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The Early Typewriter Collectors’ Association election for new Board of Directors

In my mail today was the official ballot for the ETCA Board of Directors election, which will determine the makeup of the Board for the next 5 years and thus, the direction and focus of the Association and magazine. I will be sending in my ballot and a check for renewal of my membership tomorrow. The check, because the recent churn of editors and publication schedules has left me unsure of when my subscription actually expires, and also because I’d like to express my approval of the slate of candidates under consideration for the board by including the check with my ballot.

And yes, I very much approve. Given the mission statements each candidate has made on the ballot, I’d like to vote for all of them, but I’ll have to choose just five. One thing is for sure, though: the content of ETC is going to change. Not drastically, to be sure, but the board members under consideration seem to universally favor more content of interest to the sort of collector who has surfaced in droves in the past few years: collectors who are mainly interested in post-war machines which they actually *use* without any particular regard to rarity or value.

In other words: me, and many of you.

This is great news. ETC has, for the past few years at least, usually contained at least one article per issue devoted to the machines I’m really interested in. The “Portables, Etc.” column is invariably the first page I turn to when I get each new issue. Not that I’m completely disinterested in older machines – I read those articles too, and enjoy learning what other collectors and researchers have dug up, and certainly as the TWDB project runs out of new serial number lists to compile into it’s pages, I’ll be turning my attention to the more obscure manufacturer pages and updating them using ETC articles as one of the sources. There’s certainly a great deal of information there that can be distilled into a paragraph or two of facts related to the manufacturer, and in those cases where the ETC PDF is available online we can link directly to the article via the “History” links section of that Manufacturer page. But, as far as my own collecting interest goes, I have very little interest in having really early typewriters in my collection. I prefer a good, workhorse Brother JP-1 over a Blick or Oliver every day of the week. It’s just the way I roll.

And I’m getting the feeling that future issues of ETC will contain much more content I can actually relate to. Happy Dance! :D

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One interesting thing I noted in the Nominee Biographical Statements on the ETCA ballot was that there is clearly a discussion underway regarding the way the ETC magazine should be published. Specifically regarding Hard Copy vs Electronic publication as PDF. As typewriter collectors, we obviously have a thing for analog-on-paper communications for reasons including archival longevity, tactile enjoyment and keeping the format alive in an increasingly digital world. Many of the Board nominees explain where they stand on this issue in their bio statements, and across the board, the consensus seems to be that issues should be print-only for a period of two years and then released as PDF on the etconline.org site.

I certainly understand the reasoning for this stance. After all, ETC is a very niche magazine with a small subscriber base, and many publications have discovered that publishing your content online in competition with your print journal is a pretty sure way to kill off your print journal real fast.

You’ll get no back-talk from me on that point, but to be perfectly frank, I dislike only having access to a printed copy. If I had my druthers, I’d subscribe to a PDF version, and would really love to have the option to order back issues in PDF at a reduced cost over the printed version. Over my few years as a subscriber-member, I’ve lost or damaged many of the paper issues I’ve gotten (vagaries of moving house and not having a proper filing system), and so much of the content I’ve already subscribed to is now lost to me. Additionally, there are at least a dozen issues between where the last issue available for download online ends and the issue where I started subscribing. Buying them as paper back issues is not an attractive option for me for two reasons:

1) I’ve already proven that I easily lose the paper copies.
2) I’d prefer to have every ETC issue as PDF in a folder on my hard drive so I can use search tools to find information on a specific machine or topic I happen to be researching at any given moment. This has been a handy method I use when searching the 80 issues I currently have in PDF format (available at etconline.org), but I’m missing the 20 or so latest issues which have most of the interesting stuff on the post-war portables I like best. It would be dreamy to have some way for an ETCA member to obtain the missing issues as PDF. I’d be on that like white on rice.

