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Independent Bookmaking in a Digital Age

by Sarah Thorngate 


Tags: Media, Independent Press, Books, Crumpled Press,

CrumpledPressBookCoverAt Crumpled Press, a young, independent bookmaking outfit based in Brooklyn, each book is a tactile treasure—custom cut, bone folded, and hand sewn. In a profile for University of Chicago Magazine, Melissa F. Pheterson writes of how the press’s four editors collaborate with each author “to create a book’s artisinal feel...to savor the printed-page aesthetic in an era of digitized technology.”

For each edition, the press hosts binding parties in McIntyre’s loft, with about a dozen crafty friends paid in snacks and conversation. “It’s like quilting,” says founding editor Jordan McIntyre. “It’s a homespun model that people miss.”

Since 2005, Crumpled Press has used this homespun model to publish ten titles, and the business is flourishing, with consumers drawn in by the books’ homemade beauty. While sales were in the low double digits for their first four publications, recent titles like Anthony Grafton’s Codex in Crisis (2008), a treatise on the digitization of books, and Derek McGee’s When I Wished I Was Here: Dispateches from Fallujah (2007) have sold several hundred copies.

“The standard line is that digitization kills books,” says editor Alexander Bick. “I think it’s more accurate to say there’s a symbiosis. The Internet generates most of our sales. We use digital technology like laser printing to produce our books…Our success contradicts the idea that bookmaking no longer makes sense.”

tom hendricks
4/13/2009 12:23:55 PM

Digitalization of books is almost a certainty. I think it'll redefine how we read. The Kindle is here now. It is a very expensive gadget that allows people to download books or some newspapers, from Amazon. It's like itunes, but for books. It's not very attractive, it costs too much, it does too little, etc. But it may pave the way for new ways to think of books and much more. I love books, and I will treasure my library and the better libraries throughout the world. They should be preserved and added to, as new great books are printed. But most of what is published need not be printed in book form in massive amounts. The excess is too often trashed anyway. That is incredibly wasteful. There is room for reading without publishing and printing. And there is a way to do it that allows more people access to more. Here is my suggestion. Sooner or later there will be a reasonably priced book size device that will be connected to the internet. It'll do the works. It'll be a library in an electronic book. But there are major differences from the Kindle idea we have now. First of all the internet will be like a huge jukebox of content - a jukebox that is always open. You would never have to store info on your device or 'book' - because it is stored online. Your 'book' would access a book or songs as you needed it. And delete to make room for something new. With the advance in technology that is sure to come, we should be able to, not download - that'll be passe, but instead immediately read not only books, but our favorite daily papers or weekly magazines with photos, all zines and indie publications, hear music , view TV shows, see films, etc. Also content that is basic information, or in the public domain, could be offered free by government subsidy, or private charities. And of course there should be safeguards so that no one power can control the information or delete art or information that should be sa