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.

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