Monday, August 30, 2010


The big puzzle now is how to get any specific printed matter. Never has so much been so available but not since early Gutenburg has it been so hard to find. This is because not only may the actual nature of the print range from paper to pixels, but also the gizmo on which you read may be anything from loose sheets to a cutting edge device requiring batteries, and you may be accessing videos mixed with print or spoken words with sound effects. Then there is the huge range of sources (many languages, beginning with children almost too young to spell, arcane academic works, pirated data, narcissistic chattering, and surreal poetry). The problem becomes not just where to find what you want, but how to conceive of what might be out there, in the famous phrase, “the unknowns you don’t know about.” Have you heard about the “number transmission” on ham radios that are presumably spy communication? Nothing but a detached voice reading a series of numbers.

An additional factor is that marketing systems have been radically -- I mean RADICALLY -- changed by electronics. Amazon, online remainder houses, online used book sources, are systematically wiping out the corner bookstore, but NOT the people in them who were living repositories of knowledge about books. Yet those people are not identifiably online to tell us what they know. They have been replaced by something called an “algorithm” which is a mathematical formula designed to sort information in some way more sophisticated than alphabetically or numerically (ISBN). Factors included are usually gender, age, income, education, what movies you’ve rented, what books you’ve already read or own, whether you have pets, where in the nation you live, whether you are city or country, what kind of food you eat, and so on. Then the factors might be weighted: more importance given to what college you attended (and what department you were in), less to what kind of car you drive. This is entirely from the point of view of the book marketer, whatever kind the book might be. , which prints for authors books on demand, produces a thousand books a day. It’s internal sorting is by subject and by staff recommendation. Powell’s, the huge bookstore in Portland, does the same thing. YouTube sorts by subject. Many smaller websites try to capture clients, both producers and consumers, by specializing in educational material or YA books. Sometimes work is grouped: “If you liked this, you might like that.”

Academic publishers have been slow to catch up, partly because codex bound books, adjudicated by peer review, have been an important way of sorting people instead of books. They are indicators for tenure. Also, they deal in journals as much as shelf books. People cling to the status quo because it means their jobs. Catching up with this is the number of websites like TED or The Edge, that present lectures in both video and manuscript. The university itself will be far more deeply affected by all this than they realize at present. It’s an auto-didact’s heaven. And a monopoly-smasher.

In the past small groups of certified elite entities or persons have been able to control publication and scholars’ work. They have sold access (books, lectures) as a way of financing themselves that did not depend on rich patrons who might or might be sympathetic, might or might not interfere with what was written. (No longer dukes and kings -- now international corporations.) This pattern applies both to small local historical societies and to mega-universities of enormous prestige and to Manhattan publishing cabals that have totally sold out to the marketing department, right down to synthesizing authors for ghosted works by hiring people to impersonate an author. Most of the public has not realized any of this, has had no reason to reflect on the consequences in their own lives.

From the point of view of the consumer, most of us would not know how to write an app (application) for an algorithm (though they tell us this is what we need to do) but soon there will be an app for an app that will do that. I will need several because I cruise a number of different categories from fMRI brain research to Blackfeet oil drilling transactions to the highland clearances in Scotland and so on. In the meantime Amazon and Netflix try to make their little “five star” ratings work and there are voluntary aggregators of readers who post their libraries in hopes of finding people with similar collections. (How many books do they have? It would take me a week to enter my books and few have bar codes, let alone ISBN numbers of even Library of Congress designations. And maybe -- like snoopers who want to find out what library books you have read -- some people will be far too interested in what I have.)

More important to me is the “publishing” of my writing, that reciprocal and synthesizing sort of book. I composed the appended list (which doesn’t include works in progress or works in file cabinets) according to what is formally published. Don’t expect anyone to come around to your place to beg you to buy them. Some are free. (The pdf’s about Blackfeet.)

MARY STRACHAN SCRIVER writes in various modes that must be accessed in various ways. She does not aggressively market. You must look for the books. Online is best. I have none of these books at my house. Here is some help:

STANDARD BOOKSTORE: “Bronze Inside and Out: A Biographical Memoir of Bob Scriver” was published by the University of Calgary Press. It is acquired from any bookstore that has standard wholesale access or can be acquired from the academic wholesaler at Michigan State University Press. ( If you Google you can find it at Amazon and other sources, sometimes for a discount. I have to buy these books myself.

SELF-PUBLISHED (Sometimes called “Nahpi-Yahki Press,” which means “White Woman Press”) books are available in two modes from You can download some pdf’s for free, or you can buy the books conventionally bound through the internet. They will come to you by mail. Since these are printed on demand, I do not have a supply of them. Many of the books are Blackfeet history.

OTHER SMALL PRESSES: A book of my prairie sermons was published by the Edmonton First Unitarian Church dba “Moosemilk Press.” This book, “Sweetgrass and Cottonwood Smoke,” was remaindered. All the copies left are available through Driftwillow Press in Great Falls. 725 4th Ave. S. , Great Falls, MT 59405, Phone: 406-453-0685, Fax: 406-453 0276

I write a thousand-word essay every morning for
Occasionally I post items of interest to Bob Scriver fans to
I write with Tim Barrus, who publishes print and video on Facebook, but what I write with him does not appear on Facebook nor does it show up on Google. It is often poetry.

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