4478ZINE’s Publishing Manifesto — by Erik van der Weijde

 

 

 

Publishing is an important part of my artistic practice.

 

The text below is an attempt to explain and introduce my PUBLISHING MANIFEST as I wrote it down a couple of years ago. All 14 points apply to my working method and remind me of which path to follow. The first 8 points lead through the various stages of making a book, whereas the last 6 consider the finished book(s).

 

 

 

 

01. The book is the carrier for my (photographic) series.

As an artist working with photography, I always build series. To keep these series together and present them as a whole, the book is the perfect format. The collection of the images is more important than the single photograph within my work.

 

 

 

02. The printed page is the perfect form for the reproducibility of the photographic image.

To prevent any photograph from floating in the void, letʼs say on your cell phone or harddisk, you need to take action. Assigning an image to a specific page could be one of these first actions. The reproducibility of both the photograph and the printed page blend easily into a new form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

03. The spread contextualizes the single images.

Using the spread, the single image becomes part of something bigger. Through formal decisions images start to create direct relations with each other, possibly through repetition, contrast, or links within the photographs.

 

 

 

 

04. The sequence of pages may provide yet another context.

Apart from formal decisions in designing a spread, what enters here is a storyline, a sequence. By mixing other photographs and the turning of the pages a story evolves and grows. In this part of the process the rhythm of the reading is decided.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

05. The collections of images are mirrored in the collectability of the actual book.

As well as the photographic images are collections, so are the actual publications. Different books from the same catalogue tell yet another story. As it is important to keep the series of pictures together, the different books together also have a distinct weight. The value of the individual books lies partly in their collectability.

 

 

 

06. The ratio between the quality of the printing and the quality of the image is more complex than to be read 1:1.

Of course there are a million ways to print a photograph, by combining printing techniques and papers. The first step to come to a specific printing technique is to carefully read the quality of the image. Not only the outer, or immediately visible quality, but also the inner quality should be taken into consideration. These different levels of qualities could be represented on different levels by the quality of the printed matter. One should try to look deeper into the used techniques, both for the print and for the image, to understand the connections between them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

07. The relation between form and content is as equally important as both parts separately, but all parts may represent different values.

The content of the photographic projects is always the starting point, but one of the roles of the form is strengthen this content. Some projects may use a very bold form to point out a subtle theme, whereas others use a subtle design to make a bold statement. Depending on each project the form should be dosed accordingly. Especially when the form is an actual part of the content, their different values can strengthen meaning.

 

 

 

08. The fetishistic character of the printed matter may provide the extra layers to strengthen the iconic value of its images.

The choice of exotic papers or printing techniques can be used to surprise the viewer. This sudden appreciation of the scent of ink, texture of the paper or look of the binding can help elevating the meaning of some images. Images that have been chosen in the first place, because they represent an iconic view on a specific subject, will grow through the immediate surroundings in which theyʼre shown, i.e. the printed matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

09. The book, as an object, gains strength as it gets re-contextualized by its viewer, owner or bookcase in which it stands.

As soon as the finished book leaves the publisher, its re-contextualization begins. Imagine a project on a specific architectural theme, standing in the bookcase of an architect, held between other architecture books that have been gathered and collected over the years. The meaning of that single book will be evaluated by each owner and judged on different merits.

 

 

 

10. The connections between different publications may be invisible, but are always present.

All books grow out of a little seed from deep within the maker. There are only a few themes touched upon, but treated in as many different ways as possible. If you track back these, sometimes, underlying themes, youʼll find connections within all published titles. Even if connections are only minimal, they should always be strong enough to hold the web together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.The steps made in the publishing process are solely based on artistic principles.

There can be many reasons to publish a book, but there can be only one reason to become an artist. If you choose to make books as an outlet for your artistic work, you should stay true to that and put aside other reasons. A merely financial reason, for example, will be visible in the project and will weaken the work. Donʼt underestimate your viewers. Most of them will be smart enough to see your true reasons behind the project. If you are an artist, than make art. If not, than donʼt.

 

 

 

12. If the book is like a building, then, the publishersʼ catalogue needs proper urban planning.

I compare my work to a building, just like Fassbinder did. Some works function as the bricks, some as the windows and even some as the wallpaper. So in that same logic, if you consider your book to be as a built structure or object, all these different books or structures together, should show some clarity. Buildings on top of each other, or parallel roads leading to nowhere will not make the body of work stronger. You have the power the carefully plan that city of yours and thus invite people to come and visit again and again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. Each published title must add value to the existing.

With each upcoming title you should ask yourself: ʻWhy am I making this book? What will this project add to all those already existing out there?ʼ Just because you can make a book does not necessarily make it a good one. Is the subject or theme strong enough? If your project turns out to be a copy, be it in subject, design or whatever, no one, except your family and close friends, will find it interesting. Your book should be strong enough to make it on its own outside in the big world. If not think of all the paper, ink, money and time wasted.

