Thursday, April 24, 2014

A new Book Warehouse opening in Vancouver

In a time when news of bookstores and publishers closing their doors abound, it is a great joy to hear that a new bookstore opens. Black Bond Books has just announced that a new Book Warehouse will open in Vancouver on Main Street at 25th Avenue, on May 1. Mary-Ann Yazedijan, manager of Lynn Valley Black Bond Bookstore will take over the new store and is quoted as saying: "We are really excited to be going forward with this location, to be opening a new store."

We are looking forward to visiting the new location and browsing the bargain titles. Book Warehouse is a beloved brand in the bibliophile community and the fact it is expanding is nothing but good news.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wayzgoose in Grimsby, ON, on April 26

The Wayzgoose on the last Saturday in April has been a tradition in Grimsby since 1979. Every year letterpress printers, paper makers and book binders gather to meet the public and show their craft at the Grimsby Public Art Gallery. This year, on April 26, 9 am to 5 pm, private presses from Canada and the United States invite the public to admire their work and witness numerous demonstrations on paper making, calligraphy and bookbinding, among other book arts. For the last few years, this Wayzgoose has attracted more than 2,000 visitors, so make sure not to miss it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The winners of the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada 2014

The Alcuin Society is proud to present the winners of the Alcuin Society Awards 2014. Out of the 232 books submitted, the three judges (Jessica Sullivan, Susan Colberg and Seth) selected 37 winners in eight categories. Mention must be made of Simply Read Books sweeping away all the prizes in Children's category, and the success of Naomi Macdougall, who distinguished herself in the Reference category, but not only. Congratulations to all the winners and a big thank-you to our members and supporters.
On May 1, we will also announce this year's recipient of the Robert R. Reid Award and Medal, for lifetime achievement in book arts in Canada. The announcement will be made on the new Alcuin Society website, to be launched shortly after Easter.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada

Very soon the winners of the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada will be chosen from among 230 entries from 106 contributors that include publishers, book designers and authors. This year the three judges are Jessica Sullivan, creative director at Figure 1 Publishing, Susan Colberg, Associate Professor of Visual Communication Design at the University of Alberta, and Seth, cartoonist, designer and collector.

Jessica Sullivan is one of the best Canadian book designers whose credentials include no less than 36 Alcuin Awards and a CBA Libris Award for Book Design of the Year, so she definitely knows what makes a winning book. Her original focus on layout and typography is what makes her work stand out.

Seth's success started with the comic book series Palookaville. His work appeared in New York Times Magazine, Best American Comics, McSweeneys Quarterly, on the cover of the New Yorker and Canadian Notes and Queries. His cartoons have been exhibited all over the world.

Susan Colberg's areas of expertise include visual communication design, typography and book design. She has experience as both a design award winner and judge on juries for the Association of American University Presses and the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada among others.

The categories in which the Alcuin Awards winners will be selected are: Children's Books, Limited Editions, Poetry, Pictorial, Prose Fiction, Prose Non-fiction, Prose Non-fiction Illustrated, and Reference. The judges will carefully consider each and every book submitted, taking in all the details from colour, layout and typography, to how these elements come together and complement the subject of the book. For more details about the eligibility criteria and the judging process, please visit our Awards page. The winners will be announced in a few days, when we also have a pleasant surprise: the launch of the new, redesigned Alcuin website, which will bring a great improvement in information organization, navigation and design.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

From digital to print: The Pitchfork Review

Earlier this year we reported Wikipedia's unexpected transition to print. It is such an uncanny move for a giant that was born and lived exclusively online. In spite of the general direction being towards digital, there are others who value the elegance and charm of the printed publication as opposed to the convenience and cost efficiency of the web. This is the case with Pitchfork Media, a website dedicated to music commentary and news on a wide range of genres. After almost 20 years of exclusive online presence, Pitchfork decided to produce The Pitchfork Review, a quarterly publication that includes new feature stories and ephemera alongside with popular online articles.

