To whom it may concern

To whom it may concern

This is a heavily edited transcript of a talk I gave on the 20th November 2013 at MMC Zavoda K6/4. The subject of the talk were e-books. I shared my perspective from the point of view of an independent bookseller.

There are some interesting bits. I share my analysis of the subject. And, yes, I depart into the wide and dangerous forests of talking abut subsidies, vertical distribution, interests of capital, and the virtues of sharing.

The talk is in Slovene. To be precise – in a very relaxed, colloquial, almost my own private Slovene. Language purists beware! It’s neither grammatically nor politically correct. Read at your own risk.

(Thanks to Maja and Dare for inviting me. Thanks to Alenka Pirman for recommending me.)

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1) Moje ime je Dean. Sem vodja ljubljanske knjigarne Behemot. Rojen v Zagrebu, od leta 1991 do leta 2003 živel v Pragi. V Ljubljani živim od leta 2003. To so spremembe. Okolje se spreminja, postavlja določene naloge pred nas. Na te se odzivamo s spremebami v sebi.

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2) Taijiquan je borilna veščina iz družine notranjih borilnih veščin. Izhaja iz starih daoističnih principov. Je način kako raziskujemo spremembe. Partner, s katerim vadiš, ti daje nalogo. Partnerjev gib je naloga. Poskusiš odgovoriti. Narediš svoj gib. Se spremeniš. Se prilagodiš.

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3) Ključni momenti, kako razmišljaš o spremembah, so:
3.1) Smer. Smer je zelo pomembna. Ali ta pest potuje proti mojemu nosu?
3.2) Čas je pomemeben. Kdaj bo prispela do mojega nosu?
3.3) Craig Mod¹ je človek, ki premišljuje o prihodnosti medija knjige. Na internetu je veliko njegovih predavanj. “No Dismissal” je en pomemben koncept, ki sem si ga tukaj sposodil.
Drugače povedano: Ko pest potuje proti nosu, ne smeš tega ignorirati. Če zanikaš spremembe, ne narediš nič dobrega.
Ne vem, če se spomnite: “Saj nihče ne bo bral na zaslonu.” “Saj nihče ne bo dal številko svoje kartice.” To so bili veljavni koncepti. Nekoč. To so primeri zanikanja. Simptom nojeve glave v pesku.
3.4) Pomembno je, nas uči taiji, najti svoj center. To pomeni, pomisliti: Kdo si? Kje si? Kaj si? Kaj počneš?
Ko najdeš svoj center, potem vse to, kar se okoli tebe spreminja, ni več tvoj nasprotnik. Ta spreminjajoči se svet postane tvoj partner-učitelj. Je nekdo, ki ti daje ustvarjalno nalogo. Je nekdo, ki ti omogoča, da se razvijaš.

