The finer points of publishing keepsake books; or, not.

Picture 22I had a sad moment yesterday.

I’ll start at the beginning; we published a beautiful hardcover book- one of a proposed two volume set- a few years back that was not only fine art, but sequential as well, or for the peanut gallery, “comic art”.

We want every book that comes out under the Olympian Publishing heading to be more than just a pile of papers- we focus on the hand of the paper, the weight, the surface, the translucence, and compare these factors to the material soon-to-be impressed onto their surface.  We try to find print houses that will do things that they might not have been asked to do in a hundred years or so, and pay whatever it costs to retool their setups to make something old new again.

For this book, a halloween themed graphic novel, we wanted it to feel like an old leather bound book.  So we found a top quality “leatherette” (wholly animal friendly, of course), had heavy metal die stamps made to deboss the cover for gold foil in a way that wouldn’t rub off in our lifetime, even had special endpapers made that had raised cobwebs, to ensure that from those very first pages the reader felt as though they were stepping into a musty library.  We used paper that had a textured high gloss, so that it gave the appearance of high gloss but with the utmost readability.  The interior material we had to work with was Master Level, and we applied the most sophisticated and respectful of design around it to give it a full cinematic presentation.

These were very very costly to produce, but we wanted to make sure that fans of this artist received something really, really special.  And we were able to do so for a retail price of only $29.95.

Nine out of ten people, I feared after watching the crowds for a year or so, couldn’t tell the difference between what we had made and a paper sack.  But every now and then, someone in the book or art industry who I respected would glow profusely and articulately on how much they appreciated the attention to detail that we had applied, and this made the shrugs from the other 90 percent worth it.

When we parted ways with the artist of this book, a very successful publisher was happy to complete the two volume set, and the artist stated publicly that this publisher would be applying the same level of quality to the second volume.  This made me happy- I am a fan of these books first, and was very excited to hear that they would be following our lead.

But I had the opportunity yesterday to finally see this Volume 2, new in stores this month.

No special endpapers, just flat black paper; the extensive sections previously published in black and white that we wanted to see properly colored to make this a special edition stand out as boringly stark in their original black and white format on such glossy paper.  They echoed our design of the first volume just enough that it looks more like the same book than something completely different, but I was heartbroken that the sensitivity of the book design, the materials from the cover to the interior paper, even the interior layout all are what can only be called mediocre.  Even the beautiful logo, debossed and foil stamped on our cover, appears on this one as if it began rubbing away the moment it left the printer.  And to top this aesthetic insult-of-packaging off?  The retail price for this affront to taste was HIGHER than the first volume.

Should I be happy that this makes our edition look SO much finer?  No.  Because, like Oscar Wilde (and perhaps Hugh Hefner), I want to live in a world of Beauty.

Should you still buy the second volume, if you’re a fan?  Absolutely.

But I just had to post a rant:

“Kannst du nicht allen gefallen durch deine That und dein Kunstwerkmach es wenigen recht. Vielen gefallen ist schlimm.”


It’s not a luxury.  It’s a responsibility.

So sayeth Schiller. Hear, hear.

-T

Gustav Klimt: Nuda Veritas, 1899

Gustav Klimt, Nuda Veritas. 1899.

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