One of the reasons Pitchfork made this decision, aside from their love of print, is that they wanted select online pieces live a second life in print for easy reference. It is interesting that although we say "what goes online stays online forever", now we have to follow this saying with "yes, but the good stuff gets buried under a pile of clutter." With so much content being produced every day, it is easy to overlook valuable and relevant material, and paradoxically print becomes the way to immortalize it.

Another noticeable trend is that publications seem to have become one of the prerogatives of successful businesses. This may be how print will survive in a hundred years: as a luxury product for the privileged ones to enjoy, very much like a $200 bottle of old wine.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Art of the Book Exhibition at UBC

If you have not seen the small exhibition Paper, Art and the Book organized by the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild yet, you still have time until May 8. That is an introduction to the Art of the Book exhibition at UBC's Library's Rare Books and Special Collections to open on April 14. This is a great opportunity to explore different aspects of book arts, from binding and printing, to calligraphy and hand-made paper.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sint-Niklaas international bookplates and small printmaking competition

The Sint-Niklaas International Exlibris Centre, started in 1975 with the collection of Jan Rhebergen, is now hosting an impressive number of about 160,000 pieces of bookplates, illustrations and other small prints from Belgium and the rest of the world. There is a permanent exhibition that features the main engraving and printing techniques, and regular small exhibitions dedicated to a certain theme or event. Little by little the collection is registered into an online database.

Every other year, the International Exlibris Centre organizes a bookplates and small printmaking competition, usually centered around a certain theme. There is no specific topic this year, but one of the main prizes goes towards an entry focused on a portrait. This year's total prize pool for the competition is a remarkable 7,650 EUR. The winners will also be featured in various exhibitions and an illustrated catalogue. Here you can find more details, rules and registration form. The deadline is November 1, 2014.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lawrence Kreisman talk on Dard Hunter on April 14

William Joseph "Dard" Hunter's contribution to the Arts and Crafts movement in North America is indisputable in areas such as graphic design and typography. Inspired by the European model, Dard Hunter explored new ideas that enriched and were embraced by the American arts scene. Lawrence Kreisman delves into that body of work in his book Dard Hunter: the Graphic Works, which features many of the artist's designs for book covers, booklets and letterheads. On April 14, at 7 pm, Kreisman will give a talk on Hunter's evolution as an artist, and on what identifies and distinguishes his work from others.

The event will take place at the Emily Carr Auditorium in Granville Island and is free of charge.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chester Gryski talk at SFU

SFU library is proud to present Chester Gryski's talk on his collection of private presses. The event will take place on Thursday, April 3, at 7:30 pm at SFU Harbour Centre on 515 West Hastings Street in Vancouver. Admission is free, but you need to reserve your seat in advance. See poster for details.

Chester Gryski is also an ex-officio member of the Alcuin Society Board of Directors.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Paper, Art, and the Book exhibition March 27 - May 8

The Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG) organizes the exhibition "Paper, Art and the Book" at Craft Council of BC Gallery, on 1386 Cartwright Street in Granville Island, Vancouver, between March 27 and May 8. Curated by Frances Hunter and Gina Page, this exhibition presents the work of fourteen artists from the BC Islands and BC Lower Mainland Chapters of the Guild, which showcase book arts such as bookbinding, calligraphy, and printing. Some of the items on display are for sale.

CBBAG lines up an impressive host of events for the next few months. On March 29, their BC Lower Mainland Chapter sponsors a workshop on book box making to be held at 1 Athlete's Way in Vancouver.  Between April 14 and May 16 the UBC Special Collections Library is hosting the Art of the Book exhibition, with juried book arts works submitted by CBBAG members from Canada and United States. Three book artists are invited to speak about their practices in the "Creativity and Book Arts" talk on May 1, 7-8:30 pm, at the Central Branch of VPL. The Book Arts Fair on June 21, 10 am to 1 pm, at VPL, closes this fine series of book arts events.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Experimental books

Some things stay the same for a long time, while others are in a continuous change and evolution. For example, who would have thought that television will not change all that much in the way we perceive and use it? On the other hand, cell phones have started as mere talking devices, which now have all the capabilities one could ever imagine. Another thing that has changed tremendously in the last two decades is the celebrity status. The celebrities today are not treated at all like their predecessors, nor do they get their badges based on real merits (this is how in our culture there are people famous for being famous). And books? They have not changed much since Gutenberg: they consist of the same parts, we use them the same way, no new features have been added. Yet, there are those who are trying to innovate within the limitations of the medium. A good example of challenging the traditional, repetitive layout of the novel is Love and the Mess We're In by Steven Marche, winner in the Prose Fiction category of the Alcuin Book Awards, and shortlisted for the Best Book Design From All Over the World at Leipzig. The author collaborated with the typographer Andrew Steeves to create innovative designs for each page that adds a strong visual component to the textual story.