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4) Poglejmo strukturo te pesti. Malo sem se poigral. Ločil sem ta dva pojma: a) elektronska in b) knjiga. Sprašujem se, katera asocijativna polja lahko zgradim okoli teh besed. To je igra. Je svojevrstna umetnost.
Začnemo s tistim, kar jih povezuje: “Code is poetry”.
Knjige pišemo. Tukaj smo na začetku. Knjige je najprej potrebno napisati. Za to je potreben en zelo resen odnos do sebe in sveta. Navdih? Nekaj skoraj mističnega. Težko je razumeti. Kdo smo? Kaj smo? Kam gremo? Zelo osnovna vprašanja.
Na eni strani imamo virtualno, na drugi realno. Knjiga je del zaznavne realnosti. Je fizični artefakt. Elektronska knjiga? Danes je, jutri je ni. Stvari se spreminjajo zelo enostavno. Knjiga, ki je enkrat natisnjena, se ne da več spremeniti. Vsaj do naslednjega ponatisa.
V spreminjanju elektronskih vsebin lahko sodelujem. Imam blog in tam imam gumb na katerem piše “publish”. Ne vem, če se spomnite, v 80-ih je to bilo nekako tako: Najprej kliči v tajništvo. Kdaj bo urednik imel čas? Ali bo lahko prebral? In kdaj bo imel čas, če sploh, da pove kaj o tem? Tukaj pa imaš: “publish”, “publish”, “publish”! Vsak dan kolikokrat hočeš. Lahko sodeluješ.
Knjigo pa lahko samo berem. Namesto “Wall” bi tukaj moralo pisati “The Wall”. Saj gre za berlinski zid. Gre za 80-ta leta in za stekleno steno izložbe. Stojiš zunaj, je druga polovica novembra, dežuje, malo mraz je in nimaš denarja. Toda to knjigo bi pa res rad imel. Internet ima popolnoma drug asocijativni pol: “free, copy, all together”.
Jaron Lanier je zelo zanimiv. V svoji knjigi You are Not a Gadget nam pove, kako je “copy” ukaz sploh nastal. Izvemo, da je v zgodnjem obdobju interneta, Xerox bil pomemben sponzor. In ker je Xerox firma, ki se ukvarja s fotokopirnimi stroji, so potem naredili še to funkcijo. Svet bi lahko bil popolnoma drugačen. Ampak to je zdaj del tega, to je zakodirano v tem asocijativnem polju.
Knjigo lahko ukradem. Zadnjič smo se pogovarjali o tem. Osebno ne bi uporabil te paralele s štručko kruha. S knjigarnarstvom se ukvarjam že več kot 15 let. Ne enkrat sem tekel za nekom, ki mi je knjigo ukradel. Ne enkrat sem ujel tistega, ki mi jo je ukradel. In neštetokrat so mi knjigo ukradli, a da jih nisem ujel.
Spomnimo se raje na svoja gimnazijska leta. Drugačno ozračje je okoli pojma “ukrasti knjigo”. Skozi to mitsko dimenzijo se knjiga dotika tistega, kar je naša temeljna pravica. Vsi imamo enako pravico do znanja. To dejstvo močno spreminja koncept “ukrasti knjigo”. Seveda, na internetu je to zelo enostavno: “copy-paste”, “copy-paste”..
Tukaj je zelo catchy element: “needs a device”. Veliki problem je, da ta fluidni svet v katerem lahko participiraš, ki ima v sebi zakodirano to “copy-free-all-together”.. Da ta prelepi svet potrebuje nekakšen “device” – To je hud problem.
Jaz ne morem verjeti in me to zelo skrbi, ker izgleda, da bodo računalniki brez tipkovnic izpodrinili računalnike s tipkovnicami. Vse te elektronske vsebine se stekajo v naprave, ki predstavljajo še hujše orodje manipulacije, kot je knjiga. Knjiga je del zaznavne realnosti. Primeš jo, lahko jo zabrišeš komu v glavo, lahko z njo zgradiš podporno polico v omari. Lahko jo plačaš z gotovino. Ni nobene sledilne naprave. Nihče ne bo vedel, da si jo kupil. Lahko jo podariš ali daš naprej. Knjiga je zelo subverzivna v tem smislu. Noben Kindle ni na tak način subverziven. To je blazno tricky question, to “needs a device”.
Če smo že pri tem, jaz vedno vztrajam pri tej zgodbi o tipkovnici. Če naprava ima tipkovnico, potem je to orodje s katerim (pogojeno, vendar le) lahko soustvarjam in spreminjam svet. Če pa nima tipkovnice, sem pač le “consumer”, ovčka znotraj ograde.

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5) Genijalni Bruce Sterling². Če kdo ima težave z angleščino, to približno pomeni: Tekstovna vsebina v bralniku ni nič bolj knjiga, kot je mp3 fajl v živo nastop skupine the Beatles. To je par excellance. Te datoteke se imenujejo “knjiga” zgolj iz razlogov kapitala. Kapital diktira, da temu še danes pravimo “knjiga”. V resnici ta virtualna vsebina ni več knjiga.

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6) Zakaj tega zdaj nimamo? Neil Gaiman³, ko govori o svoji mladosti, pove tudi o tem kako je v 80-ih igral v punk-rock bandu. Včlanili so se v združenje in na kitare dobili nalepke s napisi: “HOMETAPING KILLS MUSIC”. Se pravi, v 80-ih se je že vedelo. Bila so podjetja, ki so ustvarjala vertikalno distribucijo in presnemavanje je bilo prepovedano.
Ampak, v 80-ih je preprosto nekdo drug prišel s tem izdelkom na trg. In ljudje so rekli: “Magic!” Nastala je nova subkultura. Nov žanr. John Cusack v filmu High Fidelity lepo govori o tem, kaj to pomeni, če komu posnameš kaseto. Ta namišljena “kraja” je omogočila nastanek ene nove vrste ustvarjalnosti.
Zakaj danes tega nimamo? Zakaj nihče ne pride ven z double-deck tape recorderjem? Zakaj se samo ukvarjamo z DRM (Digital Rights Management) in vprašanji platforme? Kindle, iPad, Kobo? To so Sauronove trdnjave. Imamo pet, šest Sauronov. Vsak gradi svoje ograde. Čim več ovčk si želijo.

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7) Evo ga! Tukaj je! Peter Sunde s prijatelji! Oni imajo double-deck tape recorder. Vsi ga poznate, vsi ga uporabljate. Verjetno. Mogoče tega ne bi smel povedati, ampak – meni se zdi, da je TPB (The PIrate Bay) ta progresivna sila, ki vzpostavlja princip “COMMUNITY” in princip “PEOPLE BEFORE PROFITS”. Jaz ne vidim drugega double-deck tape recorderja.

