You all remember that blank art history book that the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) wanted its students to buy, right? The one with no actual pictures of art? Well, students took their concerns about the terrible textbook to the faculty, and here’s what they came back with.

Liberal Arts and Sciences dean Kathy Shailer wrote a letter to students responding to the controversy over the art-less art book. Shailer summarizes the chief worries in a hilarious bulleted list (emphasis ours):

  • All the blank blocks where images were meant to be was a waste of paper and poor design;
  • Being expected to move between a print text and online images contained in an e-book was not a viable learning system (regardless of age or tech-savviness; also many students need a workable system to use when in transit)
  • Although a number of students asked explicitly for a “more economical” e-book version of the reader, others asked simply for images and text to be in the same mode (digital or print-based) and in the same place;
  • They felt like guinea pigs or beta testers for a new system that didn’t work and wanted compensation;
  • They worried about resale value;
  • Some students wanted to revert to the former art history courses.
  • Were students with disabilities being accommodated with a special-format version of the custom text? This is being addressed — yes.
  • A number of work-around solutions were thrown out (e.g., buy Stokstad and Drucker online at
  • used prices and sell back at end of term).

Shailer said that her first objective was to “have the material … in student’s hands in a format they feel they can use,” so the faculty met with publishing company reps in order to determine possible solutions. What they came up with is a guaranteed end-of-term buy-back of the text from the publishers, who want to take the book out of circulation, for reasons that should be obvious. Free print copies of the Stokstad text that makes up part of the new text and includes images will also be available. It’s not perfect, but it sure beats flipping through an art history book with no pictures.

Rest assured, there will be “NO EMPTY BLOCKS OF WHITE SPACE” in next semester’s edition of the same book, Shailer notes. The second meeting on the fate of the book happened on Tuesday, and the faculty will continue to solicit student feedback. Rebel against non-visual visual art books! The revolution will come!

An excerpt page from the pictureless textbook (courtesy

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

4 replies on “Blank Art History Book Update: No Paper Waste and a Buyback Plan”

  1. Hooray!!! Viva la revolucion!!!!

    That excerpt of the pictureless page of pictures still just … the way it brazenly acts like it has the pictures it needs to function – it flaunts it. The way it resolutely chugs ahead, page after page, with such huge emptiness inside. We can read this book, but perhaps we can never really understand it … no amount of internet linkage can truly solve its problems. Or — maybe it is just the profound indifference it has to what it is and who we are … What is It? I don’t know anymore. I just don’t know. I hope someone saves one of these to launch into space, so it can share the rich visual legacy within it and finally be one with the cosmos. This always was a space book, I believe.

    RIP Spacebook

      1. ^Absolutely. It has something special: like a cross between an error baseball card, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and the Keystone Cops. I’m all for only sending one home to space, and if I were a student who could afford to, I’d for sure think about keeping mine. Is there a museum of art history textbook history?

  2. Too cheap to pay for the images.. and too cheap and lazy to pay for editing to remove the huge blocks of space.

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