Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Publishing in your hands

A roundtable discussion with Andy Adams (, David Bram (Fraction Magazine), Darius Himes (Radius Books), and Melanie McWhorter (photo-eye Books).

At the end of last year (2009) Miki Johnson and Andy Adams coordinated a "cross-blog" discussion about the future of photography books. Over forty bloggers participated with a range of amateur and professional voices piping in and adding their thoughts to the mix.

The interest in the subject of photobooks* has continued unabated and various fairs devoted to the Photobook are popping up around the world.** With the 3rd annual Photography Book Now contest deadline fast approaching (sponsored by Blurb and featuring a whopping $25,000 grand prize), a few of us that love photobooks thought we would initiate another online discussion about self-publishing—where we've come in the last few years in terms of perception, creativity and technology.

Please feel free to add your comments here or post in-depth thoughts on your own blog and send us the link.

—Darius Himes, Santa Fe, June 30, 2010

*I recently tried to order the Chinese edition of Robert Frank's The Americans only to be told it's not available in the U.S. Who knew (besides Martin Parr and the elves at Steidl) it would even be published in China?!

**The first annual Fotobuch Tage in Hamburg, Germany was well-attended and had, as part of the programming, a photobook dummy exhibition during which the public got to vote for their favorite not-yet-published photography book.

Why is the book format so important to photographers?

DB: Nowadays, so much is online and intangible that photographers and other artists like the idea of making something that so many people can actually touch and hold, especially something that is made in such limited editions, like (most) photographs.

AA: Good question—everybody wants to make a book! I suspect that many photographers are compelled to publish because, like a physical exhibition, the printed page provides a controlled environment for presenting their work to an audience. David is right about the intangibility of the online publishing experience and I think that does play a role for many photographers today—the gallery wall and the web browser are unique platforms for showing photography, but a book just lasts longer, and that physical permanence is still very important.

DH: I think the book format is vital and dynamic because of photography's close relationship to both film and literature, and the historical relationship with the printed page. Many photographers, throughout the history of the medium and particularly before the current proliferation of galleries devoted to photography, saw the book and the printed page as the only and ultimate place their work would be seen. This cultivated a deep-seated love for the book.

MM: Most photographers want to show their work. The book is the closest format to laying out an actual exhibition. As an editor and curator of a photography book, you may have a little more control over how the audience views the work. If the reader uses the book as it is designed to be explored—usually from front to back—then the publisher can control how the reader views the sequenced images to create a more intimate experience with the work. This object can be held and explored in a way that it cannot usually be done in a gallery setting. And more so than ever, with the advent of POD technology, commercial photobook publishing is more democratic. 

Why do you like the book format?
DH: The tactility; portability; accessibility, by which I mean one doesn't need electricity to access it; and the possibility of amazing design; its pure physicality.

I love the feel of a book. In looking at images online, you do not get to see the shimmering foil stamping on the cover, the subtle varnish resting over the plates, the raw boards rubbing against your fingers generating "the nails on the chalkboard" shivers, the smell of the over-saturated inks, and on and on.

: I've been collecting books as long as I can remember—I like looking at photos printed on paper and if it's a good book, I'm compelled to have a copy of my own that I can keep as long as I want. I'm fascinated with digital media and am excited to explore that format, but I'm still very attracted to the permanent quality of a photo object that's made of atoms instead of bits. I suspect we'll see more analog/digital hybrid publications in the future and how we define "the book format" is bound to change in the iPad era.

DB: First, it allows me a chance to own, to have something that I might not be able to otherwise afford, such as an actual photograph. Second, as long as there is light, I can look at a book and enjoy it's uniqueness and bask in it's beauty.

What do we mean by "self-publishing"?

