All posts in Publishing

Banknotes – examples of the printer’s art

Paper currency in Canada has historically been issued by the chartered banks — hence the term BANKNOTES. While at McGill University Press I met a collector in Ottawa of Canadian banknotes and borrowed the ones shown here, among others to try and interest the Press in publishing a book about them as the tell the history of Canada from a colourful and interesting viewpoint. It was not to be, however, as all our banknotes are still legal tender and cannot be reproduced. Poor McGill would have to get an act of Parliament passed to allow us to do a book, and quickly gave up the idea. So I’m left with these beautiful samples of the printer’s art of creating gorgeous banknotes, which was ended in 1935 by the government. Continue Reading…

Member publication: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, with wood engravings by George A. Walker


Note: George A. Walker will be giving an Alcuin Society sponsored talk in Vancouver, Thursday, March 17. For more information, please see here.

Porcupine’s Quill is releasing Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland with illustrations by George A. Walker in their “Sticky Fingers” e-book imprint, which offers “short, attractive, informative editions that explore the intersection between Canadian literature and the book arts.” The text is set in Rod MacDonald’s digital rendition of Carl Dair’s Cartier typeface. Continue Reading…

Digital will not overpower paper any time soon

Remember when we were running around declaring the impending death of print? Well, we can catch our breaths now. It looks like the growth in the sales of e-books has stopped, and what is even more important, the number of e-books sold is far from surpassing the regular books, hovering around 18-20% in Canada. This is good news for publishers, and it is no surprise to many, for some of the reasons outlined in our post “Rock, scissors… e-reader?” And now there are the numbers to back it up: the Association of American Publishers showed that hardcover book sales rose by 11.5%, while e-book sales were up by 4.8%. But maybe the most reassuring news is the survey from The Bookseller that shows that three quarters of the 16- to 24-year-olds prefer print. This is very comforting given that this generation is so immersed into the digital, that everybody was afraid that they would transfer that to their reading habits.


As Margaret Atwood is quoted saying in an article on Publisher Weekly:

There are neurological reasons why e-books did not take over everything. There’s an eye-brain thing that is related to why you can’t read in-depth as easily on any form of screen.

As usually, she has everything figured out. No apocalyptic end-of-the-book plot mapped out in the near future, I guess.

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 has 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 a very interesting, unique concept, that not only challenges the role and format of the book, but it also proves how an expensive item can become affordable by sharing the costs. For more details, read the whole interview with Francois LeBled.

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.

Scott McIntyre at the AGM

The Alcuin Society Annual General Meeting was the place to be on Tuesday night, May 21, if you wanted to rub shoulders with the big names of the publishing trade and attend a very inspiring talk by Scott McIntyre, veteran publisher and co-founder of the acclaimed Douglas & McIntyre.

Scott delighted the audience with a remarkable presentation that immersed everybody in recollections of more than 40 years of activity. It all started in grade 11, when he was “seduced by the world of print, paper and type at an early age” as he puts it, to the moment when he says “I saw the last of the game as it was played by us, book people”.

In his easy, casual, relaxed style, Scott took us on a time journey that emphasized the publishing standard of “the book comes first”, the money struggles, but also the energy and engagement present in publishing community in general, and at D&M in particular. He talked with passion and excitement about moments in his career, and dear friends he made along the way. But in the end, “the chains are going to be here and destroy the ecology of books. We either put a stand or lose. We put a stand and lost,” Scott smiled nostalgically.

Eventually, the audience left the room absolutely inspired by such a testimony about the joy, serendipity, angst and gratification of publishing. It was a vibrant occasion for reminiscence for the connoisseur, and an eclectic introduction into the publishing culture for the layperson.

Update! You can watch Scott McIntyre’s entire presentation on YouTube or download the audio here.