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100% Evil

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Monday, Jun 1, 2009

Recently I was working through a list of health sciences materials I had been asked to research, with the goal of finding out which ones the library owns. Although I’m pretty sure I was doing a good job of staying on task, somehow I stumbled across an unlikely resource in one of the databases – an electronic copy of 100% Evil (2005).

With a name like that, I don’t think anyone can blame me for pausing to investigate. 100% Evil in its physical format boasts a red plastic cover and is diminutive: five inches by six and a half. Illustrators Nicholas Blechman and Christoph Niemann have included almost 200 drawings of “evil furniture, evil shoes, evil toilets, evil flowers, evil keyboards, evil bunnies, evil pizza, evil doers” and the like.


The roses that adorn the ruby cover are loaded with thorns – not just their stems but every bit of them. Evil. Though the visual impact of the book is strong, I find it particularly interesting that I encountered it in electronic form and have never seen a copy. Published by the Princeton Architectural Press, a novelty binding like this does not quite translate on-screen.

100% Evil got me thinking about other books that rely on physical and visual impact to make a statement. Much as it appeals to me to have electronic and immediate access to texts across all disciplines in order to facilitate research that doesn’t rely on crating home stacks of academic tomes, I’m at a loss here. What other oddities does this database include?

Electronic book packages hawked to academic libraries these days are so massive that the catalogers can’t keep up. It is nothing to add access to 10,000 new books in a day when a new license deal is made, but it is near impossible to search those titles effectively because no one has time to add all the new records.

Doing a search in my university public access catalog yields no mention of Evil because it has never been indexed. Yet the university has access to the digital copy. Only by accidentally stumbling across it – or knowing already that it is held in a specific collection of e-books licensed by a specific database vendor – can one flip through the full text. Wonderful as it is to have a multitude of titles published electronically, if we can’t search them systematically, we’re missing out on almost 100% of the possibilities.

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