DH: Up until about 10 or 15 years ago, "self-publishing"  meant that you produced a traditional trade book without working with a publisher. That meant you hired a designer and worked directly with a printer and bindery. You then had the responsibility of contacting bookstores yourself in order to get the book "out there" into the hands of the public (or at least other photographers). There was a stigma often attached to a monograph that had been self-published—it was called a "vanity publication" because the implication was that no publisher had wanted to publish it and so the photographer simply forked out the $30k, $40k, $50k+ to have the book made.

But much has changed since then. I still think of the term "self-publishing" to indicate an artist that has decided to undertake all aspects of the production of the book themselves, without the aid of a publisher. But there is no longer the "vanity press" stigma, not by a long shot. Self-publishing can imply a print-on-demand book (using a service such as Blurb or Lulu or MagCloud) or any small-run book that operates on the edge of the traditional "trade" book world. Alec Soth's The Last Days of W, or Philip Underdown's recent Grasslands are two good, recent examples. 

MM: I think self-publishing essentially is photographer-financed (whether from personal funds or fundraising) and photographer-controlled. The photographer does not have to do every job that the project might necessitate-- designer, printer, broker, binder, accountant, distributor, marketing agent etc. Many of these can be outsourced. Self-publishing just gives the photographer or artist most, if not all, of the control over final product.

AA: We all seem to be on the same page: self-publishers independently develop the content of the book (with or without a designer or editor) as well as the elements of production, distribution and promotion of the book as a marketable object. The modes of production have obviously changed, so these are exciting times for photographers who want to exhibit their work using published media. There are larger questions about what constitutes a photography publication: photo blogs, multimedia websites, and online magazines are self-publications that have exploded in recent years and we've really only begun to see how those forms will influence photobook publishing.

DB: I think it's pretty clear.  A self-publisher is someone who creates and directs the book in the direction that they declare.  A self-publisher usually does all of the editing and designing as well, and takes it as far as the mind and wallet permit.

What are common worries that you have heard that photographers have in relation to print-on-demand?

AA: The number one concern seems to be quality and consistency. As soon as POD operations can deliver consistently reliable, color-managed, quality results those fears are going to go away and we'll see a greater diversity of self-published books than ever before. That day is coming and I'm looking forward to it.

DB: Quality control is what I hear over and over. Photographers are very concerned about what the final product looks like and what it costs to get to a satisfaction result.  Print-on-demand is getting better and better but it is still not perfect. When using several different machines, there is no guarantee that all the books will have the same print quality.

MM: Well, inconsistency of product is often the issue. I read a blog entry bashing one of the big POD publishers where he ranted about the outsourcing of printing. One book came from one contract printer, and the second from another, and the third from yet another. I am not sure if this is the case at this date as this was some time ago. I have also heard about at least one other issue with another POD company that is comparable.

: I think that the biggest worry surrounding print-on-demand can be summed up in one word: control, as everyone else has mentioned. But interestingly enough, it's the same word I would use in relation to the biggest worry photographers have when making a book using ANY technology, not just print-on-demand, but the traditional method of offset lithography as well. Being visual artists, photographers want to make sure that the look of the book is to their liking—things like color management and reproduction are extremely important, as are materials and the feel of the book. Regardless of reproduction method, someone skilled at managing that particular process MUST be involved.

About the contributors: 

Andy Adams is the Editor / Publisher of , a contemporary photography website that celebrates the culture of image-making by promoting the discovery of artists from around the world. An online art space + photography publication, the site provides opportunities for a global community of artists and photo organizations to share new series work, book projects, and gallery exhibitions with a web-based photography audience.

David Bram is a fine art photographer and the editor, founder, and curator of Fraction Magazine, an online venue dedicated to fine art photography, showcasing the work of both emerging and very established fine art photographers.  Fraction Magazine was founded in 2008 and is currently on it’s sixteenth issue and has shown portfolios from more than 85 photographers. 
David has been reviewing portfolios at various events including Review LA, Review Santa Fe, PhotoNOLA and Fotofest.   He was also a juror for Review Santa Fe in 2010 as well as a juror for Critical Mass in 2009 and 2010.

