The Netbook and Its Library


Daniel van der Velden, Henrik van Leeuwen, Femke Herregraven, Nina Støttrup Larsen, Rozemarijn Koopmans, Kees de Klein




In 2009, Daniel van der Velden (from the Dutch studio Metahaven), together with Henrik van Leeuwen, Femke Herregraven, Nina Støttrup Larsen, Rozemarijn Koopmans and Kees de Klein took part in a two-days workshop at the Dutch Architecture Institute entitled The Netbook and Its Library. The premise of the workshop was to consider the library not as a physical warehouse but as a network, an array of relationships between texts. To express such an idea, the group set the task to reconstruct and reprint a well-known book on a 1-to-1 scale — in this case The Rise of the Network Society by Manuel Castells — by only using material found on independent and corporate Web repositories (the so-called ‘cloud’). In the end, three books were produced, all deriving from The Rise of the Network Society. These were defined netbooks: “A netbook describes how a single book exists on the net, distributed and fragmented in various incarnations and forms. Netbooks are decentralized but coherent networks of knowledge”.

The first netbook in the series is the result of the attempt to reconstruct the content of the original book. This was done by taking screenshots from Google Books, grabbing mobile photos of the book pages from Flickr, downloading images from Amazon, low-res cover from personal websites, etc. The group was able to rebuild around 68% of the whole book and left black pages in the new version to draw attention to the gaps, highlighting in this way the common assumption according to which the totality of our cultural heritage is digitized and freely accessible on the Internet, a “disillusion of information overload” The second netbook, entitled The Netbook about the Book, is a collection of quotations, opinions and reviews of Castells’ book that were found online. These, existing in diverse media forms, such as text, audio, and video are placed back in the space of the text they refer to. In this case the cover of the netbook lists the names of the contributors. The last iteration, entitled The Netbook as Library, attempts to show the locations where the collected materials of the other two netbooks belong to, considering both the places in which the materials were produced and the ones in which they were uploaded. Thus, the book includes images of data centers, universities, etc.

After these “book scraping” methods became easier, they were included in exercises in the graphic design department of ArtEZ University in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Furthermore, a similar workshop entitled iCloud was run in 2012 by Vinca Kruk from Metahaven at the Free University of Bolzano. This time, the books meant to be reassembled were Das Kapital and The Medium is the Massage.

The three netbooks produced during The Netbook and Its Library, 2009.

The workshop group showing ‘black holes’ in the first netbook in the series, 2009.

A spread from Das Kapital produced by Maddalena Aliprandi, Simone Gatto, Leonardo Azzolini, and Elena Meneghini during the iCloud workshop, 2012.

Artist's Statement

"To design a book may become like the process of coordination required to fine-tune all these online and offline efforts, rather than typesetting pages and creating cover imagery for a paper object."

– Daniel van der Velden in I Read Where I Am: Exploring New Information Cultures (2011).


Workshop presentation during the Architecture of Knowledge event at NAi, July 17, 2009


Book, Document


Google Books, Flickr, Amazon

Source Materials

The Rise of the Network Society by Manuel Castells, 1996.


access, appropriation, bookness, collaboration, collection, context, distribution, materiality, online