Reactor

Let the e-Artist-Book Revolution Begin!

by Jillian Steinhauer on February 5, 2013

More and more these days, as Kindles, Nooks, and iPads abound, the path of e-books toward ubiquity and the decline of old-fashioned, hard-copy printing seem confirmed. But there is one area where paper and glue still dominate: the world of zines and artists’ and art books. A walk through the annual New York Art Book Fair or this year’s inaugural mirror event in LA, or a trip to Chelsea bookstore Printed Matter, speaks to this: electronic offerings are rare in these places. In fact, e-publishing may even be seen as incompatible with the mission of promoting and celebrating grassroots, alternative, DIY creativity.

A recently launched Kickstarter, however, hopes to change that. Titled “The People’s E-Book,” the goal of the project is to create a simple, efficient, inexpensive tool for creating e-books; or, in other words, “What the photocopier was to zines, we hope the People’s E-Book will be to digital books,” says project creator Greg Albers in the video.

Albers, who’s also the founder and publisher of Tucson’s Hol Art Books, explains that “we have not yet seen the explosion in creative e-book publishing that I know is possible.” He attributes this at least in part to the fact that most of the e-book-making tools out there right now are overly complicated and expensive. To that end, he wants to build a free, easy-to-use online app that would let artists, writers, curators, and other creative people (poets come to mind) make their own e-books — or e-zines and e-chapbooks, if you will. He’s enlisted Eleanor Hanson and Oliver Wise of The Present Group, an arts think tank and studio in Oakland, to help him build it; Wise explains in the video that the tool will use JavaScript and HTML5 in order to keep it “super simple and intuitive and easy to use.”

Although I’m a die-hard paper book enthusiast (and plan to remain so until the end), I’m really intrigued by the idea of the People’s E-Book, particularly because of the opportunity it seems to offer for creating zines and artists’ books from net art and other online creations. How cool would it be to have an artist’s book of GIFs or videos, to have the images and words in a book be fluid rather than static? “What is an eBook?” Albers asks in the video. Imagine the possibilities.

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