Darius Himes is an acquiring editor at Radius Books, a non-profit publisher of books on photography and the visual arts he started with colleagues in 2007. Prior to that he was the founding editor of photo-eye Booklist, a quarterly magazine devoted to photography books, from 2002–2007. He is also a lecturer, educator and writer, having contributed to Aperture, Blind Spot, Bookforum, BOMB, PDN, and American Photo. He earned his BFA in Photography from Arizona State University and a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College. In 2008, he was named by PDN as one of fifteen of the most influential people in photo book publishing. His forthcoming book, Publish Your Photography Book, and co-authored with Mary Virginia Swanson, will be released by Princeton Architectural Press in the Fall of 2010.

Melanie McWhorter has managed photo-eye's Book Division for over 11 years. She maintains her own photo-related blog and is co-founder of Finite Foto which focuses on photography in New Mexico. She has been interviewed about photography in PDN, The Picture Show, Santa Fe's THE magazine; judged the prestigious photography competitions Women Photojournalists of Washington's Annual Exhibition and Fotografia: Fotofestival di Roma's Book Prize; reviewed portfolios at Fotografia, Photolucida, Review Santa Fe and PhotoNOLA and contributed to photo-eye Magazine, the photo-eye Blog and Fraction. She will be speaking at Click646 in October 2010 and tentatively teaching at New Orleans Photography Workshops in December 2010.

Independent Photobook Links

Le Garage

Photography Book Now, sponsored by Blurb

Camera Club of New York (CCNY), Zine and Self–Published Photo Book Fair
International PhotoBook Festival, Kassel, Germany

Self-Publish, Be Happy -

Indie Photobook Library, started and managed by Larissa Leclair

The Independent Photobook

The Future of Photobooks: A Cross-Blog Discussion


  1. Another great discussion of the self-publishing phenom:

  2. These are all worthwhile topics, and it seems a lot more could be said about all of them. As someone who collects and loves photobooks, I want to add that many photographs, especially b&w, look much better in a well-printed book than they do on a computer screen. In addition, a book gives room for text. Books are the best place for images and words together, even better than a gallery or museum, because you have time to read something substantial. Text gives the possibility of expressing more complex ideas than photographs alone. In fact, a great example of one such book is reviewed (by me!) in the current edition of Fraction.

    As for self-publishing, as someone who is struggling to deal with the limitations of POD, who does not have the money to hire a designer, etc., I find it rather daunting. It seems to me that every time I turn around, I have to master another skill set. It isn't enough to photograph and write; now you have to learn book design, marketing, and, oh yes, I almost forgot, podcasts and videos, too. While becoming a Renaissance woman can be interesting, I wonder about the effect on the quality of what is produced--unless you have the resources to outsource (or you're a modern day Leonardo da Vinci).

  3. The great game changer in self publishing has still not yet come, when digital printing is of a high enough quality that it can match offset processes for quality but at a fraction of the cost..that is when we will see photographers and other artists producing their own short edition quality books. Until then the cost of traditional offset printing is a barrier to many.

    As a photographer who now publishes, I am becoming aware of the time it takes to produce quality books and magazines and I am beginning to question in my own mind if I want to spend so much time with designers and printers...It just took me nearly five months to produce in-publics 10 book, that's five months in which I am not shooting for myself. I love the birth of a new book but I also love shooting with my Leica on the streets of a strange city.

    Photographers are being encouraged to self publish, explore moving image, have a notable web presence, lecture, exhibit and make a living....we need to make time to also be photographers.