The 2012 Alcuin Design Competition

Another type of experiment, Tristano, by Nanni Balestrini, is based on an algorithm. It has ten chapters each with fifteen pairs of paragraphs, which have been randomly shuffled to create the book. Tristano was originally published in 1966, but the technology to make this project possible as its author intended is only now available. The published version is just one of the billion variations possible.

Marc Saporta's Composition No 1 takes the experiment a step further: the book consists of 150 unbound pages. In this case the reader can create his or her own combination, and it is hard to come up with two versions alike. Ironically, the two copies of the French edition to be found in the British Library are bound, but each in a different order. The new British version from Visual Editions comes in a beautiful box with a red interior, in a smooth texture -- impossible to replicate in an electronic format.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

David Mason in Vancouver and Victoria

SFU and the Alcuin Society have the pleasure to present an evening with David Mason, the author of The Pope's Bookbinder, a captivating memoir that follows Mason's career as an antiquarian book seller, from his troubled beginnings as an outcast, to becoming an authority in his field. Mason's story is told with passion and humour, and it is more intriguing and adventurous than any antiquarian book seller's life has the right to be.

For a more interactive format, the event will take the shape of a dialogue between David Mason and Paul Whitney, former head of the Vancouver Public Library. They will discuss the past, present and future of antiquarian book selling, and talk about Mason's book. The author will read from his work, and there will also be time for questions from the audience.

The event will take place on April 8, at 7:30 pm, at SFU Harbour Centre, room 1315, on 515 West Hastings Street. Admission is free, but please call 778.782.4668 or email library[at]sfu[dot]ca to reserve your seat.

This will be followed by a David Mason lecture at the University of Victoria in the Mearns Centre for Learning, McPherson Library, room 129, on April 10, at 4 pm.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Book page numbers

Some things are so ubiquitous, we use them without really seeing them and take for granted. Should they disappear, however, yes, we would notice them. So what would we do without page numbers? How would we refer other people to our favourite passages? How would we quote or find different chapters? Not to mention indexes.

So here is to the first book to include page numbers, Sermo in festo praesentationis beatissimae Mariae virginis, printed by Arnold Ther Hoernen, in Cologne, in 1470. Including page numbers became a common practice among printers only towards the second half of the sixteenth century.

Reader, love thy page numbers.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Canadian books shortlisted for Best Book Design from all over the World

The Best Book Design from all over the World is an annual competition held in Leipzig since 1963.  This year, as the contest celebrates its 50th anniversary, the judges had the difficult job of sifting through 567 books selected from 30 countries, in order to pick fourteen winners. Please note that these books were produced in 2012.

The fourteen winners of the Best Book Design 2014

Canada had the privilege of having two books among those shortlisted. One of them is Love and the Mess We're In by Stephen Marche, designed by Andrew Steeves, from Gaspereau Press, which got the first prize in the Prose Fiction category in the Alcuin Book Awards. More about it here.

The other one is the poetry book Form of Forms, by Mark Goldstein, designed by the author himself. It was awarded a Honourable Mention in the Poetry category by the Alcuin Society for its unusual layout.

Congratulations to our wonderful publishers and book designers. The Alcuin Society submitted 41 books, that were winners of the 2012 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada. The books are now part of the German Book and Type Museum in Leipzig.