 

 

 

14. All books that are not made are, at least, just as important.

We make decisions all the time. Left or right, big or small, yes or no… All those times you say no to something or someone can help you make your body of work stronger. On first sight it might seem youʼd be losing out by saying ʻnoʼ that event or publisher or gallery, but in the end people that really matter for your work will praise your decisions and determinacy. The difficulty is that almost nobody knows about any of those times you said no. But that doesnʼt make it less important. Always say no to those proposals that will not strengthen your vision on the project.

 

 

 

 

Erik van der Weijde (Dordrecht, 1977) studied photography at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. He has published over 30 titles, most under his independent label 4478ZINE, but also with other renowned publishers such as ROMA Publications and Rollo-Press.
4478ZINE

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Changing Channels — by Christopher Schreck

In my last article for Paperweight, I spoke with Daniel Pianetti of No Layout, an online archive and bookstore whose business model, based on charging contributors an annual participation fee in lieu of a commission on sales, has attracted the attention of smaller art book publishers eager to explore methods of promotion, presentation, and distribution that better reflect an increasingly digital landscape.

 

What’s most exciting to me about projects like No Layout is that they reinforce for artists and publishers alike that now more than ever, one needn’t think of publishing in terms of “standard practices.” As conventions give way to new possibilities and greater autonomy, those committed to producing limited-run art publications have found that there are as many distinct potential audiences for a given item as there are existing modes of presentation. As a result, one finds today’s publishers developing diverse, idiosyncratic strategies for displaying and disseminating their products, inventing models that span multiple platforms (both physical and digital) and allow readers to choose how they access and experience printed content.

 

To gain a better sense of how art books are making their way to readers, I solicited insight from a few of my favorite publishers: Shelter Press, Gottlund Verlag, Editions FP & CF, Hassla Books, and Pau Wau Publications. While each stressed the crucial role of the internet in facilitating sales and cost-effective distribution, they also spoke to the continued importance of traditional modes of dissemination, such as international distributors, book fairs, and bookstores as means of gaining legitimacy, promoting strategically, and maintaining a presence within their given communities.

 

 

BARTOLOME SANSON – SHELTER PRESS

(Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)

 

 

 

1. What are the different distribution avenues you use for Shelter Press?

 

Basically, we have 4 main distribution channels:

a) Our own online store

b) Our worldwide distributor (Amsterdam-based Idea Books, who specialize in art books, and are mainly known for being Roma Publications’ distributor, as well as many good Japanese publishers’.)

c) Some “special” bookstores that work with us very closely – like Yvon Lambert in Paris, for example. They order everything we do, in a good quantity, and really support us.

d) Bookfairs. We try to go as much as possible to the fairs, but it can be super expensive, and since Shelter Press is still a very new project, we can’t go to all the fairs we are invited to (ie, NY, Tokyo, and so on…)

 

2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with physical bookstores?

 

As I said, we are now working with Idea Books, and they handle all the distribution worldwide. Money-wise, it’s not too interesting, since they take something like 65% on the public price. But it’s a very good way to spread some copies around the world, and to go to some unexpected or hard-to-reach stores.

 

When I was running Kaugummi Books (our previous imprint), I was selling TONS of zines online. Sometimes a whole run of 100 copies could be out of print in 1 day or so. But we moved to Belgium a year ago, where the shipping costs are INSANELY high, and it’s become kind of complicated for us to sell through our online store. For example, we are selling our vinyl at 12€, and the shipping to Japan is 22 €. This is just crazy! It’s way different from France, where the shipping costs were super low.

 

So we sell less online right now and more in bookstores… which is kind of tricky. You get 100% of sales from your online store and only 45% through your distributor, whereas Kaugummi was really different, because we’d be selling 80% online (good money) and 20% in bookstores (good visibility). That was a good balance. I hope to find a good balance for Shelter Press – it’s still a bit difficult for me to have a clear view on all of this since Shelter is a very new project. But for now, with the combination of online and bookstores, along with the bookfairs, Shelter Press can work on new projects, so it’s OK!

 

Aside from books, we also put out records, and it helps a lot economically. Everyone is saying that the record industry is dying, but it’s still way easier to sell records than art books!

 

3. Are there any other publishers/platforms you’ve come across using interesting strategies for displaying or distributing their publications online?

 

Not really; I almost feel like we are all in the same situation. One thing comes to my mind, but it’s more like a conceptual bookstore project. It’s called POST, and they are based in Japan. They feature one publisher every month, their whole catalogue, and then change the publisher the next month. I really like this approach, of displaying the publishing project as a whole thing, to give the prefect view on what each publisher is trying to say with his very own imprint.

 

Shelter Press

 

 

 

NICHOLAS GOTTLUND – GOTTLUND VERLAG

(Los Angeles, CA / Kutztown, PA)

 

 

1. What are the different distribution avenues you use for Gottlund Verlag?

 

I primarily sell books directly through my own website. I also distribute to a handful (5-10) bookstores in the states and abroad. I have a distributor for Japan as well. I would estimate I send close to half of a given edition to Japan. The reason I sell directly through my site though, is that as a publisher who is also the designer, printer, and binder, doing all of the production in house and all by hand, I don’t make any profit if I sell to shops at 50% of retail. The wholesale cost is the same as the production cost. I only break even that way. So the only way for me to remain profitable or have any money for the next project is to have customers buy the books directly from me. I do the New York and L.A. Art Book Fairs, which are fun and good exposure. It’s always the best to speak with people in person about the books and for them to be able to deal with them physically.

