The Voluntaryist | Vol. 4, No. 1, Whole #19 | June, 1986
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A Modest Revolutionary Proposal:
John Zube and Microfiche
[Editor’s Note: These remarks are sparked by an interview conducted and submitted by Alan Koontz, a reader of The Voluntaiyist and commentary prepared by Victor Koman.
Although Alan’s interview is too lengthy to publish, a short part of it has been included below.]
For those of us who have been involved in the libertarian movement for many years, the name John Zube is synonymous with microfiche. Without searching my correspondence files, I suppose I first heard of John Zube in the late ‘6O’s or early 7O’s when his mimeographed Peace Plans first came to my attention. These were thick booklets put out by John, in which he presented all sorts of information relevant to libertarian thinking. At the time, John was already interested in microfiche (generally a very thin, 4″ x 6″ transparent plastic card with reduced images imposed upon it) and eventually he and I collaborated on a number of microfiche projects, including the indexation and reprinting of Lysander Spooner’s Collected Works (available at $25 for the set of 24 fiche, from The Voluntaryists) and Benjamin Tucker’s Liberty. John has also just recently completed m¡crofiching the first 14 issues of The Voluntatyist on to one fiche.
John apparently became interested in libertarian ideas through reading some anarchist books which his father had left with his grandmother in Hitler’s Germany. In discussing his intellectual evolution, John noted that he discussed these writings with his father, who was very sympathetic. In a recent letter, he adds that “There may have been other influences. Before I was 10, I watched Hitler driving past, slowly, on a parade and looked around, surprised that none of the dissenters made an attempt on his life. But I distinctly only remember one case, that of taking the Free Trade side, during the last years of high school and together with some school mates, against the to us absurd protectionist arguments of one of my main teachers. And once one has seen the light in this respect, one can work oneself through to seeing most other aspects of liberty. Between 1952 and 1959, Ulrich von Beckerath introduced hundreds of reformist and reolutionary libertarian ideas to me. I tried to practice some of them publicly, without success
and then tried to combine them in my first book-length mansucript, finished in 1961, for which I could not find a publisher. Instead, I began to include particular libertarian proposals in my Peace Plans series, since 1964.”
In reply to Alan Koontz’s question, “How did you end up in the microfiche publishing business?” John responded that he had been collecting libertarian material at least since 1949, after his first prolonged visit with his father, Kurt Zube, who had been an individualist-anarchist at least from the 1920’s onward. “I intensified this collection after I met with Ulrich von Beckerath, upon recommendation of my father, in 1952, and frequently thereafter until I left for Australia in 1959. We then used only an ancient, but
still working, flatbed duplicator, using wax stencils and a handroller, comparable to simple hinged silkscreen frames, to produce some leaflets. We could not afford better means. Reaction to these leaflets was an important factor in my decision to emigrate from West Berlin to Australia. Over the years, repeated efforts to print my Peace Plans series — which included some of my own manuscripts, as well as books, translations, and assorted documents I had accumulated — with my own equipment, proved in the end to be too laborious and costly. I was fed up with them.”
Since he was introduced to fiche in 1978, John has been engaged in promoting ¡¡bertarìan¡sm through low-cost micrographics. His “modest revolutionary proposal” is simply that all libertarian writings, both past and current, be reproduced on microfiche so that it can be easily and cheaply disseminated. John lays claims to having republished and circulated more libertarian literature than any other person or group in the world during the Twentieth Century. The following 11 points outline some of the reasons for John’s fascination with f¡che.
Some Reasons to Consider Microfiche
by Victor Koman
1). Microfiche is cheaper than Xerox (9600 pages for $20.00 — less than 1/5 cent per page)!
2). A serviceable microfiche reader can be had for the cost of a dozen new paperback books (used machines go for $3O-$5O).
3). Micropublications take up very little room. 5000 microbooks can fit on one 15 foot shelf. How many shelves do you need now? A Mindrunner (knowledge smuggler) could carry the Encyclopedia Britannica in her briefcase!
4). Are those paper pages in your older books turning brown already? Microfiche has a shelf life of centuries!
5) Microfiche publication takes less time than xeroxing (because of automated feeders and photographic rather than staticelectric processes).
6). Computer text can be converted to microfiche by Computer Output to Microfiche (COM). Computer input from Microfiche (CIM) also exists.
7). The time you take to type up (or print out) your text is all the time required to get your text ready for publication — no mimeo/ditto cranking, no trips to the Xerox place.
8) There are millions of titles available on fiche, many of them of interest to you!
9). All you need to begin using microfiche is a reader. The cost is minimal and there are no expensive peripherals.
10).Want to prevent the Fall of Darkness? Carry the Library of Congress in your van! Micro Information Concepts (P.O. Box 2163, Dallas, TX 75221-2163) sells USGS maps and survival manuals on microfiche — and sells a hand-held ambient light reader for under $15.00! The maps cost V5 to V6 that of paper maps — and fit in your wallet!
We libertarians have striven to be at the forefront of technology — even those of us hiding in the backwoods. The comment about backpack libraries applies doubly to Brownies and Gulchers. Microfiche is so durable, so inexpensive, and so lightweight, that everyone could have the equivalent of a mid-sized town library in her home and the excess duplication would not be wasteful. It would, in fact, be a guarantee that our freedom to learn and know could never be rooted out and exterminated. If you want your children to be voracious readers, but don’t want them toting conspicuous volumes home from statist libraries, acquiring microfiche editions — even of books you already own — is an investment in Private Education. The most private and hence the best that there can be.
What is the best way to burn down an Empire? Set a myriad tiny brushfires that They cannot hope to stamp out in time. Every microbook is a small, near-invisible flame that will combine with others to engulf the foundations of the State and reduce it to cinders.
For libertarians, there is an additional incentive for shelling out fifty to one hundred inflated, devalued bucks for a microfiche reader — Libertarian MicroFiche Publishing, run by John Zube, has an extensive catalog of libertarian microfiche publications unavailable anywhere else. This has been his pet project for nearly a decade now, and his collection of works is truly staggering. Send him US$2.00 for more information and tell him I sent you. How would you like the complete published works of Lysander Spooner (plus index)? Seven volumes. Probably costs a fortune, right? How about $25 in microfiche from Carl Watner?
Before I started corresponding with John, I was convinced that CD ROM optical storage discs would make microfiche obsolete. Perhaps someday, but microfiche is low-tech — all you need to read it is a good lens and Sol. That alone makes the process priceless, yet well within your grasp.
I’m making the switch to fiche. No, I won’t dump my books — I’m too much a collector for that. But when I need raw information, when I want to preserve words for centuries, when I want to evade and foil State mindwarpers yet again, I’ll be the Mindrunner out there with the knapsack full of fiche. It gives me what I need and lightens the load of The Next Starship Out! Will Liberty’s savior turn out to be a ficherman?