subject is entirely grounded in his own axioms. IMHO he tends to use terms before defining them, and provided no ground level readily available reference for his terms which makes no (or little) use of his own vocabulary. Nice tech for thetans though.
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Postby magicam » 01/19/05 12:50 AM

Gordon Corbin wrote:

So, whither the book?

Unless I miss my guess, specialty publishers will be pushed increasingly in two directions: "E-format" or "book-as-luxury-item." We see it already in magic. Lybrary.com on one end and Todd Karr, and increasingly, Mike Caveney, on the other. In the middle we have stallwarts like Mr. Kaufman and Mr. Minch solidering on doing their best to produce a range of books but relying heavily on highly relevant, highly sought items that will, in terms of their market, be bestsellers.

Anyone making their livelihood in publishing these days is brave. (Or foolish: But the fools don't last long.) Making a livelihood by counting on bestsellers in a niche market is somewhere between epic heroism and a gambling addiction.

Furthermore, the distribution chain for "eformat" is already beginning to rationalize. Lybrary now distributes for clients.

I note that, today, there are collectors of stone & clay tablets, scrolls, winter counts, codexes and various incunabula. Those modes of recording information thrived for thousands of years and were supplanted by the hand-bound book, which was supplanted by the mass-produced book...which is now being supplanted by a variety of e-formats.

Will the book go away? Absolutely not. Will the form change change and the number of titles dwindle? Certainly and almost certainly.
There was a long thread on a similar topic on this forum started by Chris W. (sorry, too lazy to dig up the link). Chris started the thread innocently enough by asking for feedback on the state of the e-book from a consumers viewpoint. To a large degree (and if memory serves), the thread ended up being a debate about the future of books.

Gordon seems to be echoing Chris book as luxury prediction, as well as predicting that the format of books will change. Gordon, you may be right, but I dont think so IMHO. Time will only tell. But I would argue that, absent some utterly astounding and well-in-the-future technological advancements, the e-book will remain the poor (very poor) cousin to the printed book. I wont rehash the arguments here you can find the link started by Chris and read them for yourself. But one point seems worth repeating in light of Steve Shepherds post: one lad in Chris old thread told of a study that was done by some educational or business organization, which concluded that people who read printed books tended to absorb the information better than those who read it on a computer screen (an e-book).

One thing I will challenge Gordon on, and that is the assertion that the printed book is being supplanted by e-books. Not yet, Gordon. Printed book production (as pointed out elsewhere in this thread) is at an all-time high not a promising statistic for the argument that e-books are supplanting printed books.

And finally, since poor Gordon is being picked on for improper usage of certain terms, Ill have a little fun and quibble with the idea that incunabula were supplanted by hand-bound books. Id wager that virtually all incunabula were also hand-bound, like most other books produced prior to the early to mid 1800s. An incunabulum was basically produced like any other book until the advent of stereotype, etc. in the 19th century. There is nothing magical to the year 1501 when it comes to distinguishing hand-bound books.

No knock on Gordon here. We all have our point of view. Im just chiming in with mine.

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Postby CHRIS » 01/19/05 05:22 AM

Let me add another thought on books. I agree that the book industry continues to see an increase in printed/sold books, so does the e-book industry.

However, the landscape of titles has dramatically changed. Today we see a few very popular titles, which are heavily pushed and hyped, like Harry Potter or the latest spill from some insider to some scandal type of books. These books sell more than they ever did. On the other side the backlist is completely eliminated. The variety of books is being lost.

Another reason why still more books are printed is because world population grows and therefore more demand on books.

Eventually the economics of ebooks and the progress in technology will push books in the background. It might be still several years away until this is apparent to most, but it sure will happen.

There is also a chance for print-on-demand, where a desktop printer can bind and perhaps even trim after printing, all automated. Distribution of books would be electronic, say as PDF, and then the user can decide to either print/bind his own book or use it electronically.