 

2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with physical bookstores?

 

I ship to 5-10 stores and 1-2 distributors. I use Twelve books in Japan and Motto for Europe. I send very few books to Europe for distro, mainly for Motto’s own stores. I send around 50% of my print runs to Japan if it’s a title that does well there. Basically, because of the small edition size and huge amount of energy spent creating each book by hand, I have to sell as many books as I can through my own website. It would be different if I made bigger editions of 1-2,000 copies and could send a bunch to stores. The stores know the way I work and take as many as I can spare and they can sell. It’s a very open and honest relationship for the most part. As I mentioned, though, I only really make any money on a book if I sell it myself. The wholesale price to a bookstore is about equal to what it costs me to produce a given book.

 

3. Are there any other publishers/platforms you’ve come across using interesting strategies for displaying or distributing their publications online?

 

I’m curious about this myself, and feel like I’m a bad person to ask. I think everyone has used the existing technology so far as well as they can. Sales are the part of the business I dislike the most and shy away from. But as far as display, I’ve been toying with the idea of scanning all my books (especially for the unique ones, such as Sam Fall’s Light Work or Jason Fulford’s Variations) and creating an accessible page so that people can see them before they become privately owned. Another thought was to have people send me pictures of the books I’ve made or published that they own when they get it, or a year later or 10 years later. I’m always so interested in where all these books go and how people keep them. People keep their books so differently! It’s so telling and interesting. I enjoy keeping the blog to show the book making process and related work that artists are doing. Hopefully people follow that and now and then buy a book because it falls in line with their own interests. I try to bring what I do to the Internet in as honest a way as possible. So that’s what I look for in other publishers and platforms online as well.

 

Gottlund Verlag

 

 

FREDERIC PIERRE & CAMILLE FRANCOISE – EDITIONS FP&CF

(Paris, France)

 

 

1. What are the different distribution avenues you use for FP&CF?

 

Our primary means for distributing our products is via our website. We have a basic online store, and it’s the best way to sell our books. Then we also work with bookstores around the world. It depends, but generally we sell like 30% to 40% of our production through bookstores. We also take part in fairs and festivals, but we do not run after it.

 

2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with physical bookstores?

 

Working with bookstores is a good way to be known by people who would maybe never come to our website. It provides new potential and new readers. We choose every shop with whom we work, so the list is small but strong. Working with bookstores allows us to sell books to people who don’t know our organization but it also represents a significant loss for us. The bookstores take 30%to 40% of the whole price, and we do not make any money from the deal. In France, we are lucky to have a special price for the shipping of books (exclusive price for the shipping of books only), so it’s very cheap to send parcels outside the country. The other thing about bookstores is that you never know if the transaction will be safe for you. We’ve already had problems with some bookstores and distributors who do not understand that we are a small organization with low means. Once the books are sold and the deadline of 100 days is over, I think it would be normal to be paid for the books we sent, but sometimes it it’s taken more than six months. It’s really trying to have to write and call each week to claim the money for a bill…

 

3. Are there any other publishers/platforms you’ve come across using interesting strategies for displaying or distributing their publications online?

 

I don’t want to fall into any marketing practice. I don’t want to push people to buy something. If you like a book and want to have it with you, take it. If a website has some great pictures of the books with a quality description and a link for the payment (Paypal or otherwise), I think that’s sufficient.

 

Editions FP&CF

 

 

DAVID SCHOERNER – HASSLA BOOKS

(New York, NY)

 

 

1. What are the different distribution avenues you use for Hassla?

 

I distribute through the Hassla site, bookstores, distributors, and book fairs.

 

2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with physical bookstores?

 

I think it’s important to have books in physical stores and not just online. People need to see the books in person and be able to pick them up and hold them. Sales-wise it varies, I might sell more to bookstores of one title and more online of another. I also sell books to artists’ galleries when possible, as they can also expose the books to a crowd that might not normally come across Hassla.

 

3. Are there any other publishers/platforms you’ve come across using interesting strategies for displaying or distributing their publications online?

 

Nieves has been digitizing all of their sold-out zines and making them available for the iPad and iPhone. Not a new idea, but some small publishers have been offering subscriptions at a discounted rate. I find fairs to be really good as it’s an opportunity for people to get a chance to see a lot (or all) of a publisher’s books together all in one spot.