Now as far as that being a thing that actually happens, I dunno. Doesn’t seem likely given the fierce dedication to print, but it’s certainly something that I’d like to see as an option. Given the explosion in typewriter collecting interest that has grown in the past few years (due in large part to the explosion of online resources dedicated to typewriters and typewriter collecting such as The Typosphere and TWDB, among many others) it seems clear that there’s a market hungry for content. Maybe offering electronic subscriptions via Itunes or Amazon could do very interesting things for the ETC subscriber base. Fortunately, I am not under consideration as an ETCA Board Member, so I don’t have to tilt at that particular windmill.

Cat-Butt Prints are just one of the many hazards to my copies of ETC magazine. Did you know that if you get them wet, the paper finish dissolves and turns into super glue? I have a small stack of them that is now exactly that: a stack, all glued together. *sigh*

Cat-Butt Prints are just one of the many hazards to my copies of ETC magazine. Did you know that if you get them wet, the paper finish dissolves and turns into super glue? I have a small stack of them that is now exactly that: a stack, all glued together. *sigh*

ETC and the TWDB

Let’s face it, typewriter collectors these days tend to fall into two different camps: the “old school” collector who favors antique machines that are rare and historically important, and the “new school” collector who prefers post war machines that work well for daily use. There is plenty of overlap, but generally speaking, these two camps run in different circles.

ETCA primarily caters to the Old School, and TWDB primarily caters to the New School. There have been efforts to bring the two camps closer together, and there is certainly progress but there is still a fairly sizable divide in the way each camp communicates with each other, and a clear divide in the primary interests of each camp. It’s a shame, obviously, because as a “new schooler”, I feel I could learn a very great deal from the old school if there was less of a gap in communication. Vice-versa, the “old school” could certainly benefit from the fresh blood and energy of the “new schoolers”. There’s just an awful lot of good potential to be gained from these camps coming closer together. I feel that’s something that pretty much everyone involved can agree with.

The present Board election for ETCA was likely spurred in part by a desire to bridge this gap, and it’s the right move considering the candidates up for election. It almost doesn’t matter which candidates get elected, as most of them seem to have a pretty common vision for the new direction that the Association will take in the future.

This leads me to ponder if there is a way that I, in my role as Archivist for the TWDB, can contribute to this Brave New Future. Perhaps a way to bring TWDB and ETC closer together in a way that benefits both and serves to help bridge the remaining gap between the New and Old Schools. Methods I’ve been pondering include:

1) The above mentioned linking to online ETC PDFs to Manufacturer History sections in TWDB. This is already something I intend to do in earnest in the coming year. Of course, it doesn’t have to be just me. Any Typewriter Hunter level member can do it.

BENEFIT: to ETCA, rather intense exposure via linking to the absurd amounts of traffic that the TWDB gets. Surely some of those people will read the articles and be intrigued enough to want to join. To TWDB, the benefit of a ready pool of well-researched articles addressing the history of individual Manufacturers.

2) I’ve pondered writing articles for ETC, but my command of the language borders on exotically quaint, my sentences run on and on, and I’d publish anything I would write about on the TWDB or my blog anyway, which wouldn’t really work with ETC’s “print-only” philosophy. Additionally, my focus tends to be tracking down and compiling terse lists of data where ETC tends to be about telling the stories behind the history. Not really my strong point.

However, I have also considered writing something called “TWDB RFI” (Typewriter Database Request For Information) articles, which would focus on specific Manufacturer categories and detail what information I do have along with a solicitation for copies of Age Lists, sales ephemera, dated advertising and whatever other data ETC members might have for that specific Manufacturer, to be used for updating that Manufacturer’s page in the TWDB. Essentially, putting the question directly to the people most likely to have the data, and collecting the result in distilled form on TWDB.

BENEFIT: To TWDB, duh. Tapping the experts. ‘Nuff said. To ETCA, not real sure. It would fill up a couple column inches and possibly encourage interaction and involvement between the members, but I haven’t really thought that part out all the way. Once the newly elected Board convenes, I might float that idea to them and see if it gains some flesh and bones.