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Postby Matthew Field » 01/19/05 06:32 AM

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
Digital content can in principle last forever. And I mean that in a precise sense.
You are correct, Chris, in theory.

In practice, here's what I've found. One of the resources I use when I edit magic books is Bart Whaley's "Encyclopedic Dictionary of Magic," which was, as far as I know, published only as a CD-ROM.

Screwball that I am, I printed the whole G-D thing out and put it in a giganto looseleaf binder. That was years ago.

Flash forward to 2003, or something like that, and I upgrade to Windows XP. Voila! The Whaley CD comes up reading as gibberish. Not just the CD -- the file itself (which I had transferred to my hard drive).

So I write to Mr. Whaley and am told that, alas, the encoding used for the text is incompatible with XP and there are no plans to upgrade it, and Mr. Whaley knows of no fix (or if he does, he ain't telling).

Reinhard Muller has written of the identical problem here on the Genii Forum. I thank the ghost of Merlin that I printed out that gargantua.

Last forever??? In theory, yes. But I'm glad I don't have important stuff on 5" floppies or the many other types of media (some from the respected Iomega company) that are no longer in use, or written in code that is no longer readable.

My books work just fine, thank you. When they turn to dust, so will have I.

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/19/05 06:41 AM

Hold on folks, this is not an exclusive or type situation.

For casual review and scanning, one can use digital format documents ( web pages, ebooks, pdf...) and find what wants. Great for "where is this move or idea" type stuff.

There is also literature which takes a while to read, to savor, and to ponder. Sadly much of our literature has no ambitions of this sort, and not very much even bothers to pretend to literary merit as prose.

Do I really need gilded and illuminated versions of the Paul Harris books from the 1970s? No. Do I feel Greater Magic is something special worth allergic reactions to disintegrating paper? Yes, It's one of those few books I like to look through every decade or so.

Perhaps we can distinguish these texts within our literature. Not so much the wheat from the chaff, but the data from the prose. I suspect we may find that some of the richer mines of lore may also be well written texts, and so have well deserved places in searchable databases and in print on our shelves.

Peace.
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby magicam » 01/19/05 08:59 AM

Jonathan T. wrote:

... [s]adly much of our literature has no ambitions of this sort, and not very much even bothers to pretend to literary merit as prose.
I'm not sure pretending "to literary merit as prose" is a good thing, at least if my understanding of the gist of Jonathans words and the meaning of "prose" is correct.

But Jonathan's point about the co-existence of e-books with printed books for different purposes is a good and valid one IMHO. But who, dear Jonathan, are the folks making the either/or arguments that suggest this mutual exclusivity that you dispute? Well so far as I can tell, they are, generally speaking, the pro e-book folks who predict the takeover of the printed book in the not-too-distant future, the demise of the book except as a luxury item, etc. Those who (like me) believe that the role of the e-book (at least for the next several generations) will be somewhat limited and specialized and will not supplant printed books do not seem to be interested in pushing e-books out of the picture. Perhaps what is really in conflict here is idealism versus pragmatism. Im no Luddite, but I know books and Ive got a few e-books. I find that e-books are better than printed books in only very limited ways: portability and text searchability.

The durability issue that Chris has correctly raised is a function of the paper and binding choices made by publishers not a function of the lack of durable materials for a printed book. Anybody who knows books understands that properly rinsed 100% linen rag paper can look as new today as the day it was manufactured 300 or 400 years ago. The same goes for vellum. Chris has been careful in stating that digital media can last forever in theory. Why? Because Chris understands that even digital media degrades. Ill take fine paper over a CD-ROM any day of the week, not only for durability, but also for beauty.

Heres the link that I mentioned in my prior post on this thread: http://geniimagazine.com/forum/noncgi/u ... 751#000020. Folks who are interested in the survival of printed books issue can read it and see more of the debate fleshed out.

Finally, lest one think I am attacking Chris thats not the case. In my dealings with Chris, he has proven to be a gentleman who has the strength of conviction on his side. I dont question the sincerity of his and others viewpoints in this debate I just happen to disagree fairly strongly.

