March 1, 2013
The People’s E-Book: A platform to create digital artists’ books
by Claire Kelley
In A Century of Artists’ Books, cultural critic Johanna Drucker observes:
The artist’s book is the quintessential 20th century art form. Artists’ books appear in every major movement in art and literature and have provided a unique means of realizing works within all of the many avant-garde, experimental, and independent groups whose contributions have defined the shape of 20th century artistic activity.
Today, while ebooks could become the 21st century’s quintessential form of media, experimentation with the variety of formats and e-readers is a challenge for artists who would like to create an electronic or digital version of an art book or zine. A PDF is as static as paper, Adobe Digital Publishing Suite can be expensive, iBooks Author is limited in terms of design choices, and ebook readers require native epub or mobi formats depending on the device. It’s difficult to find a solution that utilizes the innovation possible with the digital medium, while also being useful and providing an appealing user experience.
A free new platform called The People’s E-Book promises to be a solution to this problem— it will be a simple web app that allows creative types to make artist ebooks and electronic zines. While many ebooks mimic paper books, this app could redefine the possibilities of the digital book by allowing innovation and creativity to play a role in ebook creation. A video on the project’s Kickstarter page (the campaign ends tonight) explains what they hope to accomplish:
What is an ebook? What does it look like? How is it made? How can we hope to make one of our own? There are services we can use, but most require too much time, effort, and money to output even the simplest ebook. There are no digital publishing services and few ebooks out there that are as simple or as open to experimentation and play… we aim to change that.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.