More workshops are being held next week in Islington & Wembley Libraries as part of the Librarypress project. Below is the presentation I’ll be using to illustrate my talk on bookleteer to participants and explore the kinds of things they can do with it.
This month I am running 6 pop up publishing sessions across three libraries in London : Hounslow Library; Islington Central Library (First Steps Learning Centre) and Wembley Library. All the sessions are free and last for about 3 hours in the evening. The sessions are part of the Librarypress project which aims to get more people publishing.
The aim is to introduce bookleteer.com as a simple way to create and share publications that can be both physical (paper) and digital (readable online). Everyone is welcome, no technical/computer experience required or previous publishing experience. Bring stories, pictures, ideas and we’ll help you turn them into simple publications you can make and share.
We are hoping that some gems will emerge over the sessions – we have arranged with Librarypress to select up to 12 books by participants for inclusion in the Periodical, to be printed professionally and posted out to subscribers.
The sessions are :
Hounslow Library : Tuesday 6th & Thursday 8th May 5-8pm
Islington Central Library : Monday 19th & Thursday 22nd May 4.30-7.45pm
Wembley Library : Tuesday 20th & Friday 23rd May 5-7.45pm
I am delighted and proud to introduce the first of our friends and colleagues who have agreed to take part in this experiment in conversational, relational publishing. They’ve all agreed to publish at least one eBook with bookleteer over the next 12 months which will all go into the wider selection pool from which we will source the monthly issues. This is neither an exclusive group, nor people who necessarily know each other – they are all people with whom I have worked over the past 15-20 years and whom I admire and respect. They are all people who walk their own paths…
“In a world where publishing distribution models are broken, the idea of ‘spreadable media’ – media that gains value as it is shared through peer networks – is more relevant with every passing day; the Periodical will open up participation and conversation in new and unanticipated ways.”
“We live in a world of living data. Data that are constantly changing and accumulating. Data that feed conversations rather than decisions. Bookleteer offers an opportunity to embrace this evolution and produce unique publications that constantly evolve.”
“I have been involved with Proboscis’s excellent bookleteer project in various ways and capacities since its inception, including working with Proboscis to publish a series of short stories arising from my 2009 Leverhulme Trust residency at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies. I have done so because of my broad agreement with bookleteer’s clearly open and radical ethos, and because of what it offers to writers, artists and readers: a defiantly trailing edge e-publishing format which despite apparently low-tech underpinnings nonetheless remains sharply and continuously innovative. Indeed it is Proboscis’s (and the bookleteer format’s) continued capacity for evolution that makes this latest experiment possible; a new way of bringing bookleteer’s writing and reading communities together. For this reason I am delighted to have been invited to participate in the Periodical and I will continue to make it my business, both as a writer and as a reader, to use and to support the bookleteer project.“
“At a time of digital transience I am drawn back to the real, the physical. I am keen to be part of this project because it offers something very unique, special, desirable, to those who wish to immerse themselves in a timeless work of art. Words and images can resonate far beyond the span of a page but to return to that very same page again and again and relive it is something to treasure.”
I’ll post again soon with more quotes from others who’ve also agreed to take part – if you would like to find out more and take part, please read my “manifesto” for the Periodical, sign up to bookleteer and get bookleteering.
A number of people I’ve spoken to about the Periodical have asked me to explain more about the vision behind it. Why is it necessary now? What are we hoping to achieve? Why should people subscribe? So I’m taking this opportunity to share my thoughts, hopes and aspirations – both as a rallying cry for others who partake of the same spirit of independence from the mainstream and want to participate, and also in the hope of getting the ball rolling to attract some subscribers.
Publishing as a Conversation
Over the years Proboscis has been exploring ever more conversational forms of sharing our stories, knowledge and experiences – always seeking to make work that is reflective and inspirational, not a full stop. The form of the book and traditional publishing – requiring lengthy processes of commissioning, editing, design and production, not to mention financial capital – seems so often to be an end point. The finality of the published word, of the authoritative edition underscored by the exclusivity of the world of publishers, editors and writers. What our Diffusion eBook format and the bookleteer self-publishing platform have striven towards is to offer an alternative to these. Not a replacement, but another path.
When I originally conceived the Diffusion eBook in 1999 I wanted to create a hybrid that would disrupt the monopoly of the screen: a publication that would be distributed digitally, but would find form in being printed out, folded, cut and made up into a physical book. Something that could bypass whatever physical barrier that might prevent either a traditional book or purely online text from reaching whoever wanted to read it. We designed our eBooks so that they could be samizdat for the digital age. Email them, photocopy them, burn the files to CD-ROM to share. Use the cheapest, most long-lived and reliable medium we have (paper) for communicating what we value in a way that privileges what is being communicated, not the fetish of the mode of communication. With bookleteer we have extended this original concept into the world of mobile and social media. The physical eBooks all have links to their digital selves, both as QR codes and human readable links. We have bridged not just the digital and physical but the handmade and the industrially produced too through the Short Run printing service which makes high quality professionally printed and bound books available to all at very low cost and in low numbers (from 25 copies).
the Periodical : a space of oddments and all sorts
So what is it we are trying to achieve by selecting one eBook a month, printing it and sending out to subscribers? My vision is that we will not just send out beautifully printed books to paper fetishists and analogue recidivists but that we will build up a vibrant community of writers, thinkers and makers who feel empowered to respond – not just to read the eBooks published via bookleteer or those printed and posted out, but to make their own publications as ripostes, as new tangents or simply because they’ve been inspired to share their own stories, experiences or creations. The Periodical should be an incitement to a publishing riot. Everyone is invited, though not all will respond and even fewer will be selected to have their eBook printed and distributed. But it will be different. Not a magazine, nor a ‘best of’ compendium. Entire eBooks, selected for printing and distributing once a month.