 

Hassla

 

 

BRIAN PAUL LAMOTTE – PAU WAU PUBLICATIONS

(Brooklyn, NY)

 

 

1. What are the different distribution avenues you use for Pau Wau?

 

We use different avenues of distribution in various ways. We have always felt it was important to maintain a diverse distribution model, as it helps to reach different audiences and provides different benefits. The online store generates most of the profit but, more importantly, allows access to the micro audiences in Luxembourg that you never even knew existed. The independent bookstores help reach your main audience, but also provide a certain level of legitimacy and prestige in a climate in which everyone seems to be publishing and making books and zines. However, our favorite way to distribute and sell is at fairs, because it allows for great interactions between the people who actually spend their hard-earned money on our publications and us. All in all, each channel plays an integral part of the equation. In the future, we may focus more on a certain side of that equation, but ultimately, I think you need all of them to be successful and relevant.

 

2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with physical bookstores?

 

I think these stores provide a certain level of exposure and legitimacy in this small culture of self-publishing that is invaluable. For example, David at Dashwood Books was an early supporter of ours, and without a doubt delivered our books to certain people who would have never seen it if we had gone at it alone. We have since gotten much better about announcing and publicizing our books, but there are still people who will only end up buying them because they are stocked on certain shelves. Lastly, I think it’s important to remember these bookstores, in most part, are just like everyone involved in this small publishing movement: they are doing something they love and are probably not getting rich off it. It’s a symbiotic relationship – they provide a place for people to find these beautiful books, and we make sure they have plenty of beautiful books to be found. Of course, using bookstores is becoming more difficult due to the Internet and the ability of e-commerce. As I said above, it’s an incredibly important relationship, but when you’re looking at losing 40% of your profit, it makes the decision that much harder. Ideally, we set out with the idea that a certain percent of the edition, say 50%, will be saved for bookstores and the remainder will be sold directly either at fairs or online. With our latest publication, however, we are doing an edition of 300 with only 100 of those being signed by the artist. The idea is that the bookstores will sell the unsigned ones and we’ll be exclusively selling the signed ones. I think this is a nice compromise to the problem, as it makes those first 100 slightly more sought after, yet we still maintain the presence in the physical stores. Other than the benefits I have already mentioned, I think one major advantage to working with bookstores is the sense of community, which is created and celebrated through events, signings, and so forth. Dashwood, Printed Matter and Ed. Varie here in New York understand and execute this flawlessly. Each event builds a stronger and stronger community that allows for more collaboration, exposure to each other’s work, and conversations, all of which ultimate sparks new creation.

 

3. Are there any other publishers/platforms you’ve come across who are using interesting strategies for displaying or distributing their publications online?

 

The first time I saw Preston is My Paris, I was extremely impressed with some of the ideas they were exploring. It was mainly an app for the iPhone they had developed. I think they only released one issue, but the idea of exploring photo books on an iPhone was fascinating. I strongly believe in the future of the digital; it’s not going anywhere and is becoming more and more ubiquitous in our culture. As someone who is obsessed with print, this realization can be challenging at times, but also exciting. Personally, we are starting to heavily present our work online via videos and are currently working on re-designing our site to be much more video-friendly. To simply digitize something that is physical is somewhat boring to me; reinterpreting that idea or object into a digital landscape is much more where my interest lies right now.

 

Pau Wau Publications

The Curtain Rises — by Martine Syms

I’ve struggled to define successful independent art publishing because the accepted standard of success looks a lot like failure to me. I’m admitting this in hope of reconciling two divergent impulses; my desire for commercial validation and my interest in unpopular culture.

 

In a recent interview, musician and label owner Ian MacKaye insists that he didn’t care if he sold 100,000 records or 500,000 records or 100 records. Would he care if he didn’t sell any records? “Success is in the doing,” he argues. “Did you make what you were trying to make?” I believe in this idea, but it strikes me as solipsistic in practice.

 

I want to participate in the book economy, but I’m still determining the form of my endeavor and how I’ll measure its success. I’m interested in creating a sustainable ecosystem to invest in artists, designers, writers and other authors that is driven by books. And “books” is really just shorthand for all reading experiences.

 

Speaking to Stanford business students, Brian Murray, CEO of HarperCollins, suggests that publishers are the venture capitalists of the creative industry. “You think about the role we play, it’s the financing… it’s the editorial, helping shape and package the book for the best possible sales that you can get, and the marketing to actually deliver it.”

 

In the print-on-demand zine Economic Design: April 9, 2009 designer Zak Kyes proposes a similar idea. He wants to “establish, with a patron, a platform for the production of publications. Part of the edition would be housed in the physical structure of a private library/collection…and the rest would be distributed through the cultural economy.”

 

The premises above rely on a pool of someone else’s money. The publisher is the steward of this investment. At minimum, the publisher doesn’t lose the money, but the goal is growth. Murray says that at HarperCollins a book is successful when it “sells more than [it was] expected [to] sell.”

 

It’s not helpful to analyze independent art publishing by strict financial metrics. Good to Great author Jim Collins recommends another approach for establishing an “economic engine” in the absence of a profit motive. He asks us to consider, “How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources?” Collins divides resources into three parts: time, money and brand.

 

“Time” (how well you attract people willing to contribute their efforts for free, or at rates below what their talents would yield in business), “money” (sustained cash flow), and “brand” (how well your organization can cultivate a deep well of emotional goodwill and mind-share of potential supporters).

