Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Post-training delirium; Difficulties of naming her/him/it

Our EBM trainer wheeled his toolkit/luggage out of here Saturday evening, leaving us all in an applied physics daze. My brain being composed of about 60% literary criticism, and the rest inert gray matter, I took a day to recover from the crash course in how to maintain our new robot. I still find myself muttering phrases like “book block” “photo-cyan” “vertilamer clamp” and “shear jaws” on Monday morning, as we fire her/him/it up for the first time with very few difficulties.

I did drag myself out of bed this morning for a good cause: we are printing Haitian Creole – English Medical Dictionaries for use in that country. I guess the noble impulse originated with Google, who is a partner of the company (On Demand Books) that brought us our Book Machine: five or six other EBMs across the US are being put to work for the same purpose. It's strange to think of these slim volumes--still hot from printing—arriving in the hands of nurses and doctors in a disaster-zone.

Meanwhile, I have been too much in the guts of the Machine to anthropomorphize her/it/him properly. Names proposed are The Tin Man, Ruby (after Rube Goldberg), and Bartleby the Scrivener. Privately, I keep wanting to call her/him/it Hal, despite the lack of a burning red eye and soothing, male voice reassuring us, “Everything is under control...”

Monday, January 25, 2010

Welcome home, Espresso Book Machine!

Day One of training has come to an end. It turns out our model is perfect. I tried to stump the engineer with troubles other operators have had. For example, the “fat book flop” when a 600 page tome splays open during the binding process and can’t be muscled back into position. “We’ve installed a shield for that.” How about the need for waxing the shoot through which the cover passes, making it slippery enough to overcome accidental friction. “That’s been redesigned completely.” I don’t know if it’s pride, but I believe him: our book machine is god-like. In a heavily wired, robotic kind of way.


All day bookstore staff piled recommendations on my desk of titles for test printing. Goody Two Shoes, a children’s book classic from the 18th century. Charles Lamb’s Essays of Elia (“the most delightful of English essayists”) and the winner, first out of the gate, was Edmond Meany’s 1901 dissertation, Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce. Steve, our lit guy who harbors a secret passion for out of print NW history books (who knew?), handed me a photo of Edmond Meany, one-time University of Washington professor, standing over the seated Chief Joseph. Yes, they actually hung out together. We printed the large-format book successfully, complete with the signatures of Meany’s advisory committee.

It has been a great highly-caffeinated first day.

- The Book Barista

tell all your friends!