Not so long ago, a very well known photographer wrote on his blog the paragraph I’m quoting below:
“I’m not going to publish books with my photography anymore. It’s just not worth the hassle of having to deal with designers, editors, publishers, deadlines… From now on, all my photos will be released as e-photobooks.”
Now, it’s not my place to judge how wise and applicable a business models is or not, but after having read it, the questions that immediately came to mind were “Is it really like this? Is there no hope for print? Will the coffee table book take the path of the dodo?”. The truth is book publishers are facing more and more difficulties, and publishers dedicated exclusively to art books are rare and are diversifying not to go under. Books that cost $30 – $50 can now be bought as pdf for a tenth of that price.
And still, I remember fondly the hours I spent at the local library, in my early teens, going through mountains of photo books. The likes of Salgado, Cartier-Bresson, Winogrand, Doisneau and Eggleston, just to name a few, captured my eyes and mind and made me realize the amazing power of the still image. Their work was not on a computer screen, it was printed on paper. There were no Previous and Next buttons next to the photos, there were pages.
From experience, the response I get from my images when I show them on a screen or on a book are not even comparable. It is a much more intimate and fulfilling experience admiring some image that you can hold, and seeing how the texture of the paper also contributes to the work. If you ask a wedding photographer, he’ll probably tell you that a well designed album is one of the items that elicits more positive emotions from the couples. Do you think a simple DVD with the images files gets the same response?
Before you start telling me that I need to evolve, that times are changing, let me tell you that I have nothing against e-media. I publish content that is made to be distributed and consumed exclusively online, I have the large majority of my published images exclusively online, the majority of content I consume, previously published on and distributed by traditional media, I get online. My work is seen by a much larger number of people that I’m able to reach through pixels than through paper, no question about that. Nothing wrong with online and e-publishing. And yet everything has it’s place and value. Can’t one complement the other? Is the photo book hopelessly moribund?
I still can’t imagine, and don’t want, a world without the pleasure of printed photography books.
Photo credit: Antony Ruggiero