 

How much capital a publisher needs is dependent on the aims of her program. The publisher must establish specific, meaningful, attainable, relevant and timely performance goals in line with her mission. More importantly, she must be disciplined and accountable to the “brutal facts.”

 

I have a few hypotheses about what metrics will be important for my imprint Dominica. I’m sharing these to encourage others to set their own standards.

 

Get Money

 

Everyone involved in the production of a book should be paid. In theory, this widens the available talent pool. Free work often aligns unevenly against social and racial identities. I’m committed to expanding our community. While money is primarily an “input” in the social sector, in this case it’s directly related to one of my outputs, investment.

 

Read It And Weep

 

I make books for the reader. Described by writer Jeffrey Eugenides as “That one person, alone in a room, whose time I’m asking for. I want my books to be worth the reader’s time…” I am interested in the people Mat Johnson calls geeks, those with an “overwhelming passion for the idiosyncratic intellectual crush.” iPad, Kindle, browser, link, book, blog, zine, screen. Follow the reader.

 

Subject Not Object

 

Poet Nikky Finney reminds us of The Slave Codes of SC in her 2011 National Book Award acceptance speech:

 

A fine of one hundred dollars and six months in prison will be imposed for anyone found teaching a slave to read, or write, and death is the penalty for circulating any incendiary literature.

 

This is the legacy that I inherited. Dominica is a publishing company dedicated to exploring blackness as a topic, reference, marker and audience in visual culture. I don’t feel comfortable asserting myself as “black,” but I’m excited to explore that tension.

 

“Success” is a misleading concept. It’s often discussed as if it were fixed rather than mutable. My personal formulation of achievement has changed dramatically in the past year. It’s liable to change again. That’s okay. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, it matters that I’m accountable to my own idea of greatness.

An Interview with No Layout — by Christopher Schreck

No Layout, an online bookstore/digital library run by London-based art director Daniel Pianetti, is one of a series of platforms to have emerged in the past few years aimed at changing the way we discover, display, and purchase printed content online. Its approach falls somewhere between archival resource and promotional tool.

 

Established in 2010 as a digital library of art zines and fashion magazines (each item fully viewable through an intuitive, cleanly designed, non-app interface), the site recently expanded its format to include an online store specializing in independently published art books. While Pianetti is still in the process of expanding its selection of titles (among those currently featured are publications by Nieves and Morava Books), the store is perhaps most noteworthy for its business model: positioning itself as an “exposure intermediary;” No Layout doesn’t take any commission on its sales, instead allowing customers to purchase items directly from the publishers.

 

Those businesses wishing to sell items in the store, although required to pay an annual fee and handle the shipping process, are in turn relieved of costs otherwise incurred shipping and paying commissions to their distributors. It’s an interesting update on traditional distribution models – one that, according to Pianetti, effectively establishes No Layout as “the cheapest online bookstore.” Daniel was kind enough to answer a few questions about No Layout’s mission and model; you can read our interview below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher Schreck: I wanted to talk first about the new No Layout bookstore. It’s an interesting business model, in that it’s one of the few we’ve seen that specifically addresses the costs of distributing printed art publications.

 

Daniel Pianetti: I hear frustrated stories about distribution and shipping costs all the time from small publishers. I’d understand needing a distributor if they had to sell 10,000 copies around the world, but for only 100 copies, let’s say, I think you can handle it yourself, selling directly to your readers, and still go personally to these gallery-bookstores and ask if you can drop a copy there for the sake of the beauty of an object on display. If my thinking is right, No Layout could help in giving exposure and selling those 100 copies more easily, especially to people who had otherwise never heard of the publication.

 

Do you have a particular tone or content in mind for the site? Have you rejected many submissions? What makes a publication appropriate or inappropriate for No Layout?

 

I do make a selection—almost 50% of submissions are denied. But since I don’t have a precise style or content guidelines, I’m often asked about my unorthodox choices. With No Layout, you can find well-designed publications or a crap magazine containing one single picture I like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it was first established in 2010, the accessibility and straightforward design of the digital library was seen as a reaction to existing means of accessing printed materials digitally – i.e., e-book platforms, apps, PDF downloads, etc. Can you speak a bit as to how you feel the library functions within that conversation? Looking at other platforms, have you witnessed any notable changes or improvements in this area over the past two years?

 

When I was gathering feedback before the launch I received some aggressive reactions (“print is already dying, why would you do that?”), but for me it was obvious from the beginning that I wasn’t trying to replace the printed matter, just creating an archive for their aliases. I don’t think the value of No Layout is in the viewing experience, but rather in the discovery and archive. Maybe it is an improvement by having them all in the same basic format instead of uncomfortable files and links spread around, but really, the way we display the publication is the most basic and crude way possible. We didn’t want to create a new reading experience or anything—we’re just organizing, not reacting. VFiles launched last week, and they share the same approach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Layout is non-app and optimized for iPhone, iPad, and all browsers. Do you have any sense of how people are using the site—i.e., what percentage is browser usage, what percentage views the site on mobile devices, etc.? If so, has there been any effort made to tailor the site’s content to reflect those figures?