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8) Seveda, veliko je še odprtih vprašanj. Situacija je zelo zbegana. Dobro je pogledati kaj počne mularija. Kaj počnejo mladi? Te dni sem bil na enem sestanku, kjer je nekdo omenil koncept ciljne skupine. Takrat sem dojel, da “ciljna skupina” ni statična. Je živa snov. Je žele, ki se pretaka. Vedno novi ljudje prihajajo in vedno novi odhajajo. Tisti, ki je danes 14, bo jutri 24. Pomembno je slediti mladim.
Niso več 80-a, ko je knjiga bila tisto, po čemer smo hrepeneli skozi stekleno steno izložbe. Knjiga ni več edina. Ta Brechtov koncept ne zajame več vsega.

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9) Povabljen sem kot knjigarnar. En izmed malega števila neodvisnih knjigarnarjev v Ljubljani. Odvisno je, kako to vzamete. Striktno gledano, mislim da so trenutno trije. Prej jih je bilo več. Kmalu jih bo manj. En tip prodaja stripe v Murglah. Ena gospa ima v Kosezah knjigarno s knjigami v slovenščini. In jaz se približno 8 let ukvarjam s knjigami v angleščini.
Tole so moje izkušnje. To so osnovni načini, kako se spremembe manifestirajo:
9.1) Tisti, ki so še vedno zvesti tiskani knjigi, bodo to knjigo naročili na internetu, ker je tam cenejša.
9.2) “Digitalizacija tekstovnih vsebin” je koncept širšega obsega. Zajema tudi družbene procese, ki so tako zanimivi. Ne gre samo za elektronsko knjigo. Jaz osebno elektronske knjige ne doživljam kot pomemben element. Osebno si mislim, da je to suha veja. To je trenutno tu, pred nami, samo zaradi interesa kapitala.
Elektronska knjiga je dejansko pomembna na način projekta Gutenberg. Je pomembna na način, da se stvari arhivirajo, skenirajo in naredijo dostopne.
Big data in algoritmi iskanja vzorcev so zdaj aktualni. Nihče se več ne znajde v tej gori podatkov. Danes ima že skoraj vsak več knjig na disku, kot jih imajo skupaj vse osnovnošolske knjižnice tukaj naokoli. Da bi prebrali vse te knjige, bi potrebovali nekoliko življenj. Zato se danes ukvarjamo z algoritmi, ki “znajo prebrati” to maso podatkov. O tem ne vem veliko. Vsekakor pa mislim, da sama komercijalna e-knjiga ni pomembna. Bolj pomembna je digitalizacija tekstovnih vsebin, še posebej v smislu arhiviranja, prostega dostopa in omogočanja novih zvrst ustvarjalnosti.
9.3) Nekoč sem na tem mestu govoril o finančni krizi. Vendar je “finančna kriza” le instrument nečesa drugega. Zato danes raje uporabim besede “varčevalni ukrepi” (austerity measures). To je mogoče nekakšna nova oblika vojne. Ne bi zdaj o tem. Rad bi, da se okoli tega preveč ne sekiramo. Potrebno se je lotiti nečesa, nekaj početi. To kar nam mediji prezentirajo, ni dobro. In to se ne bo kar tako kmalu in zlepa končalo. Veliko pametnih ljudi o tem govori, lahko najdete na internetu.
9.4) To s tem časom, to je rahla spekulacija. Ne vem, če opazite. Ampak, nimamo več toliko časa. Douglas Rushkoff⁴ o tem govori. Prebrati knjigo? Ja, seveda. Obstaja ta nišna skupinica. Ta bo vedno obstajala. Ljudje radi beremo. To je čudovita reč. Je najboljša oblika virtualne realnosti. Medtem ko bereš, vse v tebi nastaja! Jaz nekaterih filmov preprosto ne morem gledati. To kar sem doživel skozi knjigo, je bistveno bolj pristno.
Vseeno opažam ta blagi pojav ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Enostavno nimamo več toliko “zicflajša”. Nekaterih reči ne odsedimo. Mogoče je to povezano s finančno situacijo. Človek mora leteti na osem strani in biti zelo aktiven, nenehno kaj novega iskati, poskušati. Vendar poglejmo internet: tekst, ki ima 4 do 6 strani se že imenuje long-form. Nekaj je na tem. To so te spremembe.
Dejstva na desni strani slajda so:
9.5) Jaz sem vedno operiral izključno s knjigami v angleščini. Sem del angloameriškega ekosistema. Čeprav sem imel knjigarno v Pragi in tukaj – sem ves čas dejansko del angloameriškega ekosistema. Dvomim, da lahko povem karkoli, kar bi vas zanimalo. Lokalnega knjigotrškega ekosistema ne poznam. Le kot en vesoljec opazujem. In rečem:
9.6) Kaj vas briga? Vi imate subvencije.