In any case, I have now sent in my ballot and check. If you are an ETCA member, send yours in before the 15th of January. Vote early, vote often, vote the Typospherian Ticket! :D

Updated: December 12, 2014 — 6:25 pm

8 Comments

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  1. I subscribed to the Early Typewriter Collectors’ Association, because I am interested in collecting early typewriters. If I want to know more about newer typewriters and how to use them, there are a lot of other very informative (online) sources. The whole Typosphere is full of it. New information about postwar machines is coming online on a daily basis. New information about early machines is scarce. That’s why ETCetera still has an important function in the world of typewriter collecting.

    This is not about old school vs new school (I am 34 years old and collecting only since 2006), but just about different interest. The way I see it is that if you like collecting early typewriters, you can subscribe to ETCetera. If you like newer typewriters, other machines, computers, iphones etc, you can (also) subscribe to other media. Also, there is nothing wrong with having multiple interests; you can subscribe to ETCetera and still be active in the typosphere (like Richard Polt, for example). That’s why I prefer talking about interests and not about schools.

    ETCetera should really think well where it stands for. Nobody is helped with a magazine that covers a too wide range of subjects trying to please everybody.

    Just to be clear:
    I have nothing against the the Typosphere and follow many blogs. My only preoccupation is that it will get harder and harder to read new stuff about early machines, and those are my main interest. I have some newer machines in my collections and I like them, but if I have to chose between a Sperry Remington and a Williams or Hammond, well, than the choice is easy. That’s just the way I roll. ;)

    1. Hmmn, from what I read on the ballot, the candidates under consideration want to expand the number of pages and content and do more with the ETC website. I doubt the goal is to do less coverage of what the Association does presently, but rather to expand into the newer interests and gain a wider audience. This is what I’m for. (:

      1. Ah, okay! I didn’t receive the ballot yet.

  2. Interesting.

    Some years back, when I was writing the original “Portables, Etcetera” column in this magazine (ETCetera, that is) under the editorship of Chuck Dilts and Rich Cincotta, an attempt was made to put the publication solely in electronic form. Chuck and Rich — always attentive to change and improvement — felt that the time was right then to do that, and floated the idea. The wailing and gnashing of teeth was horrendous; some people even said that they were going to try to take control of the publication, although frankly no one had any idea how they would have done that since the original editor / publisher had tossed it off loosely enough when he had had enough of writing it that there was no external framework (membership was simply subscribership; there was no Board) that there was no real hope of anyone wresting control. Anyway, of course it soldiered on in print with improvements, and later still went on to Richard Polt’s capable hands.

    (I had made the decision to stop writing for ETCetera in a regular column prior to that change in editorship, but Richard asked me to stay on for a while and I did. Joined by my brother Dave later we contributed as recently as Issue 100.)

    Anyway, I thought I’d comment on this post, and specifically the move for more modern typewriters and for electronic publishing since this was attempted quite a few years back. Looks like we (as I was quite on board with the ideas) were well ahead of our time.

    1. Indeed, I had to go look up your 2001 “Collector’s Corner” interview where you said that half of typewriter history was basically ignored by collectors, yet everyone has these later-day machines in their collections. Quite prophetic. It kind of amazes me that the debate still goes on more than a decade later, given the overwhelming evidence of interest in that latter half of typewriter history that has sprung up.

  3. Hi Ted, I like this discussion and the way you kicked it off. I’m disenfranchised by not being a subscriber to Etc – mostly interested in typewriters as concrete wordsmithing tools – but it sounds like more inclusive copy would only increase subscriptions with your suggested article links. Merry Christmas!

  4. One of the ideas I had floated as editor, and had intended to eventually evolve etconline into, was something I called “Expanded ETCetera”: a multimedia-rich PDF version of the print magazine that would contain links, material that had to be cut from the print issue for space, and possibly things like video tours of individuals’ collections and audio interviews. It would have been similar to IFHB’s model where membership grants one login access to the site’s non-public content.

    But then things happened and I made a right mess of it. Hopefully someone more capable and talented than I will be able to fulfill that vision.

    1. oooh, that sounds dreamy! How on earth did that not happen? :D

      Somebody there at ETC must know a talented web developer who could do a content-rich membership site. (hint, hint)

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