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Postby Bill Palmer » 01/19/05 12:51 PM

Matthew:

I had a similar problem with some CD's that I needed to read. They read fine on my old machine, but would not read on my XP machine. I found a program that allowed me to read them. It was a program that allowed MAC disks to be read on a PC. I think it's called MAC to PC.

Regarding left-brain/right-brain learning -- very few people are exclusively left brain or exclusively right brain. With proper motivation, people can be taught to learn from almost any medium. And I'm not referring to whips and chains as motivation. Much of it depends on early training.

I have seen this in a completely unrelated field, specifically, learning music. In the 1960's, most people who learned to play the 5-string banjo (who were not fortunate enough to have a teacher) learned by taking the music off records. It was not easy, but we learned. After 1968, massive amounts of "tablature" became available, so learning shifted in that direction. Mow there is a whole generation of "tab junkies" who can't learn a tune any other way. That is, until someone points out how we learned by comparing the sounds of material we already knew to the sounds we heard on the recordings.

We are seeing the same thing in magic, basically. Now we have DVD junkies who think they can't learn from books because they haven't been in a position in which that was the only method available.

I realize there are exceptions, but they are very rare.
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Postby Erik Hemming » 01/19/05 01:29 PM

Writers and readers, all:

Thanks for a fun thread.

Clay-I'm not offended at all...enjoying the conversation.

Um...yes...I was swept away by my own purple prose and was a little redundant on the handbound/incunabula thingy. I was scribbling off the top of my head and made a typical first-draft error. (For the sake of continuity, I will not be editing my first posting for content...other than some of the more awful spelling and grammar errors.)

It is ever in our collective nature to simplify, telegraph much detail in spare gestures that intimate--but never truly disclose--the full shape of our thought. It is a very human trait. We learn so much by making assumptions and testing them. But sometimes the simplest form of the argument is not the best form. And, sometimes, the only bulwark against simplification is the accretion of more words....

Fortunately, words are plentiful....

To clarify: I am not calling out the death knell of the printed book, short term...if, indeed, ever. I was actually talking about the future of specialty markets. And, to be clear, magic is a specialty market.

My fear for a healthy culture was expressed perhaps a little obscurely: I think a culture DOMINATED by ebooks and electronic information would be a bad thing. I think books are the more stable and secure technology. This is true for magic and for the culture broadly.

I do not shun ebooks. I've purchased and been satisfied by any number of ebooks. (Over a hundred, at this point, populating my PCs and PDA.) Do I think contemporary ebooks are a pinnacle solution for disseminating information? No. Thus my point about the variety of written forms that pressaged the contemporary book.

The ebook is insufficiently stable to support the full weight of culture. It's really good with transient and technical data. But I wouldn't feel comfortable if truly crucial ideas--cultural or otherwise--existed only in electronic form.

I know we have authors, historians, publishers and all sorts of other "biblio" folks who read this regularly. I respect their contributions and appreciate the ambient "peer review" here that keeps everything interesting.

To "out" myself a little, I run the trade & technical book sections of one of the largest collegiate bookstores in the U.S. (Top ten.) I'm an independent bookseller. (The equivalent, in the book store world, of a brick & mortar magic shop.I feel Denny's pain.) And I'm simply suggesting that what is already happening in other specialty markets is showing up in magic publishing as well. It is a side-issue to Denny's heart-felt howl...but a direct response to Asrah's query.

Regarding the side issue of the Bowker data on publishing: I've been biting my tongue on that one. I deal with Bowker and Bowker's data on a daily--sometimes minute by minute--basis. And to be truthful, it is reasonably accurate--within limits. What isn't clear is context.

Bowker CATALOGS new books. The number of books quoted is the number of books registered by Bowker. It has some relation to the books that make it into stores and are sold--but the ratio is far from 1:1. (Books in brick & motar stores = A large subset of Bowker's database: Perhaps 60-75%.)