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10) Lahko vseeno premišljujemo. Dovolite, prosim. Ne me narobe razumeti. Tudi jaz imam rad, če mi kdo da denar. V Pragi sem kot študent, dvakrat prejel štipendijo od Sorosevega Open Society Fund-a. Zelo sem vesel, če mi kdo kaj da. Nočem kritizirati. Le rad bi odprl debato. Dejstvo je, da bo subvencij vedno manj. Ne glede na to, koliko protestiramo. V shemi nekoliko naslednjih let, ne kaže, da bi se to bistveno spremenilo.
10.1) Na nek način so subvencije neke vrste anestetik. Spomnim se, ko sem prvič potoval. Bilo je leto 91. Sprehajal sem se po parku v Münchenu. Mogoče sem vse to narobe razumel. Veliko zanimivih, mladih ljudi sem videl dopoldan, v parku. Imeli so veliko otrok. Nekdo mi je razložil, da lahko shajaš iz meseca v mesec, a da ni potrebno preveč delati. Na en način je to the best. Na drug način pa država pomiri-podredi ravno najbolj ustvarjalne ljudi. Tiste, ki bi lahko spremenili ta svet. Oziroma spremenili to, kar je na svetu narobe. Bomo raje jutri.
10.2) Problem pa je tudi, da je to sistem kontrole. Gre za vertikalno distribucijo. Obstaja ena punca. Ne vem, če temu sledite. Na internetu so take zanimive reči, kot so Kickstarter in Indiegogo. Slovenci smo baje v tem najbolj uspešni, statistično gledano. Ena punca iz lepih, izbranih kosov lesa, izdeluje nekakšne igrače za odrasle. To je, seveda, bolj težko prijaviti na razpis. Kickstarter je pomagal. Hočem reči, da na razpis lahko prijaviš le to, kar je v razpisni dokumentaciji. To je način kontrole. Ne vem, če se spomnite, par let nazaj je tema bila “mobilnost”. Vsi so delali nekaj na to temo. Leta 2010 je bila knjiga. Zato imamo danes med drugim tudi “Hišo litrature”. Ne vemo pa kaj z njo.
10.3) Najslabši element so komolci. Mi smo skupnost. Majhna, vendar kljub temu skupnost. Pozabljamo drug na drugega. Naša pozornost je usmerjena vertikalno, gor, k mamici. Ne zavedamo se možnosti horizontalne izmenjave.
Horizontalna izmenjava je: jaz naredim uhane, ti narediš čevlje, on naredi spletno stran, tisti pa ima paradižnik. To je zelo pomembno. Prav zaradi tega, ker nam je zdaj tako težko. Mamica bo imela vedno manj denarja. In če bodo otroci obračali komolce drug proti drugemu, ne bo dobro. Dobro bi bilo, da se otroci zavejo in pomislijo, kaj lahko dosežejo skupaj.

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11) Mesto je prostor horizontalne izmenjave. So nekatere reči, ki jih mesta dobro počnejo. Nenazadnje smo mi ustvarili mesto, prav tako, kot smo ustvarili internet. Mesto in internet sta si zelo podobna. Imata veliko skupnega. Problem je, ko pride do nelogične zanke, do neveljavnega loop-a, v katerem eno negira drugo.
To fotografijo je nekdo posnel. Žal, ne vem kdo. Našel sem jo na boingboing-u pred leti⁵. Mislim, da leta 2010. To je napis na izložbi knjigarne Borders, ko se je ta zapirala. Na izložbo so napisali: “Nimamo stranišč, poskusite na Amazonu”.
V komentarjih se je pojavilo veliko različnih teorij, ki razlagajo ta napis. Ena razlaga je, da je Amazon ime nekakšne resatvracije v bližini. Ampak, pustimo to.
Mene zanima konflikt realnih potreb lokalne skupnosti in funkcije javno dostopnega, realnega prostora. Kaj nam pomeni fizični prostor? Kakšen je njegov namen?
Amazon je neke vrste vertikalna distribucija. Internet nima nič s tem. Internet le omogoča stvari. Je kot zakoni fizike, lahko narediš atomsko bombo ali nuklearno elektrarno.
Predstvljajte si, da imamo dve Mladinski knjigi. Mladinska knjiga je eno velikansko podjetje. Predstavljajte si, da imamo dve. In da imamo nek slovenski Amazon. In da zaradi tega pade ena od dveh Mladinskih. Borders je bila gromozanska veriga. Ta padec je bil prelomni dogodek. Knjigarne so imeli povsod. To je bilo zelo močno bitje. Jeff je ubil kita.
Hecno, ti ubogi knjigarnarji, ki so čez 14 dni ostali brez službe, so se poigrali: “Nimamo stranišč, poskusite na Amazonu”. Ne vem, če sem uspel to ponazoriti. Vendar je v tem naključnem paradoksu skrita Arhimedova oporna točka, s katere lahko premikamo stvari.