Friday, February 28, 2014

A new perspective on publishing

As heartbreaking as it may be, news of bookstores closing do not come as a surprise any more. Maybe it is time for us to come to the realization that this is the end of an era: the status of the book changed, in  form, consumption, value, significance. Long gone are the times when books were treasured and passed from generation to generation, when wonder and wisdom could be found in limited edition. Now a book is just something-I'm-reading-this-week book, not the it-changed-my-life book. We do not feel the need to hold on to them, nor do we have the space to hold them. Besides, the truth is digital revolution cannot be stopped, or even slowed down. And even the most traditional of us must admit that the digital medium has its merits.

Does this mean that all book-related businesses are slowly marching towards extinction? Will book stores, publishing houses and printing presses find a quiet place to draw their last breaths and expire, like dying elephants? They will have to, unless they find new ways to look at an old business. Thinking outside the box is more vital than ever in these desperate times. This is what Francois LeBled did when he decided to open a print publishing company in Malmo, Sweden, The New Heroes & Pioneers (TNHP). His business strategy, although traditional, has a twist: it created something similar to a Robin Hood approach to publishing. TNHP will encourage and exploit the need of the corporate culture to express itself, by publishing books for companies that think they have a story to tell, to be distributed for free to employees or customers, in order to create interest and advertise the company. Having its main source of income covered, TNHP will subsequently use its resources to support and promote new artists, and help charities.

But the novelty does not lie in the business approach only. Francois looks at the book itself from a different perspective. One of his interesting concepts, planned to be published at the end of the year, is The Social Network Book (working title). This is a "sharable" book: all its pages are posters by unknown artists, and since the book is quite expensive, the cost can be split between five people, who can detach and divide the posters. This is very interesting, unique concept, that not only challenges the role and format of a book, but it also proves how an expensive item can become affordable by sharing the costs. For more details, you can find the whole interview with Francois LeBled here.

It is hard to tell whether this is the right move or not. TNHP is new on the market, and its big ideals may be derailed by reality. But it definitely makes a valiant attempt, and innovation and change is the only way to succeed in the face of adversity. It would be great to see more book business drift towards a more creative strategy to rekindle the readers' interest in owning books.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book covers: Haruki Murakami

Sooner or later, we all find ourselves irresistibly drawn to a book cover. Be it through an unexpected colour palette, creative illustration, or unusual texture, the book cover is one place where the book designer can fully express his interpretation of the book, without worrying about functionality, legibility, or accuracy. Sometimes, this is how the same book can become edgy, sophisticated, eccentric, or anything in between. And while some designers prefer to play it safe, some of them really embrace the possibilities and do not miss the chance to experiment, as it can be seen in this article in The Guardian.

But not all book covers have to involve an extraordinary process to be appealing. Sometimes some good old high-quality artwork can hit the right spot, as in these covers for Haruki Murakami's novels produced by the Spanish illustrator Celia Arellano who lives in Manchester. The exquisite attention to detail in the illustrations complements Murakami's style, the pastel colour choices convey a pensive mood, and the simple but elegant typographical treatment of the title and author's name do not detract from the rest of the composition. As a bonus feature, have a peek at Celia's sketchbook; spying on the creative process is always an indulgence.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Wikipedia in print

As most books make the transition from print to digital, it is quite unexpected to see a giant moving in the opposite direction. Wikipedia, the well-known open-source encyclopedia, that was born in the digital era and has never known a printed format, is planning on becoming a physical book. Well, not just a book, because, with more than four million articles created by 20 million volunteers in the English version alone, we are actually talking about 1,000 books, 1,200 pages each. Fortunately, only one such set will be produced, and the goal is to present it at the Wikimania conference in London in August, and if there are enough funds, to send the books on the road on an international tour.

But as the growth of Wikipedia depended entirely on anonymous contributors, this project also relies on crowdfunding: anybody can donate money on Indiegogo to raise the $50,000 necessary to print the books. Is this a wise idea? Just the quantity of paper involved makes any mild environmentalist cringe. The rationale offered by the Wikipedia Book Project team is that they wanted to show the world how monumental Wikipedia is, and this cannot be done unless it takes a physical form. Whether or not this justifies the extravagance, it is hard to tell. Wired magazine disapproves. But, in the end, it will be the public who decides, and Wikipedia has lots of fans.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Oscar's Art Books on Broadway is closing

I have very fond memories of Oscar's Art Books store. Most times getting off the 9 or 99 bus, I could not resist the magic pull of the store: the beautiful, colourful, heavy hardbacks proved irresistible. It was such an amazing experience cracking them open, browsing the exquisite printed pages, wistfully running my fingers over them and inhaling the fragrance of fresh ink. Hours later I would emerge with a dreamy look and usually with a book or two under my arm. Nothing you can get by flipping through an ebook, or ordering a book online.