  4. As a photographer and employee of a photolab, I agree that there has been a sort of "boomerang" effect back to photographic printing of all kinds as a reaction to the somewhat ethereal and fleeting nature of online display. A veteran of photo sharing communities going back close to 9 years, I find myself printing/publishing in book form more frequently as time goes on.
    I'd like to speak to the last question posed to the panel about the worries that photographers have with respect to control, consistency and quality. My company, AdoramaPix, is making photobooks that are printed on Fujifilm Crystal Archive Album photo paper. We offer ICC profiles for this paper and the machine it's printed on. An added advantage is that all books produced by us are printed on the same machines in our building on 17th Street. Photographers have marveled at the quality of these books and the consistency of multiple copies printed over time. For me, as a photographer and not just someone who works here, these books offer the best of the best quality c-prints bound in a book.

  5. Ive self published a book, well a catalog really, of photographs in my collection. I am also collecting ltd edition photo books with a print/s enclosed and ltd edn photo zine magazines. I dont know if anyone has thought about this but books with real photographs tipped/pasted in are continuing an historical form of the very first photo books published. Early photographs could only be published either as engraved copies of photographs or as original photographs tipped in until later in the 19C mechanical reproduction of photographs became possible. Self publishers should be very proud of this historical link with the very first books of photographs published.

  6. I always have the same question about POD. We all know eventually the quality will get there, but even when it does, whose going to market, promote, and most importantly BUY all these books?

    There's so much focus on the technical aspects, which are certainly important, but I'm afraid there isn't enough thought or discussion put into building the audience and culture for the type of photography we find interesting.

    We sort of focus on and bemoan the flood of photographers and photographs. But I don't see that as the problem.

    While there are certainly great online endeavors (like Fraction) I don't think the photography community has done a good job of attempting to branch out. It still seems too much about producing photographs for the smaller niche of photography enthusiasts (which are mostly other photographers.)

    I wish I were more optimistic but unfortunately I have a difficult time envisioning the market for photography books growing.

    So we'll probably continue down the same path, where more and more photographers are fighting for the attention and respect of an elite few who control access to those that pay money for books/prints.

    Maybe just screwing all economic considerations is the way to go, or has always been the way to go...

  7. Will this discussion remain online? I would like to publish a link on The information is wonderful and would be an asset to our member and viewers. We self-published our 25th Anniversary Book in 1986 through Kodak and it was lovely. We created a limited edition for competition winners and also distributed it to approx. 50 photo-related museums around the world. We had to do a work-around to provide text that was formated more in a book style,, because at the time, they had only one size font and no flush left we created our text pages in photoshop. I also personally produced an incredible large scale self-portrait book through GraphiStudio in Italy..unique, beautiful, glass/metallic cover, leather bound, excellent quality. More expensive than the Blurb, Kodak, etc.. but for a special limited edition... gorgeous! The web is fantastic...and the ipad is fabulous..yet.. there is something to be said about handling a book, savoring each page, the texture, a quite un-pulsated moment of reflection.

  8. Robert Frank-The Americans, Simpfiled Chinese, Steidl. I had bought it from local bookstore in Taiwan.

    The book was no different with english version.

  9. I am a photobook collector in Taiwan.

    There are still many great photobooks issued in Taiwan, but I believed that most of yours are unable to find these Taiwan Photobooks in North America / Europe or other Asia countries.

    Before (one year) I had worte letter to Ms Melanie McWhorter to enquir if is interesting to sell Taiwan Photobooks. But appresently is not interesting in these Taiwan photobooks. : )

    Even though I like to collect foreign photobooks, but I still housed over one thousand Taiwan Photobooks in here since these Taiwan Photobooks are belonging to a small parts of Taiwan photography history.

  10. As a photographer the idea of a photobook is now a dys the final stage of your work. Digital cameras have taken away the posibility of having a real contact with your images and with your work, so i think the photobook gives us back the material feeling and the feeling that your work exist beyond the net.