 

You can read a No Layout magazine on your couch with an iPad if you want, but few do: less than 5% of our visits come from mobile devices. From the beginning, I thought of the site more as an archive tool rather than a reading tool; I imagined people using it to flip through quickly for discovery or to research at work and school.

 

As it stands, both the store and the library present its content in a standard format. Moving forward, would you have any interest in collaborating with publishers on unique, site-specific content or formatting?

 

I don’t think that that will happen under No Layout’s roof; I’d like to focus on selling exclusive or signed items. On the side, however, I’d like to make some iPad publishing projects on my own as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are there any independent publishers/platforms whose digital presence you find particularly interesting?

 

Usually I like publishers who are able to transpose their content or identity in every medium as subtly as possible; by understanding that they don’t have to recreate their magazine as an app, they can simply complement it. You can do it with no budget, but oddly enough, this is something that the smallest independent publishers have the hardest time understanding. One of the best cross-platform editorial examples is Fantastic Man–their daily online suggestions perfectly match their concept, yet it’s something easy and unique that you can’t have on print.

 

I’ve always thought that the day I work on an iPad app for a magazine, I will just make an endless scroll of full-screen images, because lazily swiping is simply the best experience on tablet.

 

Can you explain the meaning behind the name of the site?

 

Like the No Wave movement, it’s about the rejection of a restricted frame: the published content can be molded into other entities.

 

What’s next for you and No Layout?

 

During the next few months, we’ll focus on the store and on how people react to it. It’s an ongoing experiment, so it will probably morph until we find the best solution. On a personal level, I’m currently consulting for Stampsy, a publishing platform for the iPad focused on editorial design. It’s currently in a prototype stage; I’m helping with art direction for the established print publishers who will gradually join it. I’d also like to publish some (printed) books with photographers and artists soon.

 

No Layout

Daniel Pianetti

Love and Loss — by Martine Syms

I want to talk about loss; forgetting, disappearance, ends, deficits.

 

It’s been two weeks since my last article. I apologize for my tardiness. I had a feeling that I shouldn’t put a timeframe, but in a way it’s a continuation on the theme. I’m not being paid to write this series. And why should I be? No one else is being paid to do Paperweight. That’s fine. But I’m two weeks late and no one bothered me because I’m doing this for free. Or maybe no one bothered me because we (all 100 of us) were busy buying and selling artifacts at the NY Art Book Fair.

 

In business, profit and loss are related concepts. Income minus expenses equals profit (or loss). The helpful, but terribly written, how-to book Accounting Comes Alive defines income as “value generating activity” and expenses as “value sacrificing activity.”

 

It’s taken me a while to truly understand that “value generating activity” always comes with expenses. “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” is a pop song about cost of goods. You have to breakeven before you can profit.

 

Breakeven Point (BEP) is calculated using the formula below:


Breakeven point = fixed costs / (unit selling price – variable unit costs)

 

Let’s say I’m making a book. Each book cost me $5, I plan to sell it for $15. My fixed costs (editing, graphic design, marketing, etc.) are $2,000.

 

$2000 / ($15-$5) = 200.

 

My breakeven point is 200 books. But what if I only make 200 books? I won’t make a profit. What if I really want to sell my book for $8. I’ll need to sell 667 copies and expand my edition size, or lose money. What if I want to maintain a small edition size and make a profit? I’ll need to raise my selling price.

 

It may already be clear that art publishing has two major barriers to profit: 1) the audience is extremely small and 2) within that audience only a select group of people are willing to pay premium. I believe this despite the NY Art Book Fair’s attendance of over 20,000 visitors. While those numbers are promising, I’m more interested in the conversion rates. I’m proud to say that Golden Age maintained a 30% conversion rate. Unfortunately, our volume was too low for it to matter.

 

Last Time: Business Models
Next Week (Maybe): Success, that distant apex

I’m a Business, Man — by Martine Syms

What is a business model?

 

At Harvard Business School, Professor Tom Eisenmann teaches that “a business model is an integrated array of distinctive choices specifying a startup’s unique customer value proposition and how it will configure activities—including those of its partners—to deliver that value and earn sustainable profits.”

 

In Business Model Generation, authors Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur suggest that a business model “describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value.”

 

Both definitions hinge on the word “value.” This abstract concept hovers around “money,” and maybe “art.” Since the most recent Financial Crisis (and probably before, but I’m young) the art world has been searching for new models—disruption—to match the changing economic climate. The greater publishing industry has already been disrupted. Art publishing, the grey area in this venn diagram, is ripe for business model innovation.

 

Adam Huttler, Executive Director of Fractured Atlas, offers a helpful analogy for the current art publishing business model: “…Someone offers you a bet. He’s going to flip a coin; if it’s heads you lose $100; if it’s tails you win nothing.”

 

Would you take that bet?

 

Huttler uses this metaphor to explain the position of art administrators, but it works just as well for art publishers. But is breaking-even success?