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12) Bruce Sterling, že drugič ga citiram. Zelo mi je zanimiv, ker premišljuje kot pisatelj, z jezikovnimi koncepti in prispodobami. Pred 14 dnevi je imel predavanje na Websotcku⁶. Toplo priporočam.
Super je, da imamo ta orodja in to tipkovnico. Super je, da s pomočjo interneta lahko marsikaj dosežemo. Ampak virtualni prostor, je le virtualni prostor. S tipkovnico ne zmoremo vsega.
Mene zanima ta horizontalna izmenjava. Vidim jo kot obliko, ki se zoperstavlja dominantni vertikalni distribuciji. Mesto omogoča, da odgovorimo z realnim prostorom na realne potrebe skupnosti.

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13) To je ta neverjetni novi trend⁷. V Ameriki se povečuje število neodvisnih knjigarn. Zaprli bomo Behemot. Ne vem še čisto točno kdaj. Ampak, tako je pač. Moramo zaključiti to zgodbo. Poskusil si bom vzeti en kratek premor. Spet ta moment časa, a ne? Ko pest potuje proti mojemu nosu, vsak mesec nove položnice prihajajo. Ta čas, ko razmišljam kako naj to zgodbo končam, lej ga zlomka, se v Ameriki povečuje število neodvisnih knjigarn.

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14) To je nekakšen plan. Ni mi še jasno, tako da ne znam še veliko povedati. Recimo, da je to povzetek tistega, o čem trenutno premišljujem. Kako bi izgledala reinkarnacija Behemota?
14.1) Vsekakor bi bilo lokalno zastavljeno. Zanima me kaj jaz, ki sem realen človek v tej realni skupnosti, lahko naredim tukaj. Tista zgodba o horizontalni izmenjavi. Ti delaš čevlje, on dela torbice, jaz delam spletne strani in tako naprej.
Povem vam skrivnost. Zadnje čase največ premišljujem o tem: KAKO IZGLEDA KNJIGARNA BREZ KNJIG? Kaj sem v bistvu počel? To je to iskanje centra v taiji-u. Kdo sem jaz? Lahko bom pravočasno reagiral in naredil pravo spremembo (da me ta pest ne zadane v nos), le če poiščem svoj center.
Iz tega premišljevanja moram izključiti knjige, ker te niso več tako pomembne. Knjige niso več nosilec poslovnega modela. In to že kar nekaj časa.
14.2) Tole me zanima: ljudje, ki nekaj izdelujejo: makers, crafters, urban activists.
14.3) Coffee shop – bog ne daj, ne me narobe razumeti. Sploh ne mislim, da bi to bil poslovni model. Dozdeva se mi le, da mora biti ta javni, realni prostor nekakšna razširjena dnevna soba. Prideš, se usedeš, imaš WiFi, kavo, čaj.. Ne kavarna, ampak en tak cozy space. 2nd hand knjige? Mogoče. Zakaj ne? Sploh ni tako pomembno.
14.4) Tole je pomembno: TIKKUN OLAM⁸. To je izposojeno iz ene Vukove prezentacije. Vuk Ćosić je čudovit sogovornik. Leti visoko in vidi stvari iz te višine. Tikkun Olam je iz ene njegove prezentacije. Lahko si jo ogledate na SlideShare-u. Gre za več kot 5.000 let star hebrejski koncept. Gre za to, da je z določeno prakso potrebno nadaljevati ne samo zaradi lastne volje in koristi, ampak tudi zato, kar se tako izognemo družbenemu kaosu.
Vuk ima še en odličen koncept. To je en slajd pred tem. To je koncept idiota. Besedo “idiot” prevaja dobesedno iz stare grščine. Lepo pove, da je idiot tisti, ki se ukvarja samo in izključno s lastnimi željami in potrebami. Skupnost ga ne zanima. Se pravi: tajkunski kredit, denar v davčno oazo in je šlo 2 milijona. Stara grščina je imela besedo za to. Temu je potrebno kontrirati in se ukvarjati s konceptom Tikkun Olam.
Za hec sem se igral in iskal besde. Ne vem, če veste kako se reče, v kateremkoli jeziku: Delati tako, da je v to delo vtkana ljubezen. Ne samo do te stvari. Ne samo do sebe. Ampak, tudi do ostalih. Mislim, da je ta koncept sorazmeroma blizu konceptu Tikkun Olam. Pojdite na Wikipedijo in preverite. Se pravi: delati stvari tako, da je tudi drugim dobro. Zelo pomembna reč.
14.5) In če to uspe, je to zame veljavna oblika protesta. Protesti so bili zelo, zelo pomembni in zelo legitimni. Ena taka prelomnica. Protesti so bili globalni, niso se zgodili samo tukaj. Slavoj Žižek je v manj kot 14 dneh obiskal Occupy Wall Street. Vendar poglejmo, kaj se je zgodilo. Kljub ignoranci in neljubemu razvoju dogodkov, OWS raziskuje naprej. Ravno zdaj, pred par dnevi, je ena delovna skupina OWS od bank odkupila milijon in pol dolarjev dolga. Se pravi, osvobodili so ljudi iz ujetništva dolgov. Delajo inventivno. Preizkušajo nove načine kako narediti, da bo ljudem bolje. Ne ustanavljajo političnih strank.