I also associate different periods in my life and passions with different sections in Oscar's: my discovery of typefaces and layouts saw me spending a lot of time in the Typography section; my artistic dreams unravelled in front of Illustration or Watercolour books; my colourful fantasies were nurtured by CG Graphic section, with its amazing landscapes and characters.

Unfortunately those times will come to an end soon, as good old Oscar's is losing the corporate fight and will close its doors at the end of March. This is their official statement on Facebook:
Oscar’s Art Books opened March 15th 1990 and, after 24 years, Oscar’s Art Books will be closing its doors March 31st.

It’s been a great run, being on Broadway for 24 years, what a show! We’ve always moved with the times but unfortunately the internet has taken over.

Our sincerest thanks to all the great customers and the Vancouver art community who have supported Oscar’s as an independent bookstore throughout the years – thank you for your love and loyalty.
 This marks the end of an era. It was a pleasure knowing you, Oscar's. You will be missed.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Seth -- A cartoonist's life in broad strokes

"Cartooning is a solitary pursuit. The cartoonist sits alone at a drawing table for most of his life, struggling with himself and his past in an attempt to create something meaningful." Seth

Seth details the experience of the cartoonist's reclusive life in the article "The Quiet Art of Cartooning." Looking at his beautiful, distinctive work, one often wonders about the process that brings it to life. It turns out that random things go through the artist's head while working hard on drawing and inking. Snippets of memories, random thoughts, sometimes even full-blown emotional outbursts. And some of them find their way into the work that comes to life under the cartoonist's hand.

Seth's work, so moody and recognizable, has been influenced by The New Yorker classic style, with heavy lines and muted colours. After he started doing comics and illustration, he published his own series, Palookaville, which initially was assumed to be autobiographical. Since althen, Seth has illustrated and designed books and book covers, has had his work published in The New Yorker, The Walrus, the New York Times Magazine, and Canadian Notes & Queries, and Palookaville has just reached its 21st edition. His work is becoming more and more in demand, which may be because of the new-found popularity of the graphic novels and comics. "Seth's cartooning sensibility is front and centre in virtually every book design he produces," says Chris Oliveros, who has worked with Seth on the Palookaville series since 1991, quoted in Quill and Quire.

It is hard to predict what will be Seth's next project, but we know for sure that he is one of the judges in the Alcuin Book Design Competition that will take place on April 12.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

In the memory of Wil Hudson

Wil Hudson (1929-2014)
It is with great regret that we found out that Wil Hudson passed away in Creston Valley, BC, on January 10, at the age of 85. His name is indubitably linked to the history of letterpress fine printing in BC, and the Alcuin Society's first publishing projects. Some of his work is part of the UBC or SFU Special Collections. Rollin Milroy from Heavenly Monkey posted more about Wil's connection with the Society and his achievements.

Wil Hudson is also known for his work with the Inuit artists, whom he supported, translated, and taught printing techniques. Wil Hudson spent the last years of his life in Creston, where he cultivated other passions, such as railways, ships, and cats. The residents of Creston have very fond memories of him as a witty, fascinating, unconventional person, and some of his friends depicted him and his character in this lively, wonderful obituary.