This is most definitely a space for the eccentric and eclectic; for those who are seeking without always knowing what they are searching for; who value the off-beam, the esoteric, the strange and unfamiliar. As an editor of journals, books and essays over the past 20 or so years I have always tried to commission different voices, not just those people I already know and with whose work I am familiar. There are always threads of enquiry in my search for new people to work with, it isn’t random, but the patterns are perhaps best discerned over the long years and not in the more time-proximate juxtapositions which throw different people together in a particular issue or series of eBooks. Tracing these patterns is a job for another day, another post (perhaps by someone else) but, simply put, everything I have commissioned, every project I have devised and led, has been motivated by an attempt to push the boundaries of what we know, how we know it and why we value these experiences. This questing for new perspectives, to experience things through others’ eyes and senses, this drive to follow instincts and not follow the herd will be the engine of selection for the Periodical.
September 2012 is the twelth anniversary of the publication of our very first series of Diffusion eBooks, Performance Notations. Over the past 12 years, we shared almost 500 eBooks on our Diffusion Library website many of them new commissions as well as books by partners and collaborators for their own projects. We are also seeing some dramatic changes across society and culture. The public goods which we have enjoyed here in the UK since the end of the Second World war and birth of the Welfare State are being eroded and displaced. Our social and cultural heritage is being looted by freebooters and buccaneers in the name of economic efficiency and profit. The work Proboscis has commissioned and freely shared over the past 12 years through Diffusion and now via the tools and platform we are making freely available through bookleteer are our own modest contribution to the Public Good, to the commonwealth. the Periodical is a simple way to seed a loose community of like-minded people around the theme of sharing what we value in ways that evade being a full stop. That are an incitement, a provocation, and invitation or an inspiration. I hope we are able to attract enough participants to not just make this a sustainable project, but that can help us grow and expand what bookleteer can do, that might enable us to devise new projects and commission new works that are as ambitious as anything we’ve done before.
What Kind of eBooks?
Next week we will be deploying some major changes to bookleteer (see here for details). Non-users will be able to browse all the eBooks and StoryCubes which users have made and shared publicly on the site. There are some gorgeous publications that have been created over the past 3 years to give a sense of what is possible, some of which will be considered for early issues of the Periodical. I am also inviting an eclectic group of friends, colleagues and fellow travellers to commit to making and sharing at least one new eBook on bookleteer over the next year for inclusion in the selection pool. I’ll be posting about who they are and why they are taking part in this project very soon. Update : check out the new bookleteer Library page to browse what people have made.
Subscribe to the Periodical
To launch the Periodical we need at least 100 subscriptions – if you would like to receive a beautifully printed eBook once a month (more if we can also raise sponsorship for new series of commissioned eBooks too), then please subscribe here.
Most writers have one or two trusted readers-of-drafts, critical friends who are relied on to make suggestions and offer that gentle critique that we didn’t know we needed. And the closer we get to conventional publication, the more likely we are to find ourselves working with an editor who scrutinizes our text for errors, ambiguities, sloppiness and – horror of horrors – breaks with convention. With the publication of my essay on picnic and community, published using Bookleteer last month, I had the chance to reflect on the experience of ‘doing without’ an editor. It was stimulating but also a little scary.
In the summer of 2011, I needed to take a decision about finalising and publishing the work. Choosing Bookleteer presented me with a new option: it meant I could go all the way to publication without any editorial oversight.
Picnic was an unfunded project: no client, no defined audience, no expectations, no responsibilities. That may seem liberating but it also means no feedback, no reassurance, no confirmation. I kept the text to myself (apart from sharing it necessarily with my collaborator, the artist Gemma Orton) at the obvious risk of missing out on potentially valuable guidance, having mistakes spotted, and being seen as arrogant.
The key justification for me was that to submit to editorial control would have been a crass betrayal of one of the essay’s themes. The essay contrasts picnic with formal meals, it contrasts organisation with networking, and disorder with order, as a way of exploring our tendency to idealise community in structured, formal terms. I felt that by submitting to the convention of editing – a fundamentally conservative process – I would have contradicted that theme in a rather feeble way.
I was also aware that Picnic challenges people’s expectations, because it doesn’t fit easily into any recognised genre. An editor might have made valiant, corrosive efforts to turn it into this or that.
