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"It was a good thing to have a couple of thousand people all rigid and frozen together, in the palm of one's hand." - Charles Dickens
May 17, 2011 7:02 AM   Subscribe

An E-Reader for Dickens: Designing a 19th-Century Kindle.
posted by Fizz (28 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, Dickens was a huge Salinger fanboy. There are Catcher in the Rye references all through his stuff and Pickwick Papers is basically little more than Holden/Stradlater slash.
posted by Naberius at 7:09 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want to see pictures from inside the tiny books. Did they really print the full text of the book super tiny so it would fit in there? Or is there - like - a synopsis of each book inside the little books? Or is it just pretend?
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 7:14 AM on May 17, 2011


By George, you people of the Year 2000 must have magnifying-glasses beyond our wildest imaginings! What a wonderful world that is to come.
posted by theodolite at 7:15 AM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm so glad this wasn't steampunk.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:20 AM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


OK. That seems pretty weak sauce.

There already is a Victorian e-reader analog. It's called a library. If that doesn't float your boat, then I'd suggest the easiest way to produce this would be to train small children from the poor houses to be able to recount multiple stories. Not sure Charles Dickens would approve of this.

Also - the article wasn't steam-punky enough.
posted by seanyboy at 7:22 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm so glad this wasn't steampunk.

Abominators be abominatin'.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:24 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dickens: Oh Person of the Future: Why exactly would I need to carry around all the volumes in my Library at one time? I'll surely be back home to my Library before I finish any one of them.

But, I believe I understand! I can take this on a long voyage instead and...what did you say about eleck-tricity source? Eh? I do not understand after all..
posted by vacapinta at 7:28 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think e-readers are a fine idea in principle, but I downloaded "La Disparition" to my e-reader and it's just 300 blank pages. They should build one that can read letters other than "e".
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:31 AM on May 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


I downloaded "La Disparition" to my e-reader and it's just 300 blank pages.

What's the problem? You paid for A Void and you got A Void!
posted by Herodios at 7:40 AM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Actually I think the basic concept of a Kindle is easy enough to understand (a flat tablet where the pages of any book can be made to appear). Of course Charles Dickens wouldn't have understood the technology, but then this wouldn't really help with that - and how many Kindle users really do understand it anyway?
posted by Segundus at 7:41 AM on May 17, 2011


Did they really print the full text of the book super tiny so it would fit in there? ... Or is it just pretend?

Typically, dollhouse books do not have printed pages.

Sorry.
posted by Trurl at 7:41 AM on May 17, 2011


Cute. I too was expecting something that was just a kindle with some woodgrain painted on and some glued on bits of brass - like the tacky crap that Boing Boing was flooded with before I stopped reading it. This is cooler.
posted by Artw at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Typically, dollhouse books do not have printed pages.

:(((

Man, it *could* be done. IBM printed up an image of an alchemical symbol, using 20,000 gold atoms. I'm sure we could print Don Quixote at the required size for this book.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 7:53 AM on May 17, 2011


You paid for A Void and you got A Void!

And I'm reading it while listening to 4' 33" in a room with Martin Creed's "Work No. 227: The Lights Going On And Off".

This is the least satisfying artistic experience anyone has ever had.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:54 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


But...but...a Kindle isn't a book! Wouldn't it have made more sense to create a magic lantern with a few million boxes of pages-on-slides next to it?
posted by mittens at 7:57 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I ... clicked and kept looking over the photos, searching for the superfluous brass knobs.

Where are they?
posted by adipocere at 8:00 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Weep not! Oh, antiquarian lovers of façade!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:02 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, if this were a real Kindle, the tiny books would have a gold coin hidden in the center and each little book would be made out of flash paper, so when Amazon wanted to take away your ability to read a given work, they could aim some kind of long-focus magnifying glass at your book from one of their overhead blimps and the book would vanish in a puff of smoke, leaving money behind.

Steampunk DRM, baby.
posted by adipocere at 8:03 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I still go to the library to get all my books. I don't have an e-reader. I don't even have an iPod or smartphone! 19th century 2002 REPRESENT, yo!
posted by phunniemee at 8:12 AM on May 17, 2011


This is the Microsoft Bob of Kindle metaphors.
posted by rh at 8:16 AM on May 17, 2011


Anyway, wouldn't Dickens just read books on some kind of HUD inside his goggles?
posted by Artw at 8:18 AM on May 17, 2011


rh: ...Microsoft Bob...

And see also, Packard Bell Navigator. My point being: real world metaphors often just serve to confuse or (more importantly) limit a user's understanding and expectations of what a computer can do.
posted by rh at 8:24 AM on May 17, 2011


You paid for A Void and you got A Void!

And I'm reading it while listening to 4' 33" in a room with Martin Creed's "Work No. 227: The Lights Going On And Off".

This is the least satisfying artistic experience anyone has ever had.


Shortest science fiction story ever told (director's cut)

The Last Man On Earth is sitting in a room with the lights off reading La Disparition while listening to 4' 33''.

He is unsatisfied.

Suddenly, the phone rings.

He picks it up.

It emits a sharp electronic squeal: "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee 
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee 
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee 
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!".

Balance is restored: the universe is able to end.

And so it does.

fin
posted by Herodios at 8:36 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Typically, dollhouse books do not have printed pages.

Well, sometimes they do. There's a long tradition of thumb bibles and other miniature books. The books in Queen Mary's Dolls' House are specially printed in miniature, and while the British car industry may not be what it once was, when it comes to miniature books for dolls' houses Britain still leads the world.
posted by verstegan at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


This new "Kindle" is compelling, but I prefer my new X-cabinet. Unlike the competitor's gameplay cabinets, the X-Cabinet is powered by pure, clean British coal. Modern game-programmes are delivered by rail from Hindoo programme-factories, and the separately sold Semaphore Adapter allows for on-the-line play between friends and family members in cities as distant as Manchester!

Truly we live in an age of wonders. If you'll excuse me, I must engage in a mechanically simulated tea-bagging of some orphaned bastards.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 9:39 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I generally just ask my valet to select something distracting from the library.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:51 AM on May 17, 2011


The Ruth Adomeit Collection of miniature books at the Lilly Library here in Bloomington has a huge number of printed books (verstegan has linked to the page for thumb bibles, above). I worked there as a cataloger for two years and every time I walked by a box storing some of her tiny books I turned into a little kid, wanting to stop and look through every one. Schloss's English Bijou Almanac, the Calendrier de Tous les Saints, and a luxurious miniature Qur’an were (are) favorites.
posted by Heretic at 5:00 PM on May 17, 2011


I didn't know what to expect when looking at this. I think I was expecting something steampunkish, too. The plethora of information on miniature books has totally made my day, though. I think I want to be a mad scientist when I grow up (steampunk goggles and other accessories optional) just to make a shrink ray and miniaturize my entire library. I'd spend half my time squealing in delight and grinning foolishly at my itty bitty lovely tiny eensy weensy books (and hey, I'd finally have enough shelf space! Well, maybe. There are a LOT of books in this house), and then the other half working on adding functionality to the shrink ray to make things big again so I could actually read the books, since I'm blind as a bat.
posted by lriG rorriM at 7:22 PM on May 17, 2011


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