The Power and Beauty of the Tangible


Detail shots of my first book, Hands Employed Aright, published by Lost Art Press.

This past week, our inventory of Issue Two completely ran out. Besides the small pile we have stashed away for the future, it’s gone for good. If you have not purchased a copy of Issue Two, I’m sorry to say it is now too late.

But just like with Issue One, we’re already getting emails asking for it. As disappointing as that may be, the finitude and uniqueness of print media is part of what is so beautiful about it, just like other tangible things. We cherish the unique and special, not the mundane and ubiquitous.

Take, for example, this blog post. No one will be citing it for years to come. In fact, probably by next week it will fade away into the ether, never to be remembered again. As much as we might not like to admit it, this is the harsh reality of digital publishing – no one sees any lasting value in it. This is why the digitization of newspapers and magazines is business suicide, and why they desperately inundate their readers with ads.

Even though I’ve known this for years, I had a 48-hour window of time recently in which I uncharacteristically flirted with the idea of offering an e-book version of Another Work is Possible. We get regular requests for digital editions of M&T from folks who love having the ability to fit a library in their pocket. They tell us that they want to read our magazine on the airplane, but don’t want to bring the physical book with them. They want to sit on the beach without fear of getting the pages wet. And they like to look for keywords with the search feature. “Why don’t we get with the times?” They wonder. “Digital is the future!”

We don’t think so. After hashing it out with the team, my sense came back to me. Besides the fact that many well-researched studies suggest that reading retention is greatly diminished on a screen as opposed to paper, the experience of holding a physical, hefty thing and turning the pages is absolutely nothing like staring into the glow of a screen.

The reason we do print-only publication is because we believe the physical object is the product. Some think of the format (i.e. paper, e-book, etc) as merely the delivery system for the actual content (the words and images). That’s why, in this way of thought, most publishers offer different formats of the same product.

But we don’t think of it that way. For us, the fact that this book will sit in your hands at 3 lbs 6 oz and your fingers will turn the matte, heavyweight pages makes all the difference in the world. The paper, the cover’s dimensions, and the silky smooth dust jacket are as much a part of the book as are the words and the photographs. To miss this is like saying that the painting hanging on the wall of an art gallery is the same as a facsimile. But aren’t the brush strokes part of the artwork? Just think about how many times have you been startled at the diminutive or gigantic scale of a painting the first time you saw it in person. This is because the facsimile is not the work. It is a “slavish copy,” to use the legal term. We believe e-books are “slavish copies,” facsimiles of the printed, tangible book. And we refuse to sell you second-rate material. Our magazine and our books will not be digitized.

 

But print is enormously expensive. Besides the five-digit printing bill, the freight cost, the storage fees, the packing materials, the time spent shipping and answering customer inquiries, print is a complicated venture. That’s why folks are so tempted to flee to the digital market – With one click of a button, all their customers instantly receive an email to open the EPUB.

But we just don’t think that is what a book should be. So, here we are again, with my new book, Another Work is Possible, heading off to the printer next week, facing questions of print-run size, packaging materials, storage arrangement, etc. It’s always a ton of work and makes for a stressful launch, but at the end of the day, it’s always worth it. Of all people, woodworkers especially know the power and beauty of the tangible – That’s why they reach to their bookshelves before their tablets.

Readers, when Another Work is Possible arrives in your mailbox, we know you’ll agree.

Thank you for supporting independent publishing.

– Joshua

 

The Another Work is Possible forthcoming book and film can now be purchased in our store, either individually or as a bundle for a discounted rate until January 31st.