Obsolete press is about the physical experience of reading, and conveying ideas that require more than 140 characters.
In the early part of the 20th century, Harold Innis, a Canadian media theorist and predecessor of Marshall McCluhan, postulated that great civilizations were those that balanced “time-binding” media (which retain ideas and history), and “space-binding” media (which allows ideas to travel rapidly). He felt, back in the 50’s, that western society was relying too much on space-binding media like radio and television, and that the over-exposure was leading to a culture where “…The emphasis on change is the only permanent characteristic.” He felt that this trend would kill shared experience and local identity and create and atmosphere of paranoia and rigid political militarization. No one knows what Innis would have thought of the internet, but despite all of the great gifts of modern technology, some of Innis’ warnings seem to be coming true. Despite the gushing flow of “free” information, cultural rigidity appears to be setting in.
OBSOLETE! Magazine was started in 2010 as a response to the rapid decline in time-binding media. OBSOLETE! is an old-school newsprint tabloid, complete with slapdash layout, smudgy printing and inflammatory rhetoric. Published in the tradition of the International Times, OZ, The East Village Other, The Berkely Barb, The Chicago Seed, The Whole Earth Catalog, PUNK! and the other great underground rags of days past, some might think that OBSOLETE! is anachronistic throwback, a vestigial appendage on the body of the digital info-organism, a bit of paper best suited to line the cat box or wrap a fish. However, it is not just the newspaper that has become obsolete. In post-post-post-modern society even the term “obsolete” is becoming obsolete- products are obsolete before they hit the market-place, technology is only good as long as its replacement is in beta-testing. At OBSOLETE! We decided that maybe it’s time to re-examine the printed word. Perhaps newspapers and books are for the early adopters of post-apocalyptic technology.
Obsolete Press is an outgrowth of that idea. The books we publish reflect our love for the physical world and the DIY aesthetic. Our authors have something to offer those who are willing to leave the glowing screen behind for a few hours and re-engage with ideas in an analog format.
Despite all of the great advantages of digital media, books represent a kind of autonomy that will never be available in digital media. No internet connection or battery charging is necessary. In addition, research shows that people who read paper retain information better than those who read on a screen. The physical act of holding a book and turning pages is a tactile experience that adds to reading, and limited editions or signed copies retain a sort of magic, a physical connection to the writer, artist or printer that can never be duplicated in the digital realm.
We like space-binding media, too.
That said, we recognize the importance of digital media. It’s a great way to quickly and cheaply convey information and share news. It gives the reader a chance to “sample the product” before buying. It allows the traveler or commuter a way to carry a lot of books along without the physical weight. That’s why we are also offering ebook and pdf versions of our publications. Also, because most of our content is offered under creative commons license, our downloads page offers a way for you to republish, reuse, remix and repurpose much of our content on your own website, or better yet, in your own zine or publication.