 

 

Next week: Love and Loss

Is Good Business Bad Art (Publishing)? — by Martine Syms

In a back issue of Proximity Magazine, now-defunct research group InCUBATE published a syllabus titled “Art/Life” that sketched the parameters of social practice. They interrogated the hierarchy between artists and other people who are creative by asking “[w]hy call oneself an artist, and how does this added layer detract or benefit from the work?”

 

Although the entire syllabus is noteworthy, Week 5 was particularly relevant to me.

 

WEEK 5: Is Bad Business Good Art?

Andy Warhol once said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” Yet, for artist-run businesses that are run more as conceptual enterprises, there are perhaps more open-ended standards of success. But what is the difference between an ethically minded, creatively organized small business and an artist who is basically starting the same thing, yet making money is beside the point? How can we talk about the privilege to experiment in this way and also appreciate creative failures?

 

I’d like to consider why making money is beside the point? In other words, why do artists (whose practice includes publishing) begin (and continue) failing businesses. By ‘failing’ I mean that the enterprise doesn’t make enough money to operate at a profit, which in turn prevents the hiring of employees. The owner is crushed by an overwhelming workload and eventually closes the business.

 

Why do we do this? Are we masochists?

 

For five years I was the co-owner of an art book shop in Chicago. I derived no meaningful income from the project, although I obtained substantial loss. I also gained friends, a professional network, knowledge, skills, and experience, but I would never do it again. Still, I didn’t start or continue to run a failing business for any of those reasons. I did it because I felt it was needed. I suspect you feel the same way about your own project.

 

Perhaps the primary difference between the artist and the “ethically minded, creatively organized small business” is that the artist allows his or her feelings to go unchecked. The small business owner begins with the same nebulous notion, but lets the market determine whether or not it is correct.

 

The indicators of success are different for each business model. However, if making money isn’t a key performance indicator, a project isn’t a business and shouldn’t be evaluated as such. That said, what about those of us who want to profit from our activities—are we still artists?

 

 

Next week I’ll look at business models.

Repetition, Iteration, Re-Iteration (Introduction – Part II) — by Bryan Krueger

Continued from:
Repetition, Iteration, Re-Iteration (Introduction – Part I)

 

In Ruscha’s 1966 book, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, the viewer encounters a more provoked dialogue between image making processes and this narrative-content divide.

 

Despite the fact that the content chosen for this work has the vague indication of linear reading – one drives or walks up and down the Sunset Strip; one interacts with the businesses and people that fill this public space – this does not necessarily indicate the presence of linear narrative within the context of Ruscha’s intentions.

 

What is highlighted throughout all of his books is the interaction with pure content.  The specific conversation between title and image in Every Building on the Sunset Strip self consciously recognizes its relatively limited descriptive power through syntactical  summarization of visual content – the title describes the conceptual boundaries of what the viewer will encounter with the visual content.  Within these boundaries, the viewer will not expect to be presented with content outside of the Sunset Strip.  What is viewed is what has been explained textually.

 

Rather than seeking, photographing, selecting and editing a single idealized image to represent the etherial idea of the Sunset Strip (or individual groups of images, as in Nine Swimming Pools), he shares it with the viewer linearly in its entirety.  In this way, the individual images coexist on a single seamless image-platform to be viewed at once as a sort of general overview of the subject through a myriad of unfolding views. The group of images dance around the line of being considered a single idealized image since we, in a sense, experience it as such. However, the process by which the work was made puts it in a separate category from our previous example.

 

It is not a qualitative process, per say, but quantitative.

 

A poignant qualitative counterpoint to his quantitative approach, in respect to image making processes, can be found in Carleton Watkins’ 1865 stereoscopic image From The Best General View, Mariposa Trail.  Though the initial intentions of these examples are arguably distinct from one another, the latter highlights the aforementioned concept of choosing a “single idealized image” to represent the chosen subject matter.  In other words: choosing the Best General View. The conversation between title and image here are prevalent, like Ruscha’s work, in the sense that we are textually explained the parameters of how to view the image.

 

The content within Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass may also fall into the category of a qualitative process since it contains a grouping of idealized, though seemingly arbitrary, images that point to the concept of a subject matter.  Though Every Building on the Sunset Strip is also made up of a grouping of individual  images, they are images composited to represent a single “object” (the Sunset Strip) through a multiplicity of views rather than singular views of a multiple “objects” (nine swimming pools and a broken glass).

 

By extending the canvas of these images to create one overarching representation of this “object”, both Watkins & Ruscha have created an improbable image not yet seen at the time.  They create “photographs” of something that could not otherwise be photographed. If this image is improbable, it makes other individual images of specified views seem a little more probable, a little more recognizable – allowing them to be more readily adapted to the viewer’s previous experience with the subject matter.  Improbable images make that interaction a little more difficult since the image making process presents a new way of viewing.

 

To be continued in:

Repetition, Iteration, Re-Iteration (Introduction – Part III)

 

*Ideas found within this posture of thinking are inspired by and informally quoted from Vilém Flusser.

