A Good Read: Publishing in the Realm of Plant Fibers and Electrons

One of the books I bought at the NY Art Book Fair was Publishing in the Realm of Plant Fibers and Electrons by Temporary Services. I really like the long title, and the infographs on the inside were intriguing—plus it was on sale for $5. At only 30 pages, it’s been a thought-provoking read.

Temporary Services, an artists’ group that has been “actively thinking about, making, talking about, selling, and giving away publications for over sixteen years,” is currently comprised of Brett Bloom and Marc Fischer. They print their books digitally and offset—the interior of Publishing in the Realm of Plant Fibers and Electrons printed on their Risograph, the French-flap cover printed at an outside offset printer, and it was folded and staple bound in house. Many titles are available as free PDFs to download online, including this one.

For the past 19 years, Bookmobile’s main client audience has been literary presses and university presses, both of whom sell retail to the trade to make a profit. (Even nonprofit presses aim for their books to make a profit; and yes, this is an oversimplification of their missions.) More recently, though, we’ve seen an increase in art book printing for museums, galleries, and artists; they often have a different mission, and it’s been interesting to see such a different viewpoint.

Publishing in the Realm of Plant Fibers and Electrons is a good introduction to the self-publishing art book community, which are usually not for profit, but created as part of an exhibition, performance, or mission. In the book, Bloom and Fischer write about the “social space of print” and the value a book has for transmitting ideas, more than a website link or a business card. A book requires more resources and effort to produce, which can add value and substance to the whole idea.

PDFs, eBooks, and ecology are discussed next, then Half Letter Press, the publisher name behind the series of books they publish. Half Letter Press chooses not to print their books Print-on-Demand (POD), and the chart below illustrates why. (Bookmobile does not provide one-at-a-time POD; our minimum run quantity is twenty-five copies).

"We encourage new publishers to give serious consideration to the model of printing they choose and to not emulate POD because it is currently fashionable within the artist book community." -Brett Bloom and Marc Fischer

Bloom and Fischer close by looking at where artist book publishing goes from here. It’s definitely exploding; there are more art book fairs to show work, and it’s easier to share work through social media. Temporary Services remains focused on publishing as a means to find and challenge new audiences and to build and strengthen communities.

Comments? Let me know!