  11. I've been sitting in my office saying, "Fotobuch Tage" over and over in the heaviest accent I can muster. It just sounds cool.
    On a serious note...I've noticed something. I love books. I like collecting them, and making them. Just made my 102nd book with Blurb, so the idea and process of putting out a book is now not only familiar, but an integral part of my mongrel business.
    Yes, much of our world is electronic these days, which in some ways is great, exposing us to breaking news, unlimited imagery, etc, but in some ways this has changed us, not only in what we view, but how we view it, and I don't mean computer vs. paper.
    Our ability to ingest information has forever been fractured by the sheer mass of informational snippets we ingest on a daily basis. Our brains have changed, so consequently, what and how we view has changed as well.
    I’ve noticed when I deliver a book, or show a book, RARELY does anyone really pay that much attention. It sounds odd, but it is very true, and frankly can be somewhat puzzling.
    I hand the book, thinking I’m really cool, and the client takes it and opens it to the middle of the book, looks at a few images, something in one of the images hits a chord and then sends them on a minute rant about one thing or another, and as they are speaking they are looking at me, and flipping through virgin pages at the same time never even seeing those images. They then look at the front cover, back cover, freeze for a moment as they try and regain their train of thought, and then say the token, “Wow, this is…wait for it….wait for it….AMAZING.”(The most overused word in the modern world.)
    I will show a book titled “Sicily” a book containing nothing but images from the region. The client will look at the pages, and about four pages in they will ask “Hey, where did you shoot that?” “Sicily,” I will repeat again, “The entire book is from Sicily.” Four pages later the client will ask, “Where did you shoot that one?” They are simply NOT paying attention to anything, even the book in their hand. And this isn’t just civilians buying books, I’ve had this happen with “the elite” crowd as well.
    Now being the overly optimistic individual that I am, I always think, “It was probably too powerful for them.” “They are probably crying inside and just can’t deal with the pure genius in their hand.(wink, wink)” I always tell myself, “They will look at it, for real,in the privacy of their cubicle, home or quiet spot where they venture to bond with something, but I’m not sure that ever happens.
    This doesn’t always happen, but it has happened enough for me to be writing this.
    Now I’m going to keep making books, but I realize now I’m up against new factors that influence the life of these books. Not sure I can do anything about it, other than be aware this experience is all too real and do my best to share with the client how important the book is to me.

  12. Dear Anonymous,

    Please email me again I would love to see a list of your books.

    Melanie McWhorter

  13. Dear Anonymous,
    contact me directly as well. I would love to feature some work from Taiwan.
    david bram

  14. I am very enthusiastic about self-publishing. I think it's the greatest invention since the internet! It's opened up a world of possibilities for everyone, where it had been open to only a few. Your self-published book can be as great as you (or your book designer) are able to create. I've been encouraging many "emerging" artists and photographers into publishing their work themselves for the first time. It's given them a new confidence with their work from the feedback they've received. Although every book will not be worthy of moving on into the "real" world of established photography book publishing, it may be a learning process for those that aspire towards one.

  15. One point that may be worth chewing on as part of this discussion is that many commercial publishers of fine art photography books now require that artists provide some degree of funding for their publication projects.

    There are some publishers, like Twin Palms Publishers, that do not require this funding. But, my understanding is that these publishers are the minority now. I suspect some mid-tolate-career artists with a proven sales record for their art and books may not face this requirement. Or at the very least, they may have an easier time finding funding. I am aware of artists who received institutional funding to pay for their book projects.

    I'm not entirely sure when this practice began, but given that it is widely prevalent, it seems relevant to this discussion of "self-publishing". Artists who are choosing to publish their books with commercial publishers are not just providing their images and content. They are also business partners in the production of their book.

    Through my recent portfolio reviews, I have been fortunate to attract interest from publishers for my elderly animal project. I am in the process of navigating the publishing world for the first time and it is both exhilarating and terrifying. How to garner funding for publication projects is an important aspect to this discussion. (Note also that it is relevant to self-published projects as well. For example: I chose not to go the POD route for my Thrills and Chills catalog. It was actually less costly from a per-book standpoint to go this route, but it did involve greater risk given that I had to lay out all of the funding before I sold a single catalog. I was glad though I went this route because I wanted to print offset and have more control over the size and format of my catalog.)