Repetition, Iteration, Re-Iteration (Introduction – Part I) — by Bryan Krueger

On page 384 of Photography: A Cultural History by Mary Warner Marien, under the section heading “Philosophy and Practice: Photography ‘Born Whole’ “, the author discusses an exhibition John Szarkowski organized in 1978 entitled Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960.

 

This exhibition explored concepts ranging from the idea of the mirror (the artist’s concern with self) and the notion of the window (the appearance of the world). Paragraphs in, it is explained that the inclusion of work by Ed Ruscha leaned toward the latter approach in that he “saw the camera as essentially a bland, inexpressive device with which to record dispassionately a banal human environment”.  On page 427, his use of photography was explained in a similar fashion around the context of renunciation of personal expression within the medium. Ruscha uses the camera as a device to record, itemize, and compile images of familiar locations and buildings such as gas stations, parking lots, and motel swimming pools to the end of showing through repetition similarities and differences between specific subject matters.

 

Considering that photography is a tool he uses largely within the context of the artist book, it seems Ruscha approaches the photographic and book making practices from relativelypure standpoints.  For the purposes of this introduction, the term ‘pure’ is not intended to connote the romanticization of content – rather, the realization of the camera/book as a willed objects. From this photographic perspective, the camera is a device whose function is to record and transmit information – information that fits within the photographic program.  Similarly, the book (in the general sense of the term) is a venue in which content can be stored and presented to the viewer as a platform for information to be disseminated and received. It is a somewhat open format, relying on content to give it direction. But in the end, it shows what can be shown on the page, or else point outwards to other media that handle content in different ways.

 

It’s not really important who takes the photographs, I don’t even look at it as photography; they’re just images to fill a book.   – ED RUSCHA  2

 

In his 1968 book, Nine Swimming Pools, Ruscha chose as his content nine different swimming pools, which he presented with numerous blank pages between plates.  Using the title as our guide, we trust, even if we don’t initially understand his motive, that there are in fact nine variations of similar subjects rather than a single subject being repeated from various perspectives.

 

Though, the presence of visual rest as provided by these blank pages tricks us into questioning this fact, forcing us to jump between each variation to analyze and compare their similarities and differences.  The act of retracing visual steps encourages the viewer to slow down and focus on the content, despite the familiar nature of what is pictured – familiar through personal experience or visual culture.  The repetition of this strange familiarity is what allows a static narrative driven by the content to be developed.  This is to say, a narrative about the viewers interaction with content, rather than a narrative that immerses the viewer in content.

 

Continued in:
Repetition, Iteration, Re-Iteration (Introduction – Part II)

But What Is To Become Of History? – Part 1 — by Jesse Hlebo

Syntaxtual creation results in a finished product one could consider ‘clean cut’, a result of its means of production. This type of creation is not without imperfection, the fragments that occur have to be sought out rather than existing in an openly visible manner. Documents, images, manuscripts, news items, personal correspondence, and the like, constitute things that formerly resided as physical and tactile medium’s, but now occupy an almost exclusively digital existence. This consolidation and transformation has resulted in the neglect of the archive, at least under the terms ‘archive’ has applied towards since the invention of the printing press (a space where objects deemed to be of historical worth are collected).  Papers containment of content in a fixed manner becomes one of its many attributes as a medium of historical reference, an attribute that is being reclaimed while simultaneously discarded in our present culture.

 

Articles of a particular personal and historical value (specifically, self-published books and ephemera, as well as other such small press) frequently employ the same devices that once occupied the space of distributing information to the majority, albeit in a corporate environment. Devices such as laser printers, Xerox machines, Risograph’s, offset presses, and fax machines are among the rapidly outdated vessels of popular information dissemination. That which once primarily belonged to the office and the commercial, have shifted in use to that of the artistic. These devices are a receding splinter of information disseminators in a world of near-instant communication and gratification. Though many of the devices are meant for near-perfect reproduction, sometimes on a mass scale, the reality is that the objects created with such machines and methods are not perfectly reproduced and as such occupy a unique space in the world.

 

Utilizing this consciously ‘unique’ method of production is not without the intention of making the form available to many people, but is in affect shifting the priority onto that of the objects value. The objects physical limitation and existence becomes its primary attribute, which is not to say that content becomes null, far from it, it is instead a visible recognition of the importance of the vessel in which content is contained. By not achieving what the digital world accomplishes so well, the print medium as a standard format of information containment and dissemination, drifts off into a place it has always known well, that of the remnant.

 

The loss of the historicity of content, due to its detachment from the physical, and therefore the limited rather than the unlimited, signifies a substantial shift in the way cultural materials are consumed. Previously the value, authenticity, and relevance of an object were procured from the knowledge that the creator had come in contact with that specific object. There is now only the content itself as a means of value, all other facets of the objects ‘aura’ have been lost. With the recent rise of self-publishing in certain artistic communities, a re-focusing on the importance and value of the ‘aura’ has taken place and thus sets the stage for the facets of this culture that will be further discussed.