Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Phat books and passing obsessions.

One of the biggest (literal) challenges of working with Ginger and the database of books, is the page-count limit. The specifications talk about an outer extent of 850 pages, and no less than 40. That's quite a variance, and 97% of all books fit into that spread.

This chunky puppy to the left (The Dictionary of's a very long title) clocked in at 723 pages. Which made me a tad bit nervous, because books of such girth can cause...problems. See the image below.

We had a great laugh when this "Soviet Literature" book failed the way it did; it was a learning experience, and we're prepared next time an order comes across our database (like the Dictionary above). These issues are ultimately, the limits of the machine's basic functions, but not the limits of our innovation and imagination. Slightly thinner paper, splitting a book into multiple volumes--these are just a few possibilities.

Every day I keep stumbling upon, not just obscure books, but whole fields of interest in the Google Editions, & I spend some time looking at these lost topics. The public's attention can wax and wane in the book industry (right now we can't get enough of "My Dog/cat/squirrel & I share a special bond" books, for example). As these topics fall behind demand, the books go out of print, and, as recently as 4 years ago, were only available as super-rare used books.

But that's all changed. A simple search on our database for 'Circus' brought up many delightful books on Circus life in the late 19th- early 20th century (for now you can do the equivalent search at Google Books). "Theatrical and Circus Life: or, Secrets of the Stage, Greenroom, and Sawdust Arenas"  is a comprehensive tome with dozens of illustrations of what the titles suggests; "On the Road with a Circus" is a journalist's account of actually traveling with a circus in the U.S. What continued my obsession was the realization that the availability of these books is not mere whimsy; circuses don't really exist in the modern era any more (for good reason, as this news item can attest), and some have evolved to be smaller, mostly acrobatic troupes. Regardless, there's probably a wealth of tips and tricks that modern performers can draw upon.

My most recent obsession is Stage Magic, partly fueled by my love of "The Prestige" (book and movie), and I may post about it another time, but once again, Google Books is an excellent armchair adventure.

Finally: local press. The Stranger's Book Section spent a little time getting to know Ginger recently, and Paul Constant's article is here. "Cherubic, and excitable," ah, an economic and apt use of language indeed...

Final Edit: We've set up a searchable database on our website & it can be found here.

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