Entries in on-demand printing (1)

Friday
Jul082011

What Books Might Be: Publication Studio

On Wednesday, shortly after announcing our very first grant winner, I headed to a book event with Matthew Stadler, author and founder of Portland's Publication Studio. The evening revolved around a dinner, during which Stadler read excerpts from his latest novel, Chloe Jarret's La Cucaracha. After the dinner, Stadler spoke with John Roderick about the process of making this book and the future of books in general. While we tend, here at Typetrigger, to think digitally, we are essentially book people, and what is happening to books and other print publications has both worried and excited us.

One of the most thrilling new ideas for the world of the physical book is the on-demand book. Sites like Lulu and MagCloud have been offering on-demand high quality printing and binding for a while, and many authors are turning to these kinds of outlets for self publishing. While the books from sites like these are physical and "real," the relationship between reader and book provider is anonymous. Publication Studio and a handful of other print-on-demand services are now looking at what happens when the machinery is moved into a storefront, with real people to assist both the book makers and the book seekers. 

Two editions of Stadler's books were available that night. The first was a file-folder covered edition made by Publication Studio, sturdy and reminiscent of a script. The second was a full-color covered beauty that rivaled the trade paperbacks you'd see in a traditional bookstore, which was printed by the Espresso Book Machine at Third Place Press. Both editions looked and felt far better than the on-demand books I was seeing a couple of years ago, and the concept of a book-buying revival was thrilling. 

The idea of self-publishing is at once empowering and disheartening. Instead of feeling that to succeed we must be magically "chosen" and then assisted along the path to renown, we must consider the whole process and take responsibility for it, from plot to editing to marketing. Roderick asked Stadler a bit about the ego shift that must be experienced by a self-published author: does he not feel undervalued with smaller audiences? Stadler argued that in fact we must place more value on the one-to-one connections. Not each book need be a best seller (and the warehouses of overstock from traditional publishers prove that large print runs do not guarantee large audiences). If we as writers can transport one person: good. That person might share the experience, and it might multiply in a grassroots fashion. But even if it does not, the intimate has value. 

This reminded me so much of what we experience on Typetrigger. Though we might not meet in a bookshop or at a reading, we are lucky to have an intimate sense of our audience, a sort of call-and-response that ripples through the community. I am excited to consider the ways in which Typetrigger and our writers might interact with these new on-demand houses.  

Stadler covered a lot of ground during his talk, and so much of what he shared felt relevant to the Typetrigger community, so next week I will write more blog posts about some of the other themes of the evening.