Apologies to anyone who may have been expecting something approaching a regular update schedule from me. Unfortunately it doesn't seem like I'm quite up to that just yet. My plans for the week had been to take you through the print process step by step, with Photos, documentary, witty riposte! Sadly, it was not to be. Certain print technicians who will remain nameless, have abandoned Wimbledon for an all-expenses paid trip to New York, and the Print Studio remains locked without them. Production of TEETH grinds excruciatingly to a halt.
The whole process of silkscreening covers has been nothing but trouble from the start, and now it seems my beloved prints are bowing and warping from the ink. Some time clamped flat in one of the studio's huge binding presses ought to set them straight. I am constantly beset by vexing issues, but for you, my reading public, I soldier through.
So with that all on hold for the indefinite future, I've had to find ways to occupy my time this week. Mostly, I've been researching for an essay I'm hoping to write, which has changed from a single, simple essay, to a grandiose and overarching one, to a small book of interrelated essays I'm thinking of publishing in time for the London Comics and Small Press Expo.
The central topic will be the Future of Print, and my central essay will be a largely speculative work gazing towards publishing trends of the future. You could question the use of such an exercise (or my qualifications for actually writing it) but it's something I want to get off my chest and I feel that it really forms an important influence in terms of the direction my work follows. I feel like it's really important to study the situation in Print today for anyone who has aspirations of being a Printer or a Fine Artist in general (your work will end up in Print at some point).
Issues discussed involve the rise of the e-Reader, escalation of print costs, developments in Small Press and the possible emergence of a counter-culture of Bespoke Printed Novels. An extract;
With sweeping economic change comes a genuine threat to an established literary culture. Since the launch of Penguin books in the 1935, inexpensive mass printing has been the cornerstone of literary society, almost synonymous with Books as a cultural item. The influence that the Penguin model has exerted is hard to overstate; bringing classic fiction within the price range of the common man has increased literacy rates and championed egalitarianism and democracy, and allowed a wide dissemination of ideas. Since Sir Allen Lane’s success in the Thirties, the Mass-Market Paperback (MMP) has become an industry standard, the technique of “Perfect Binding” becoming almost universal. But with increased costs of production, this entire culture could become unsustainable.
An important question to consider is what the fallout of such a collapse may be, or more poignantly: whether to allow it? Is the trade of cheap paperbacks relevant in the contemporary era? You could easily argue that the beneficial and ethical facets of the MMP as espoused by Penguin stem from it being the cheapest, quickest method to disseminate information at the time. In this sense, the Internet hopelessly outflanks the Paperback. Developing Environmental politics could soon make the book industry seem hopelessly wasteful and decadent to societies of the future. But will an online culture that replaces it, powered electrically, really represent any greater saving?Counter cultures will rise! Publishers will fall! Books will burn and e-Readers will freeze! (you may have to reboot them, I hear that usually works). Will unfettered publishing swamp us in an endless sea of Tabloid garbage and celebrity biography, or will fiction retain some kind of value? Will elitism cause a divide between the classes? Will we become as 19th Century Dandies, prizing our "hard format" book collections, or embrace a system where literature has no mass other than the flow of electrons through a processor? To find out, you will have to purchase "Books and the Digital Era!" (working title.)
The other small essays and discussions I have planned for the book include a dark journey into the dynamics of Fan Fiction, and a related study of Meme Theory and the Internet. Next up is "Lost in Scantlation" A look at the bad grammar and syntax that plague Manga scans and translation engines and how this harks back to a 16th century culture of literary piracy. A rousing roundtable discussion "What makes a Book?" involving some interviews and then a flirting look at what irregular format webcomics have to offer the world of comics in general. Wow!
Is the Medium the Message? Find out soon!
Before I move away from magazines and books entirely, there is one other thing I'd like to share- I recently rescued a bounty of old magazines from my college library that were slated for the recycling bin. Among them were these fantastic old Wimbledon Art College Magazines which draw most of their visual aesthetic from a certain Flying Circus if you know whaddi mean.
Absolutely classic, although it does make me worry that one day my printed work will have exactly the kind of camp look that I'm mocking here. It's a crime they were thinking of throwing this out, So i'll take you all through it with me later in the week. Until then,