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Why Photobooks are Booming in a Digital Age

Photo by Mon Levchenkova, from the website of Self Publish, Be Happy

The Financial Times (of all places) profiles the London-based photobook publisher Self Publish, Be Happy:

SPBH began as an experiment, after its Italian-born founder Bruno Ceschel, who worked as a photography editor and curator in London, visited the New York Art Book Fair in 2009. The fair, which hosts about 350 booksellers and attracts some 35,000 visitors, made a big impression. “There was a free symposium, and people were talking about these amazing publications,” he recalls, “and I thought, ‘Wow, most people in the industry don’t seem to see this material.’ So when I came back I did this call for submissions [on his blog] — really quite speculative. And I got a lot of good stuff. That prompted me to think that the books were out there. They just needed a platform.”

So Ceschel set up the site. As the books came in, he made a selection, scanned them and put them up online with an email address for the author. SPBH didn’t take money, but the network grew. Two years later he started SPBH Editions, with designer Antonio de Luca, and set up a book club to support it (members receive three titles a year for £110).

The article goes on the speculate about why, ironically, photobooks are thriving in an age of digital photography:

This is one end of an industry that has capitalised on the advances that digital technology has made to the design and production of visual publishing. Social media have also served as a free advertising network for selling books online. For any publisher, the ability to sell even a percentage of your titles direct to the customer can save on discounts to distributors and retailers that can be around 50 per cent of the retail price. For a tiny press, it can be the difference between sinking and staying afloat.

Read the full article on the Financial Times website. For a longer video profile of Self Publish, Be Happy, check out the British indie culture magazine Huck.