Independent Bookmaking in a Digital Age

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At 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.”

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