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15) Mogoče pa smo premajhni. Mogoče to vse skupaj nima smisla.

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16) Mislim, da nismo premajhni. Ne vem kako naj to prevedem, to je moja mantra zadnje čase: “Knjižarskim aktivizmom do bolje zajednice”⁹. Pozabimo na besedo “knjigarnarski” in pomislimo: kako lahko z nekim aktivizmom, z nekim delom v katerega je vtkana ljubezen, v nekem realnem prostoru, v nekem realnem mestu, v realni skupnosti; kako lahko naredimo kaj za boljšo skupnost?

bhmt_e_bukve_17
17) Smo premajhni? To je seznam 7 mest v EU, ki so, po številu prebivalcev, manjša od Ljubljane.

bhmt_e_bukve_18
18) To je vse. Veste, kje me najdete.

¹ http://youtu.be/qmGwM6hWbMY
² http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2013/02/dead-media-beat-nooks/all/1
³ http://youtu.be/N6KB6-7uCrI
http://youtu.be/m4L1Sh8ojLY
http://boingboing.net/2011/04/05/closing-down-borders.html
http://vimeo.com/63012862
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2013/0317/The-novel-resurgence-of-independent-bookstores
http://www.slideshare.net/Vukc/cosic-zelena-akademija-vis-1-9-2012-s
https://behemotbookshop.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/networks-vs-neighbourhoods/

Alea iacta est

Alea iacta est

Behemot is closing on the evening of Tuesday, the 14th of January.

You’re cordially invited to pick some great books from our collection and indulge yourself in these strange reading devices of the times past.

I am deeply thankful and personally moved by philanthropic kindness of all our friends who donated their precious books in support of our humble cause.

For the time being, we are closing all our book related projects.

Our blog stays alive.

With tender and kind seasonal wishes,

Dean Ivandić
(a former bookseller, a guy who stood behind those books)

Odlazi cirkus iz našeg malog grada
širokim drumom što izlazi na most
odlazi cirkus i ja se pitam sada
ko je domaćin, a ko je bio gost

(Đorđe Balašević)

Current state of affairs

Current state of affairs

When we moved, it was obvious that something was ending and that something new, unclear and unspecified, was starting. This autumn it will be one year since we moved.

Slovenia is a small market for cultural products and its book related eco-system is nurtured artificially. Here you don’t need to have a product for the market. What you need is a state subsidy. The question of our restructuring is truly a question if I am able to transform from a guy who made a small, alternative, market-based bookstore into a guy who successfully applies for state subsidies. For the first time in eight years, I tried. With almost no success. State subsidies are an unwelcoming and shrinking realm. Not an inviting place for newcomers.

Looking backwards, maybe this sans-subsidy, market-based alternativeness was one of our essential charms. We were an anomaly. Just try to name three independent bookstores in this town. OK, two. One? (To quickly clarify, a bookstore is not something that is owned by a publishing house. That’s just a very fancy form of a book-fair stand.) Jewish lane was our Diagon Alley. We existed in a parallel universe, far from interests of cultural elites and personal connections. This is the pleasure of the market. You jump off the cliff and they either catch you or they don’t. For me, the authority of everyone out there is easy to accept. It comes naturally. The delegated authority is a different story.

From January 2007 to December 2011 we special ordered 15,748 books for our customers. My hat down. There are individuals who ordered more than a hundred books with us. Institutions were never our most important customers. We were some kind of a street bookseller. Special order service was our product for the market. It constituted for more than half of our turnover. With that part of our business gone and nothing to replace it, it is time for me to update my CV.

Internet is a great diluting power. For too long I thought that Behemot was this nice, small thing worth preserving. As it turns out, it was just a tiny wheel in a large machine called copyright industry. When old systems break apart, it is good to look for new conceptual tendencies that sprout from the debris. To me personally, the relevant qualities crystalizing from the debris are manifested in this medievally rich cosmos of creators, fixers, makers, small printers, indie crafters, hackers, torrent seeders, small gardeners, you get the picture, all connected and empowered by the vast digital ocean.