In truth, any one who has a computer, an internet connection, patience, persistance and some bucks can figure out how to catalog a book with Bowker. Know what you're looking at: Some of the titles listed there are ebooks, dissertations (in electronic or "micro" form), one-book publishers, vanity press publishers, books on tape, foreign books re-registered by French & European, and a host of other catagories that will see limited or no circulation in actual, physically printed & circulated form. They are the ghosts in the machine awaiting animation where the corpus lies burried somewhere...praying for retrieval that almost never comes.

My point was actually about the narrowing of the regularly available media, and our lemming-like chasing after the "new, new thing." Many books are cataloged...but fewer and fewer seem to be bought. It is an analog again to agriculture. The number of species of plants we know of grows everyday, but the variety of plants we subsist upon shrinks. Why? Is it good? If it isn't good: What do we do?

I was speculating, aloud--in a very modestly informed way--about the convergence of trends. They are real trends in my part of the book industry. I was wondering if it was something innate to being human--or if it was being accentuated by other cultural conditions. I was wondering if the same thing was happening to our little corner of the culture and engaging in some prognostication about the future.

In any case, I share Denny's bafflement. And I am pleased to be sharing this small corner of literary culture with the readers and writers here.

Long may it prosper.
(Thank you, Mr. Kaufman.)

Gordo
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Postby CHRIS » 01/20/05 10:44 AM

Originally posted by Matthew Field:
Flash forward to 2003, or something like that, and I upgrade to Windows XP. Voila! The Whaley CD comes up reading as gibberish. Not just the CD -- the file itself (which I had transferred to my hard drive).
Matt,

do you know what format this file comes in?

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Postby Brad Henderson » 01/20/05 12:08 PM

I have degrees in education, and always felt uncomfortable when people would use their learning modalities as an excuse. The fact is learning modalities are learned, not genetic. It has been shown that people can develop those skills. While of course, we are born with certain innate tendencies, no one is unable to develop other learning modalities.

Plus both reading and watching a video are often considered VISUAL modes of learning. In other words, they use the same processes - interpretting the sense date as visual images.

So, the arguement that I'm a visual learner should not mean one is unable to learn from books, its how they learn from books.

I am a book learner, and have a very hard time learning when people show me something. It is almost impossible for me to learn that way, but I AM a still visual learner.

I think the real situation is this:

Most magicians do not learn anything. They think that "knowing this secret" is the same as learning. They can watch a video and easily "know the secret" therefore they believe they learn from videos.

Most of them never really perfect a single trick in their life. Most can't even "walk through" most of the tricks they say they "know."

Books require a little more work to "know the secret."

I believe it is entriely a matter of laziness.
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Postby Matthew Field » 01/21/05 01:26 AM

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
do you know what format this file comes in?
Nope. That's what I was basically asking Bart Whaley.

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Postby Michael Edwards » 01/21/05 02:24 AM

Matt: I have the two volume 785-page printed edition of Bart Whaley's Encyclopedic Dictionary of Magic 1584-1988 published by Jeff Busby Magic, Oakland, 1989. You're free to borrow it...but you better hurry..Chris tells me it may disintegrate over the next several hundred years. ;) Michael
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Postby CHRIS » 01/21/05 09:01 AM

Originally posted by Matthew Field:
Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
[b] do you know what format this file comes in?
Nope. That's what I was basically asking Bart Whaley.[/b]
How could you then print it out?? I assume it is not a PDF/HTML/DOC/WORDPERFECT/ASCII.

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Postby CHRIS » 01/21/05 09:13 AM

Originally posted by Michael Edwards:
...but you better hurry..Chris tells me it may disintegrate over the next several hundred years. ;)
I better get back to work and finish the fully searchable Sphinx which is half-way done. At least I now know who doesn't want to get the fully searchable electronic Sphinx :-)
BTW, I don't think printing 17,000 pages is a good option either :-)

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