    I would very much appreciate if the panel provided some insight and suggestions on this aspect of publishing photography books.

  16. I want to respond to a comment that Elizabeth made, "Although every book will not be worthy of moving on into the "real" world of established photography book publishing, it may be a learning process for those that aspire towards one. "

    Photographers who want to eventually publish their work with an established commercial publisher should be careful about how they produce and market a self-published book. For example, I was advised by a publisher interested in my Thrills and Chills work to not market my self-produced catalog through booksellers. This publisher wanted to be the first to sell this material in book form to a bookseller. Perhaps other publishers feel differently about this, but after hearing this feedback, I have deliberately not marketed my catalog through booksellers like PhotoEye, who has been incredibly supportive of self-published books. I was also very careful to design and market the project in such a way as to not compete with a future book. It's small in size (6 x 6 inches) and I designed it to be a catalog of my work to accompany my exhibition at the Griffin Museum.

    I am still in the process of making work for this series. Most photobooks tend to have an air of finality to them. I wanted to be careful that the publication I produced was by no means the final publication for this project if that makes any sense.

    I say all of this because I think it's important for artists to consider the purpose and intended audience of their books before designing them. I know there are photographers who produce many Blurb books and basically just update and revise the book as they make new work. The technology is now sufficiently easy that you can produce books in an organic & iterative way like this. But, is that necessarily a good thing?

    I made a conscious choice not to go the POD route. Given the financial risk and cost involved, it was especially important for me to think carefully through what I wanted to achieve and who I wanted to reach with my book. One important audience for the book was curators, gallerists, photo editors, etc. with whom I would be meeting at portfolio reviews. This year I attended Fotofest, Project 5 and Review Santa Fe, and in early January I thought about what I wanted to include in a leave-behind packet for these reviewers. I asked a few people I trusted who have been reviewers at these events about the types of leave-behinds that have worked for them. I repeatedly heard that it was helpful to produce something that was compact and lightweight that was easy to travel with. This feedback was another reason why I made the catalog small in size.I also wanted to this catalog to facilitate sales of my work institutionally and with collectors. So I included in the catalog basic information that a prospective buyer would want to know: edition size, print size, etc.

    (To be continued...)

  17. Part 2...

    But reviewers and collectors weren't my sole audience for this project. I wanted to create something that I could sell to the online
    photo-loving community to which I belong. From Twitter and Facebook, I have met folks from literally around the world who have been
    incredibly supportive of my work. Most of this audience consists of fellow artists who can't afford to buy my fine art exhibition prints. I made design considerations that would hopefully appeal to this audience as well. For example, instead of simply publishing my CV, which is typically found in exhibition catalogs, I published excerpts from interviews I had given (and reworked a bit for this format). I
    wanted people reading the catalog to learn more about me and my thoughts on photography. I didn't want their eyes to glaze over from looking at my CV. With this audience in mind, I also chose to print the catalog in a small edition size (250, which was the minimum number I could produce by choosing offset printing) and numbered and signed
    each catalog. I knew I couldn't possibly even break even in my production costs by selling the catalog at $19, so I decided to offer a small limited edition archival pigment print to help raise funds for the project.

    Print quality was extremely important to this project. I chose to go the offset printing route primarily for this reason. Achieving the level of quality I wanted was indeed quite a headache. I rejected the first 2 printings of the catalog due to quality issues. The printer had extremely good customer service and agreed to reprint the catalog at no additional charge each time. I was not even charged for shipping after the first printing. But, it was quite a nail-biter. My final printing arrived literally the night before my opening at the Griffin Museum. If you do choose to not go the POD route, definitely add time to your production schedule to account for problems.

    I wanted the book to have a professional and clean design. I knew I did not have the skills to accomplish this on my own, and am fortunate
    to have a good friend (James Goncalves) who is a graphic designer. He bartered his design services for prints. I am very grateful to him for his beautiful work.