I tried to analyze, adapt, and reinvent this little bookstore. I tried to come up with a new product for the market. “One Third 2nd hand” is the best I could think of. In theory, it presents an answer to a number of questions I was confronted with. Instead of importing books from abroad, it works from and for a local community. Instead of supporting the copyright industry, it is an early form of peaceful civil disobedience. In reality, however, it fails short. In spite of initial enthusiasm and first warm responses, the numbers are still very far from sustainable levels.

What to say after nearly twenty years in bookselling? It was fun. It was good. Obviously, for me it was a way to pay the bills and remain a somewhat clear head. My bookstores were at the same time a strange kind of traveling devices. Instead of going to places, I would just sit here and wait for people to walk in. The conversations we had! I mean, you can probably have a great conversation anywhere, but bookstore goers are a particularly kind and curious people. It was great meeting you all. However, to be totally frank, it was also some kind of a hide-and-seek. It’s time to move on.

Practical advice. We are talking probably end of the year. I am not sure. I opened two bookshops, but this is the first time I will have to close one. I am still working, trying, talking to people. Nevertheless, if you have unused gift certificate, please visit us soon and pick from our selection. If you are waiting for a fire sale, please don’t. We have already reduced prices on all our books. We have something like a perpetual, slow-motion fire sale going on since March. Actually, it is a bit worrying to see so many beautiful books still waiting on our shelves.

Confessions of an indebted bookseller

Confessions of an indebted bookseller

I used to say that I am an independent bookseller. I truly believed it. I wrote it on our sign in capital letters.

I was my own boss, right? I chose our books, cared for our web page, managed our databases. I cleaned the floor, washed the windows, fixed the lights. I made our shelves and drew our bookmarks. And it was great! It was hard work, it was fun, and I thought I was free.

Bullocks! I was free until I noticed an omnipresent hill of unpaid invoices, moving in time always slightly ahead of me. I realized I was like a hamster, racing to catch something I cannot reach.

The standard model in book-selling is called a “credit account”. It is a long term contractual relationship in which you order books, publishers ship them right away, and you pay within an agreed period of time (most commonly 60 or 90 days).

It’s all fine as long as your turnover is either flat or growing. Zach once said: “If your business is ten percent down against the same period last year – sell it!” I wish I could.

I never read the small print. I mean, do you? I always click on “Agree” button. In theory you could return books to publishers in exchange for credit. The truth is that the system is designed so that it makes it easy for you to buy books (and develop debt) and very difficult (too expensive and too rigid) to return them.

Once your turnover is (irreversibly) down, you’re in trouble. You either start selling cupcakes, coffee and computer games or you file for bankruptcy. Every normal person in my place would probably walk away and look for a new job.

Today I have moved beyond “independent” bookseller. We shall see if I’ll be lucky enough to get beyond “indebted”.

Maurizio Lazzarato: The Making of the Indebted Man

Die Andersdenkende

Die Andersdenkende

Here’s some heavy reading. Larissa MacFarquhar wrote a fair, non-biased essay. Quinn Norton is so honest that it hurts. Lawrence Lessig is a must read manifesto.

I might be overreacting, but I just cannot go on like nothing happened.

I think that bit torrents are far more ethical than the copyright industry.

Behemot is departing from copyright industry. We now focus solely on copyright outcasts: remainders, old books, locally sourced books, zines, indie art & craft.

If everything goes well, Behemot will morph into an anarcho-alter-indie-queer-local-community-bookstore-library-activist-infospot. In one word: anarcho-bookstore (Hvala, Nuša!)

This tendency was always visible in our selection. But, this time it is not about our selection. It is about doing things differently. And doing them together.

The way I feel about copyright industry has changed. The way I feel about selling books has changed.

Maybe I don’t know what I’m doing, but I feel I have to do it. I need to adjust my compass. The night sky has changed. Aaron is shining brightly.

Life Inside the Aaron Swartz Investigation :: Quinn Norton
The Tragedy of Aaron Swartz :: Larissa MacFarquhar
Transcript :: Lawrence Lessig on “Aaron’s Laws, part I
Transcript :: Lawrence Lessig on “Aaron’s Laws, part II
Lawrence Lessig’s lecture (YouTube video, you can skip the long introduction and start at mark 8:35)
Carl Malamud: Aaron’s Army
Aaron Swartz’s A Programmable Web: An Unfinished Work

HAIP 2012

HAIP 2012

My personal little alchemy of the present – How to distillate the true qualities of real books in a real room – and change the bookshop into something else.

On the last few days of November we had the pleasure to host the 2012 edition of the biennial HAIP Festival. The main theme this year was Public library.

It was very interesting. Especially if you are anyhow involved in the existing bookselling eco-system.

