The Electric Information Age Book is a collaboration between myself and designer Adam Michaels of Project Projects (NYC) in the form of an excavation of a moment from the e-Book’s prehistory and metabook on a cut-and-paste genre of original paperbacks. The book explores on a time span in mass-market publishing in the sixties and seventies when former backstage players—designers, graphic artists, editors, “coordinators,” and “producers”—stepped into the spotlight to create a set of exceptional paperback books. The period begins in 1966 when Jerome Agel and Quentin Fiore, in collaboration with Marshall McLuhan, first developed The Medium Is the Massage into “an inventory of effects,” and continues to 1975, the publication year of Other Worlds, Agel’s collaboration with the exobiologist Carl Sagan. Graphic designers such as Fiore employed a variety of radical techniques—verbal visual collages and other typographic pyrotechnics—that were as important to the content as the text. Aimed squarely at the young media-savvy consumers of the “Electric Information Age,” these small, inexpensive paperbacks brought the ideas of contemporary thinkers to mass audiences and established a distinctive new graphics-rich, montage-based genre of bookmaking that still resonates loudly today.
Addendum Jan. 5, 2012: the Inventory Books series, founded and directed by Adam, was just very warmly written up by Steven Heller in The Atlantic‘s online edition.