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Tuesday, 18 September 2018


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I think another reason is that when the original photographer is no longer alive, there's no one with the aesthetic authority to oversee the reprint. I've seen reissues that looked dramatically different than their originals (in their contrast, details, and so on, and I would imagine artists' estates object loudly to that sort of thing. If you think, as I do, that the book *is* the artwork, it's no better than having someone remake a Picasso print decades after the original.

it says "No Longer Relevant."
I bought a 1959 edition of Sudek's Praha Panoramaticka, almost for free, due to a similar stamp in a Brazilian bookstore.
Sometimes, ignorance can be useful.

Would these books ever be made available electronically? With the excellent screens on iPads and other tablets, and essentially zero cost of distribution, it seems a reasonable thing to do. Otherwise so much is just lost to history.

Unless one has impeccable taste, as well as an ability to predict the future, speculating with photo books is a fool's game.

Just as with collecting photos, the best strategy is to buy what you love and cross your fingers that they someday appreciate in value.

Blurb and other companies print on demand so books can be ordered at any time. I recall sometime back that you wrote an article here about someone's Blurb photo book that you liked a lot and recommended it. You provided a link so people could buy it. I think it was a B&W book. Maybe there have been others you have recommended over the years too. A solution to the problem?

Then there's the retail end of things. I once spoke to a buyer for Target, who was in charge of book sales (which at one time was given more space than now.)Her only criteria for books was sales *intensity,* because she had to produce X amount of income per square foot of shelf space per year. Slow-but-steady was not an option for her; she essentially stocked nothing but big names and bestsellers, and really not many of those, because the store management didn't care whether she was selling "Story of O" or the "Encyclopedia Britannica," as long as she got to X. So her ideal situation wasn't even to sell a lot of one specific book -- they'd get, say, twenty copies of the new Stephen King, and if they were all gone the first week, that was great, because then they'd move in the next prospective bestseller. No way would they give book space to an art photo book expected to sell three copies over a year.

One of the problems the big book chains had (Borders has failed, Barnes and Noble is hurting) is that part of their business model was to provide some of everything. I can remember when B&N dedicated an entire bookcase to academic literary criticism; I doubt they sold ten books a year out of that case. And retail space is *very* expensive. That was okay when they were the 500-pound gorillas, but then Amazon came along. Amazon does well because it doesn't have any significant amount of retail space -- it has big cheap warehouses and can afford some lower intensity of sales.

I think the real coming model for high-end photography might be downloaded books, intended specifically for high-res monitors and iPads. The books would cost nothing to store, and if you wanted one, you could have it instantly. There might be some color problems, but you could probably provide tuning details with the books -- how to set your Apple monitor for the truest color.

It seems to me that with "print on demand" services increasing in quality and availability, this might be a good model for photo books. You wouldn't necessarily get quite the same ability that a more traditional printing process has for paper choice, size choice, and quality control, but there would at least be no inventory, and there would be a royalty stream for the photographer.

I highly recommend catching up with Craig Mod about his experiments with the latest ways of publishing art books using Kickstarter, especially his latest, Koya Bound.

Here's the story of the book: https://walkkumano.com

The kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/craigmod/koya-bound-a-book-of-photography-from-japans-kuman

And some fun background: https://craigmod.com/essays/to_make_a_book_walk_on_a_book/

He also has a podcast talking about book making and publishing, and the new ways available to creators: https://craigmod.com/onmargins/

Although there are logical explanations for the current state of affairs regarding photographer's monographs, the net effect is that their work is less accessible, particularly to younger photographers who weren't around or aware when the original editions were offered for sale. The resulting scarcity tends to increase the value of whatever older editions are available in print, thereby offering a perverse incentive for market-conscious publishers to wait until they can reap top dollar for new editions. This, while the world is flooded with billions of free but unexceptional and easily replaceable images. Ain't capitalism grand?

Any word on the quality of those Mack reruns of Alec Soth's books?

[I haven't seen one yet.... --Mike]

William Eggleston's book "Democratic Forest" is one that stands out in my memory for having a very unusual product/price life cycle. At one point, the book was beyond "remaindered." I think the book stores would give you five dollars to take a copy out of the store.
Eggleston's reputation, and the interpretation of his career was given new life and the book became very expensive. There are other examples of this, I'm sure. But that is one that has stayed in memory for me.

Strange theory. May be it is fact on the ground rather than pipe theory in front of computer display. But we thought we do the long tail these days. http://www.longtail.com/about.html or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_tail#Goodbye_Pareto_principle,_welcome_the_new_distribution

The whole amazon, ebay, ... are for this kind. Wonder what is the difference between photo book vs non-photo old books.

Re: Kickstarter
Yeah, it can really change the economics of publishing. I really ought to write about my recent adventures but not tonight. The only advice I have is whatever you do, don't publish a book that weighs more than 4.4 pounds or two kilos. (I just figured out how to do international shipping at a reasonable cost, but still shipping is by far the biggest expense)

Print on demand is getting better than a lot of what was printed in the 1970s but is nowhere near what can be done in an offset press. A friend of mine printed a very small edition of books at Steidel last year and the cost was probably thousands of dollars a copy, and they were never offered for sale to the public.

Quite cheered to hear that the reprint of The Decisive Moment is going out of print, as it means I may one day be able to offload my unwanted copy at a profit to somebody else who thinks they're desperate to own a 'classic'. I get that, I get why it has been printed the way it has (because it's a repro of the original, not a photo book per se); I just don't enjoy looking at the images this way. (And it's too big.)

Apart from that, I've generally enjoyed the ongoing surprises of those reprints that have appeared in recent years, many courtesy of Steidl. Robert Frank's "The Americans" was a particular highlight, fully justifying the effort that went into making it widely available once more. I'm also much pleased by those classic works that continue to be available at reasonable cost, such as Joel Meyerowitz's Cape Light. And occasionally, I luck out and find something at retail price just before it reaches rarity status; "An English Eye" by James Ravilious and "Dream/Life" by Trent Parke were both acquired in this way, and are two of the books I'm most grateful to own.

The other thing I've learnt is that, as you've noted above, even if one can't make it to a major exhibition it's worth acquiring the catalogue while it's on (especially as most museum shops now have an online presence).

I will not buy softback books again.

I would not buy virtual ones either; I want a book, not a thing that requires electricity and accessories.

The only book for which I pine these days - but it's far too expensive - is Deborah Turbeville's The Fashion Photographs. Looked at it many times on the monitor and iPad, but how I'd love to be able to sit with it and just savour the magic "in person" as it were.

@D B. I thought the recent reprint of ‘Sleeping By The Mississippi’ was pretty mediocre. The cover, which is like a poor quality photocopy of the first edition, is particularly horrible.

Incidentally, I am in the minority on this but I liked ‘Niagara’ better than its predecessor. The notes at the back give a nice insight to the stories. I just hope the cover on this reprint is nicer.

I'm really glad I found this post. I had requested Eliot Porter's In Wildness is the Preservation of the World as a birthday present, not realizing that the quality of the Ammo version was so bad. It was the Ammo version I had requested. Now I have to keep an eye out for one of the good ones used.

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