Back to the Future

The rise of digital music has resulted in a rise in vinyl sales.

Derrida discussed the fetishization of supposedly dying technologies (ie paper) in the face of recent innovation (digital text) in his collection Paper Machine.  On RealityStudio a couple years back, I mentioned how this trend played into the renewed interest in the publications of the mimeo revolution on the collectible market.  Digital media is also jumpstarting interest in printing one's own publications be they broadside, chapbook, or postcard.  In some cases, this has meant dusting off the mimeo machines and letterpresses sitting in garages and basements.

Of course this phenomenon occurred in the decade after WWII as well.  The technological shift was the availability of cheaper offset presses, which replaced letterpresses in professional print shops.  Printing costs fell in the US and abroad, aided by a strong dollar.  The letterpresses depended on by the printshops became disposable and available for sale.  In addition, mimeographs and other duplicators became widely available on the commerical market at cheap prices.  To say nothing of those machines demobilized from military services.

What is different is the economic climate.  The first mimeo revolution occurred in an economic boom and a time of surplus resources and capital.  Today, self-publishing is rising in a time of depression and a resource crisis.  I have yet to get my head around why this is exactly.  Unlike the 1950s and 1960s, printing on mimeo or letterpress is not cheaper than going to your local Kinkos.  So it must be an intellectual and aesthetic decision.  Is this merely a rarified market of connoisseurs and aesthetes who are fiddling while Rome burns or it is an underground of samizdat revolutionaries working against a crumbling regime?  Or is it both? Neither?


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