I don’t wish to imply that the editorial process is either redundant or pointless, but it may be that many writers come to be over-dependent on editors. Perhaps this is to do with perceived differences between non-fiction and fiction. Few musical composers or visual artists would expect to cede so much influence over what they do. On the whole, editing is a process for confirming convention and reinforcing norms, which may not always be what’s needed. By making the publication process realisable, it was Bookleteer that empowered me to remain consistent to the theme without compromise.
Being 18 in the past and today: using Bookleteer for a museum-based project with young people
by Katrina Siliprandi
Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service
Young people working on ‘Project 18’ carried out and recorded 39 interviews in people’s homes, at Norwich Castle museum and in residential care homes. They amalgamated quotes from these interviews with photographs of selected museum objects to produce both a printed booklet and an e-reader version using Bookleteer.
The project is a partnership between Norwich Castle Museum and the Mancroft Advice Project (MAP), a charity that provides help, education and training for young people through advisors, counsellors, youth workers and a drop-in centre. Project 18 helps young people to learn more about themselves, others and their community through the creation of an accessible small archive of oral history testimony about being 18 in the past and today, inspired by the museum’s collections.
Some people might expect paper copies to be of low importance and relevance to young people who are already comfortably immersed and swimming in the cyber ocean. Conversely, paper copies could be seen as important tools to present to those people who have travelled to positions of influence and governance where a more traditional background might place greater value on well-trodden methods of communication.
We found the reality to be that the young participants placed great store in the tangible form of the printed items. They valued something they could actually hold, see, feel and smell. This multiply dimensioned tangibility was something they could experience wherever and whenever they chose, rather than only when in contact with a screen. Just having something physical to keep, share and treasure was hugely important. In addition young people expressed their gratification about something that was a token, a signifier of their achievement and enhanced status. Of course this enhanced status works both in the way in which others see the young person and in the way in which they see and value themselves.
This effect was re-enforced by the good physical standard of the booklets themselves. The cost of short-run printing was impressive. We were not forced to order a huge bulk run to achieve economy (with concomitant waste), nor did we have to be miserly in distributing the booklets to the young people and their friends, museum and MAP staff, stakeholders and supporters.
At the same time, having the e-booklet available has given an easy flavour of the project and its purpose to outsiders such as funders and government agencies, both national and local. We feel this kind of attention-catching and information giving is much more likely to lead to interaction and positive responses and outcomes than just a paper communication in the general wasteful paper blizzard. In this way, perhaps counter-intuitively, the e-booklet has provided us with a more permanent resource than traditional paper copies for those that we wish to inspire and involve in financially supporting future projects.
Maybe, too, by putting the booklet on the internet we will benefit from some degree of good fortune as people anywhere in the world stumble on the project. One person’s happy discovery could be promulgated world-wide with astonishing rapidity.
From Friday 2nd December we’ll be running a free monthly meet up event for people wanting to find out more about using bookleteer or to get together with others and share tips and tricks for getting the most out of it. Donations will be welcome for refreshments and, most particularly, anyone choosing to sign up for the Alpha Club to help support the ongoing costs of maintaining and hosting the platform.
We’ve added some more dates (with different times of day) for Pitch Up & Publish sessions where you can find out more about using bookleteer for your own projects. These sessions are limited to just 6 people at a time so we can respond to your particular interest – whether you’re a complete beginner or want to explore more advanced uses. If you’d like to take part, but the times or the dates don’t suit – please get in touch and we’ll do our best to arrange an alternative time or day.
I was watching my 12 year old cousin plan out her party invites to her 13th birthday party, as I remembered using the same method when I was younger, using Publisher or making them by hand.
As I watched her I realised how much more she could do with her invitations by creating them on Bookleteer! A more creative way to make an invitation. You can insert pictures, maybe one of the birthday girl/boy on the front or have different coloured invites by using different coloured printing paper!
I find this method fast and easy and I think it looks more professional than the conventional booklet making. Being able to upload your own pictures or even straight from html saves the hassle of downloading or saving a picture first!
This can be used for endless occasions, not just birthday parties, which then means anyone from kids to adults can be using this method to make invitations. Weddings, baby showers, hen parties..the list is endless.
Have a look at the mock up birthday invitation I have created.
We’re starting a new regular series of Pitch Up & Publish workshops to help people get started and make the most use out of bookleteer as possible : guiding them from concept to publication and beyond. The 2 hour workshops will be held at our studio, will have a maximum of around 6 places and will probably be held every 2-3 weeks.
We’d like to hear what sort of things you’d like help with: from basic level introduction to specific topics – such as designing project notebooks, embedding multimedia links via QR codes and preparing books for printing via our Short Run Printing Service. If there’s interest we can run specific workshops aimed at transferring our experiences of working with kids in schools to use bookleteer, or with other community groups.
Each workshop place will cost about £20 (UKP) and will include complimentary Alpha Club membership, discount on Short Run Printing Service orders and a free pack of new Medium size StoryCubes. You’ll be able to book places online via eventbrite.
We’d also like to hear whether people would prefer the sessions to be run during the day or evening – we may alternate if it helps more people take part.
Please contribute with your suggestions and requests – we’d like these sessions to be as useful and focused on your needs as possible. You can post comments here, or add them to the discussion on Facebook.