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Works: Card College 1 – the CD-ROM with Video

An unpublished review from September 2002

Card College 1 - the CD-ROM with Video
By Roberto Giobbi

Readers of this column, and most conscious air-breathing magicians, will already be thoroughly aware of Roberto Giobbi’s remarkable instructional series, Card College, now the most widely-translated magic books in existence. If you have any doubt that these books belong on the shelves of any conjuring student who has ever held a deck of cards in the hopes of doing a magic trick with it, then I urge you to consult my prior reviews of Volume 1 (January, 1999), Volume 2 (April 1995), Volume 3 (April, 1996), and Volume 4 (October, 2000). And rumor has it that the author has completed Volume 5, and we can only look forward to that.

But meanwhile, there has been a new development concerning the Card College series. Lybrary.com (www.lybrary.com) has for several years now been converting public domain books from the literature of conjuring into electronic books (ebooks) and CD-ROMs. (The Learned Pig Project has been pursuing a similar project). My own collection of Genii book reviews was published on mini-CD earlier this year by Lybrary.com.) There seems little doubt that gaining ready access to previously rare and unavailable works is a feature of this kind of electronic publishing; Lybrary.com also publishes some contemporary work, and in either case, there is something to be said for being able to carry around a virtual shelf of magic books on a couple of disks or, better yet, on your Palm or Handspring Visor or other personal digital assistant ( PDA). Who wouldn’t want to be able to reread Erdnase while riding the bus, and without having to tote the hard copy around?

That said, few people in my experience are inclined to sit an read an entire book on a computer screen; the benefits of paper, of the physical form of the book, seem to far outweigh the features of the ebook. However, the ebook seems ideally suited to research, and will certainly continue to increase its value in this realm, since it won’t be long before you can amass a library of hundreds of the great titles in magic literature and store it all in a shoe box. Similarly, you can do the kinds of searches that computer technology make so easy and invaluable; you can travel to any gig with the entirety of the Tarbell Course on your laptop, and when faced with a special request by the client, do an immediate search on “shoelaces,” and be the hero of the speaking engagement.

The plusses and minuses of electronic books notwithstanding, Lybrary.com has now taken the form a giant step forward, and even ebook detractors will be hard-pressed to deny the virtues of this breakthrough. The folks at Lybrary.com (actually one folk, founder Christopher Wasshuber), have republished Card College, Volume 1 on CD-ROM, along with 89 embedded video clips of author Roberto Giobbi demonstrating the sleights and techniques explained in his marvelous instructional work. As you study the text – via your browser software (such as Netscape or Internet Explorer) you will come across small icons (depicting, quaintly enough, a strip of movie film). Clicking on the icon will open a window and proceed to play a brief video clip, generally running anywhere from a few seconds up to a minute in length. These clips are shot cleanly, clearly, close-up, and come complete with sound, including for example the satisfying riffle of cards in a tabled shuffle.

This concept seems to me to be well on the way to approaching the ultimate instructional tool. This is the author himself – a past FISM winner in close-up card magic – demonstrating the very material he has explained. The clips are associated directly with the text. And no one reads a book like this for hours at a time; the material is intended as an instructional lesson plan. And, obviously, you can also use this to supplement your hard copy – which I would certainly recommend – so that for lengthy descriptions of tricks, you can sit at your practice table with the book in front of you, easily returning to the computer station to click on a clip where pertinent.

There is not much to add to this. You should be aware that the material is based on the original German edition, hence the contents vary slightly from the American editions published by Hermetic Press. Chapter 9 on “The Glimpse” in this ebook book appears in Volume 2 of the American hardbound editions; later chapters from that volume are absent here and will appear in the second CD-ROM. Roberto Giobbi has also added another 20 pages of material since the previous publication of Volume 1, and those new contents are included here. Chapter 1 has a new section on the card case, including the proper way to open it. There are various and sundry additions and updates to the bibliographic materials and to sections of “Final Notes” and “Check Points.” Most readers of the original Card College volumes will be happy to add these new disks. More advanced students might want to wait for Volume 2, however. As noted in my reviews, I think even the most advanced workers will invariably learn something from most of the Card College volumes, but Volume 1 will offer the least to more experienced workers, since it spends a great deal of space explaining very basic, beginner’s handling tools.

While I highly recommend this item – it’s just a damnably sound idea – I do think it can be further improved upon. Right now the only way to find these video clips is to page down through the text. But I found myself immediately wanting to see a list of clips associated directly with the Table of Contents, so that I would know immediately where there were relevant clips available – since not every technique is accompanied by video. And I would also like to see a separate list of all the video clips, so that if I am searching for a particular clip to support my reading the hard copy, it can be found immediately. I have no doubt that, this being a first-time venture, the application and access will become even more elegant. But the future is here, and it’s time you took advantage of it.

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