    I have dreams of one day producing a book of my work that is indeed an art object. But, I also know that I very likely do not have the funds
    or skills to produce a book like this without partnering with an established publisher. As Alec Soth said, "Gerhard Steidl has devoted
    his life to learning the craft of bookmaking. I’ll never compete with that." (see:

    Much can also be said about the expertise book publishers provide in terms of marketing and distribution of books. While much of the
    discussions about self-publishing tend to extol its virtues, I think it's important to carefully think through the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing before embarking on a publication
    project. Self-publishing was the right route for me with the regards to my catalog. But, it won't be the best route for other publication projects I undertake in the future.

    I hope that by sharing the thought process and design considerations that went into my Thrills & Chills catalog, I helped readers out there who are embarking on their own publication projects. Drop me a line or contact me on Twitter ( and I'd be happy to answer your questions.

    Oh, and if you'd like to purchase a catalog, copies are still available for sale on

  18. I think Isa made a good point. Some people might have a hard time affording a limited edition print from an artist. To this day I still long for a Keith Carter "Radio Flyer" print! The photo book has become a great alternative to grab a series of work from one of your favorite photographers. I have bought plenty of self published, low end publishers, and major print companies books. In one case, I was involved in the production of a group effort titled "The Toycam Handbook". At the time there was nothing like it on the market. If it werent for the self publishing route, it may never have happened. Not all of us have the connections, know how, or funding to get a project off the ground. I think a decent online following, some good damn work, and a few friends willing to support you with a purchase, allows alot of us to get our work out there to be seen.

  19. I definitely want to get in on this discussion... in the meantime read what Alan Rapp just wrote about this topic:

  20. Dear Anonymous,

    I am also very interested in Taiwan photobooks and would love to have some in the Indie Photobook Library collection. Please email me at


  21. Just to add to the general discussion on self-publishing your work and putting off potential "established commercial publishers", you can create a book on Blurb and use it as a marketing tool, as a give-away, leave-behind, as a portfolio, and you don't post it to their public site. Many foundations and corporations print beautiful giveaways from Blurb, but you will not see those books on the public site.

    To Isa Leshko: Your elderly animal project work is so excellent, if a commercial publisher doesn't snap it up right away, they are not doing their job! However, in regard to your point about "publishers of fine art photography books now require that artists provide some degree of funding", that's been true for at least 40 years, so it's nothing new. It's the great secret no one speaks about. I wouldn't leave any publisher out or any well known photographer who's books you've collected. Book publishing is an expensive venture and if you want the best quality printing, best paper, and best marketing for your work, you probably have to contribute towards it.

  22. I followed Larissa's link and read the piece. I stumbled onto Alan Rapp's contribution to the networked blog discussion on the Future of Photobooks, which is also a really good read:

    One paragraph jumped out at me:
    "Here I’m suggesting that for all the duress the print publishing industry is under, a certain kind of patronage can keep the presses running. Those author/photographers for whom “a book” is not a single-minded goal, but who value all the aspects that come through the process—high-level creative collaboration, materials and production factor exploration, the reputation and history of the publishing house, fraternity with that publisher’s other artists, and yes, distribution—will be the ones making books with publishing houses."

    This point was exactly what I was thinking when I wrote: "I have dreams of one day producing a book of my work that is indeed an art object. But, I also know that I very likely do not have the funds
    or skills to produce a book like this without partnering with an established publisher."

    While I think self-publishing is a very important tool for artists, I don't think it is the best route for every project. Artists need to carefully consider the pros & cons self-publishing v. trade-publishing before deciding which route works best for a given project. Again, it goes back to thinking about the goals & intended audience for a project. I think Alan did a nice job outlining some of the benefits of working with a trade publisher. All too often these benefits get overlooked in discussions surrounding self-publishing.

  23. I am really interested in this discussion and I love POD and the Internet because these give a chance to all sort of practitioners to move away from established fine-art circuits and elite networks.

