Kudos to Snarkmarket for pulling out the two choice quotes from this great Bob Stein interview:
Bob Stein, founder of the Institute for the Future of the Book, talks about working for Alan Kay, starting the Criterion Collection and Voyager on laserdisc, Hypercard e-books, and interactive CD-ROMs â€” essentially, the whole prehistory of where we are now with just about all digital media:
The book was always fundamental to me. One of the things I really liked was that the original logo for Criterion, which we designed in 1984, was a book turning into a disc. It was central. When I was writing the paper for Britannica, I felt like I had to relate the idea of interactive media to books, and I was really wrestling with the question â€˜What is a book?â€™ Whatâ€™s essential about a book? What happens when you move that essence into some other medium? And I just woke up one day and realized that if I thought about a book not in terms of its physical propertiesâ€”ink on paperâ€”but in terms of the way itâ€™s used, that a book was the one medium where the user was in control of the sequence and the pace at which they accessed the material. I started calling books â€˜user-driven media,â€™ in contrast to movies, television, and radio, which were producer-driven. You were in control of a book, but with these other media you werenâ€™t; you just sat in a chair and they happened to you. I realized that once microprocessors got into the mix, what we considered producer-driven was going to be transformed into something user-driven. And that, of course, is what you have today, whether itâ€™s TiVo or the DVD.
And how did DVDs get commentary tracks? Let Bob tell you:
You have to understand how much of this stuff is accidental. I knew the guy who was the curator of films at the LA County Museum of Art, and I brought him to New York to oversee color correction. Heâ€™s telling us all these amazing stories, particularly about King Kong, because itâ€™s his favorite film. Someone said, â€˜Gee, weâ€™ve got this extra sound track on the LaserDisc, why donâ€™t you tell these stories?â€™ He was horrified at the idea, but we promised weâ€™d get him superstoned if he did, and he gave this amazing discussion about the making of King Kong, which we released as the second sound trackâ€¦
We had people driving to our home, where our offices were, by the second day, and begging for copies. It was Los Angeles, it was the film industryâ€”and finally someone had done something serious with film. Film was suddenly being treated in a published form, like literature. But this still wasnâ€™t mainstream. Citizen Kane was three discs and cost $125. It cost us $40 to manufacture. The most LaserDiscs we ever sold was about twenty thousand copies of Blade Runner.
I donâ€™t usually squee with delight, but: Squeee!