Many great people came over. My personal highlights include Aaron Ximm, Sebastian Lütgert, Dušan Barok, and Marcell Mars.

My overall impression was: Bookselling is dead – Long live bookseeding!

Well, maybe. Maybe not so literally. But still.. very close.

HAIP visited Behemot on Wednesday and Friday evening – and on Thursday I was invited to give a ten minute talk within the Lightning talks part of the festival.

My presentation starts at mark 12:45 and ends at mark 22:45.

I am very happy for the spontaneous applause and for Marcell’s beautiful comments.

Later, in the discussion part, Josephine Berry Slater asks important question – “And what about the reader?” I try to share my understanding of the problem between the mark 1:10:00 and 1:17:00.

Enjoy, share, fight, discuss. I hope you might find my bla bla inspiring, interesting, anything.

 

The unbearable lightness of books in English

The unbearable lightness of books in English

 

Here are some aspects of our current situation. I write this as a little memento of things to consider as we prepare our move to a new location in the ground floor of the City Art Gallery. We invite you to think with us – about the role of bookshops in our society in general and about our own possibilities to adapt. Your ideas and reflections are always very welcomed.

The text is divided in four parts:

1) Nation’s most beloved online retailer
2) The unbearable lightness of electronic books
3) A call for action or what could be done before Orwell comes to town
4) Related links

 

 

1) Nation’s most beloved online retailer

The Book Depository is an UK based online retailer. It won the hearts and pockets of the majority of local English book buyers. It features free worldwide shipping and prices that are about twenty percent lower than ours. And you don’t even have to walk out of the apartment.

It is interesting to note that in July 2011 Amazon bought the Book Depository. In the beginning, Amazon wasn’t that big problem for us. They concentrate on big national markets. But, the Book Depository changed this. They focus on everything that Amazon ignored – the rest of the world.

We do not want to be in a bunker fight against online retailers. In a way we are in a position similar to that of a street performer. We engage in an activity that is ephemeral, nearly invisible to the vast majority – activity that can easily be overlooked and is hard to appreciate.

If you want to support us, you can still order books with us. It is obviously more expensive – but in the case of reasonably priced books the difference is not more than one would give to a street performer.

 

2) The unbearable lightness of electronic books

We live in a digital world. They say that information wants to be free. Just like music and movies, books also want to be free. That is – after you have paid for the reading devices of your choice, after you have paid your content provider, and after you have paid your connection fees. Once these bills have been taken care of – there are terabytes of seemingly free books all around us. It would take several hundred lives to read them all.

Time and quality filtering are new issues. How do you find the time to read a book after you consumed all the bright liquid crystals? Sometimes I feel that the price – let’s say ten or fifteen euros for a book – is not actually as significant barrier as is the time one has to invest into reading it. Today if a book has more than three hundred pages I find it difficult to sell.

So, how do we compete? You cannot beat free. It’s the ultimate price. If you cannot support a bookshop by selling books – how do you?

 

3) A call for action or what could be done before Orwell comes to town

Let’s make this clear: I am not against technology. I am not against Internet. I am not against double-deck tape recorders. I am not against digital books. I am not against Amazon or Book Depository.

I just feel uncomfortable with monolithic empires. I find them very bad for biodiversity, for my basic right to be different. Monolithic empires shrink the world. They make our world smaller and that is not good. In my opinion this is the only real ethical problem with online ordering.

I actually believe that there is only one price for one chosen book. If Amazon sells the same book at nearly half the price – there has to be a good reason for it – a certain mathematics behind it. And by accepting this mathematics we accept a certain set of values, a certain vision of future. If Amazon’s mission would be written in a clear language, like a manifesto or a program – would you sign it?

Small, idiosyncratic bookshops used to be good places for recommendations and conversations. The most important books on our shelves are usually those two – the one to the left and the one to the right – next to the one you already know. This is where discovery takes place. It is called serendipity or the subtle magic of bookstores.

I believe that bookshops can still be an important cultural catalyzer. Maybe libraries and bookshops will eventually merge. Maybe bookshops will morph into semi-secret salons in private apartments. Maybe we will find ways to digitalize even this type of serendipity. Whatever will be – I finally tend to agree that if we want to save bookshops – we have to find new ways to financially support them. We have to bypass the market and enhance (or even substitute) the overly simple and outdated cash register model.

This October we are moving to a new location. We will try to build a beautiful room with good books. We shall see what happens. We are looking for possible answers to above questions. Join us. Maybe we’ll think of something together.

 

4) Related links:

Huffington Post article on 28 ideas how to save bookshops

St Mark’s in New York and Atlantis on Santorini attempt at crowd-sourcing cash

The Amazon Effect – an essay by Steve Wassermann

Mike Shatzkin on global effects of electronic books trade – he is great insider and advisor to the biggest American publishers.