    That said, I want to push this further, and suggest the issue of the software, which still is not addressed. It is in fact assumed that photographers, designers, and publishers have to use Adobe-Mac as default options. Nowadays, there are valid Free and Open Source alternatives to this duopoly of proprietary software that are worthy promoting: e.g. desktop publishing with Scribus and photo-editing with The Gimp.

    That makes the process of book-making a real craft in the digital world, and a continuous learning process, for both publishers and authors!! I have now published my second photobook in this way and am very happy about the results:

    I hope this will inspire other photographers to work with Open Source software....and publish their books on demand (with or without a trade publisher).

  24. I wanted to continue the discussion on "audience" and "market" for self-published books that was brought up by BryanF.

    Regardless if the photo book market is growing or not may not have an effect on self-published or indie-published photobooks. True this is a niche market but many of these books are in editions of 30, 50, 100, etc. and are reasonably priced so in many cases there is actually more demand than supply. Take for example three books that were recently announced and then sold out within a month. I tried to get a copy of Justin James Reed's book "Don't Die" and waited too long. Thankfully, I bought Geoffrey Ellis's "Get Off My Lawn" the first day it was available. That sold out in a week. And "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" by Trent Parke and published by LBM Books sold out in three days. That was in an edition of 1000.

    Many of these books fly under the radar. Have you seen Matt Austin's three new zines?

    As far as the audience and market for POD photography books, I think there needs to be more venues to see these books in person. The price point for many hard cover POD books is just too high for many interested buyers.

    I am personally interested in broadening the audience and market for these kinds of books and as mentioned above in the original article I have recently started the Indie Photobook Library. It is an archive that strives to preserve and showcase self-published photobooks, photobooks independently published and distributed, photography exhibition catalogs, print-on-demand photobooks, artist books, zines, photobooks printed on newsprint, limited edition photobooks, collectibles, and non-English language photography books to be seen in person through traveling exhibitions and as a non-circulating public library. Having a specific collection dedicated to these kinds of books allows for the development of future discourse on trends in self-publishing, the ability to reflect and compare books in the collection, and for scholarly research to be conducted in years, decades, and centuries to come.

    Upcoming exhibitions from the archive for 2010 include an expo at the Flash Forward Festival in Toronto along with Self Publish Be Happy (October 6-10) and at FotoWeek DC (November 6-13). Hundreds of self-published/indie published/POD books will be on display and this includes selections from Blurb's PBN competition winners and honorable mentions from 2009 and 2010.

  25. @Larissa: I would say that Justin James Reed, Geoffrey Ellis and Trent Parke are all well known to the photography community which is why those sold out so fast. They're known entities.

    I had a similar conversation with someone who mentioned how well Phillip Toledano's book was selling. 'But he's famous,' I retorted.

    Recognizable photographers who are connected and have the marketing network in place will do fine when they publish, but what about the truly unknowns?

    I hope that we can develop avenues for this type of work to be seen and promoted.

    "I think there needs to be more venues to see these books in person. The price point for many hard cover POD books is just too high for many interested buyers"

    I agree completely. There are books I'd take a chance on but not at those price points. This is why I've suggested some sort of book exchange.

    If people could share the cost and have an opportunity to see the books before buying, then I think we'd have a much better chance of finding unknown work, and promoting it.

  26. @BryanF: Thought your idea was a great one when you first mentioned it. Start it up!

  27. concerned about quality ? ha ! i was just looking at many grey looking duotone photo books in my collection and cannot say they're well printed at all: catalogs from museums and such. only high end printing is worth the paper its printed on and does justice to images. POD is a very good solution for average reproduction, it's convenient and fast and artists can finally show their work in an organized manner. the quality will follow soon i'm sure.
    the question is: do you compare the POD quality to the inkjets one makes at home or to a fine print made by a master printer?

  28. Post by Tim at regarding the future of photo books...