Make the angels smile, Wil Hudson.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Library quietus

It is no secret that libraries everywhere are confronted with budget cuts, and even threatened by extinction. In a world where the standard unit of measurement for value is the dollar, libraries find it hard to compete with more profitable undertakings, as they bring a different type of riches and resources. But not all libraries are equal, and while sometimes the public action and/or generous donors manage to intervene in time to prevent a tragic end (as is the case of UC Berkeley libraries), others pass away with quiet resignation. This was the case of seven of the nine famous Department of Fisheries and Oceans libraries that closed their doors by autumn 2013, to, of course, reduce costs. Precious collections left their places on the shelves only to provide fodder for dumpsters, landfills, or, worst of all, fire. Huffington Post reports the whole story here, and while it is debatable whose fault this "libricide" is, there may not be just one person or one organization to blame for a state of things that has become the norm. This, unfortunately, is not an isolated incident. For a related story about life sciences and law special collections libraries, please read Sarah Sutherland article "Saving the Irreplaceable in Small Libraries" in our latest Amphora issue (165).

Would it not be great for us, as a race, to put our priorities in order before it is too late, shake the tyranny of money, and start investing our time and efforts into something worth while?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2014, the year of women writers

Although past are the times when women authors have to use male pen names (George Eliot) or publish their work anonymously (Jane Austen) to have a better chance of being produced and read, there is still a noticeable disproportion in the reception and promotion of female writers compared to male writers.  In April 2013, Vida, an American organization for women in literary arts, discovered such imbalance when they looked at the percentages of reviews and reviewed books written by women in the main publications. For example, at The New York Review of Books, only 16% of reviewers were women, and only 22% of the books reviewed were written by women. Even more comprehensive are the figures and graphs provided by CWILA, Canadian Women in the Literary Arts, sorted by publication. The reasons for this situation could be many-folded. Is it because of the sexism pervading the publishing industry? Is it because women are not confident enough to push through? Or is it because we are more inclined to choose books written by men?

But we forget that after all, it is the readers who control the situation, not the publishers. Thus, writer and illustrator Joanna Walsh found an unexpected way to take action against this trend and created a movement that spread like fire on Twitter. She started the hashtag #readwomen2014 after she had designed some bookmarks representing some of her favourite women writers. Since then, the hashtag has been taken up by numerous users, and it has even prompted journalists and publishers to give the subject some thought.

Bookmarks designed by Joanna Walsh

We, Canadians, have a great women's literary tradition, with Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood leading the way. But the question is, how many of the books on our shelves are written by women? How many women-authored books we read last year? Next time we select a book, we should ponder this, and take a step towards discovering our next favourite woman writer.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Rock, scissors... e-reader?

The debate between paper books and e-readers seems to have taken mythical proportions, like the eternal conflict between good and evil, conservatives and liberals, cat people and dog people, and The Voice and American Idol. Even if those who embrace the digital version of our beloved tomes get more numerous by the day, once in a while we get a piece of good news that proves that books still have some life left in them.

An online survey conducted by BookNet Canada showed that, as much as e-readership is on the rise, parents are reluctant to encourage their children to use e-readers. Only four per cent of parents admitted they preferred their children read ebooks, and 63 per cent are partial to traditional books. This comes as no surprise, since story time could not be the same without the old-fashioned story book. Is it because of the rustle of the pages turning as the story progresses? Or maybe the tangibility of physically turning a page, while the reader pauses in anticipation? Or could it be the individuality of each book, different in size, weight and cover design, as opposed to all being bundled up inside a device that makes them all of equal size, weight, and appearance, with no identity whatsoever? It could be all of these, or something else, a mysterious ingredient that defines the charm of the story book.

Coincidentally, the November issue of Scientific American published the article The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: Why Paper Still Beats Screens. The study at the origin of the article shows that comprehension is much better when the subjects read paper material, compared to electronic text. Researchers found that "screen-based reading can dull comprehension because it is more mentally taxing and even physically tiring than reading on paper. [...] Prolonged reading on glossy, self-illuminated screens can cause eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision." Compellingly, in an experiment, the people who took a comprehension test on a computer did not score as well as those taking it on paper, and they reported higher strain and weariness.

Can you tell that I am biased toward paper books already? The truth of the matter is that you need only pick an idea, and you can find research, studies, and experiments to either support or oppose it. We live in such a vast, complicated world, that we only need to focus on some aspects instead of others, and interpretations change completely. So, in my case, it would be very convenient to disregard the study that shows that 40 per cent of e-reader owners read more than they did print books, this one that proves seniors find easier to read e-books than print, or this study that shows that e-readers may be better for people with dyslexia, wouldn't it?

The reality is that there are pros and cons on both sides (you can find them here), and for now it is more a matter of preference. There are even people equally inclined to use either, depending on the circumstances, such as carrying an e-reader for commute or travel, and switching back to paper books when reading a bedtime story. The real test will come when the digital natives, the generation who is growing up now in an almost completely digitized environment, reaches the stage when they make the final decisions on what to buy, what to produce, and what to support. By then, will this one year old come around to the beauty of the printed word, or she will still view it as a badly designed software?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book presentation by Gary Sim, Jan 15

Gary Sim of Sim Publishing talks about his new book, Railway Rock Gang on January 15, 7 pm, at the VPL Central Branch, Alma VanDusen Room. The talk will be accompanied by many photographs not published in the book, and the book is available for purchase. Admission is free.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Edge decoration demonstration, Jan 16

When one thinks of book design, it is usual cover and page design that come to mind. But the edges of the books can get their own treatment, and be embellished in beautiful ways. To demonstrate this, master binder Dan Mezza organizes a demonstration in his studio on 10780 West Saanich Road, North Saanich, on Thursday, Jan 16, 9 am to 12 pm. He will show various models and demonstrate techniques such as sprinkled, solid coloured, graphite edge, gauffered graphite edge and gold edge for deckled paper like Arches watercolour. After the demonstration, participants are welcome to try these techniques with their own materials. In order to do that, they need 1-2 acrylic inks or paints, and an existing blank book block or paperback book with good quality paper.

The demonstration is free for the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild members, $15 for non-members, payable at the demonstration. If you wish to attend, please contact Joan Byers at kelpie[at] You can find more edge decoration examples here.

Bookbinding edge decoration from the Cary Graphic Arts Collection

Proof that we put way less thought and technique into our books nowadays compared to the past, is that very few of us even heard of edge decoration. We might have seen a couple of books with coloured or golden edges, but how many are familiar with the fore-edge painting technique? In this case, not only the edge of the book is decorated, but the whole image is only revealed when bending the pages, as shown here, resulting in gorgeous, unique books.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Hello, New Year

We have been enjoying 2014 for ten days already, but it is never too late to wish everybody a marvellous, prosperous new year, full of beauty, warmth, and of course beautiful books. It is also a good  time to remember what a good run we had last year, and confess our intention to outshine it.

Spring is our time for the Alcuin book design competition, and out of more than 200 submissions, our judges chose 41 outstanding winners. Those who did not have a chance to browse these well-designed, beautifully produced books, can settle for a peek here, here, and here. It is not the same as holding them and turning the fine pages, but at least you get the idea.

Not only was Will Reuter one of the judges in this competition, but we also celebrated his work by awarding him the Robert R. Reid award and medal. In return, he rewarded us by entertaining us with his knowledge and wit in a great interview.

While other society's AGMs are a yawn, ours was a sold-out event. No wonder, since our guest of honour, Scott McIntyre, provided a great talk about his experience in the publishing industry.

Fall was a great time for book lovers. October is not only the time for Vancouver Writers Fest, but at the beginning of the month, the Society was involved in quite a few book events. Wazygoose brought together printers and book artists who displayed their work and created some interesting demonstrations for the public. We also got to celebrate the winners of the Alcuin Book Awards, both in Vancouver and in Toronto. You can read more about the other fall events here.

We closed the year with the book auction, where we had a good time while purchasing books at a good price, and a meeting with David Zieroth at Vancouver Public Library.

A nod to our Amphora team who in 2013 worked around the clock to deliver four issues instead of the usual three. (Thank you, Peter Mitham!) Chances are you have just received the last one, hot out of the printing press.

And do not forget that our blog brought you in touch with all the book events in town and will continue to do so in the year to come.

While we hope you enjoyed some of these events, we are confident 2014 will be even more interesting and engaging. We are planning some of our traditional events, but at the same time, some new workshops and lectures are brewing, and there will be some surprise speakers and guests that hopefully you will be delighted to meet. All in all, a bookful year!