Saturday, November 13, 2010

Food for Thought in A Fast Food World

I've been following this story all week...
On October 5th a shortlist of five books was announced for this years Scotia Bank Giller Prize. The Giller Prize is the largest annual literary prize in Canada.
On October 9th Johanna Skibsrud's book The Sentimentalists won.
This is where the story gets interesting...
The publisher of this book is Gaspereau Press in Kentville, Nova Scotia. Their books are printed and bound on the premises. They use a 1960s offset press, bind them using mechanical sewers and wrap them in covers that are printed on a letterpress cranked by hand. This process, as you can imagine, takes time. They can produce about 1000 books a week. Since winning The Giller Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists is now in high demand. At first publisher Andrew Steeves declined an offer from a big publisher to print more copies for him.
The Critics are saying that this book should be on bookshelves now (yesterday actually).

“It's like lemmings off the cliff that the market subscribes to,” Steeves says. “That is everything that's wrong with our world.”

The publishers have some defenders. “Andrew and Steve are gems,” says retired history professor and author Julian Gwyn, who has had books published by Gaspereau.“They're standing up for art and craftsmanship. I say, ‘To hell with you, Toronto. To hell with you, Montreal. You'll get the books when you get them, and you'll be happy.' ”

But an author has clout. Skibsrud made her angst clear to the media after the win. She finally made it clear to Steeves and Dunfield, too. And so they're set to make an announcement to meet the demand, but in “our way,” Steeves says, hinting they'll try to control the output. Andrew Chung, The Toronto Star

Mass production verses art and craftsmanship? This makes for a very interesting discussion. One we've been having all week in our house.
Surprisingly I'm still on the fence (forcing myself to lean towards art and craftsmanship).

P.S. Marathon Man has found a new hero, Publisher Andrew Steeves.
P.S.S I just purchased the book (from the publisher) for Marathon Man for Christmas (don't worry he doesn't read my blog). If it makes it here by Christmas, good. If not, that's OK. We can wait.

Photo: Gaspereau Press, Globe and Mail


M said...

I thought the art and craftsmanship was in the writing of the book not the printing of it. I'm sure the old world Amish would appreciate the Gaspereau Press method as they do churning butter by hand and plowing their fields with horses but it doesn't realistically serve most of today's world - you can't turn back the clock.

Karen J said...

Hi M,
There is plenty of art and craftsmanship in the printing of a book!
A book printed in China (mass production) is most likely made with cheap paper and a binding that falls apart after it's read and before it's tossed in the trash.
I'm thinking that a Gaspereau book is one for my bookshelf.
I'll let you know if that's true when my order arrives.

M said...

Perhaps I'll be lucky to get my copy by next Christmas at their rate unless you lend me yours.

M said...

P.S. There will always be a place for specialized arts and craftsmanship but when you factor in how many books a year Gaspereau Press would produce - 1000 X 52 =52, 000, and then consider that Canada alone has a population of 33 million, USA - 300 million, I think China's massed production will allow more people to read The Sentimentalist before it is out of print or moved aside for the next best seller. It's nice to know that the book will be available sooner than later to the masses.

Miska, Tyro & Diva said...

I love the fact that the books are being published in Canada rather than elsewhere. We HAVE to support our own economy.

M said...

P.P.S. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending which generation you talk to, digital books will replace a lot of publishers but thankfully not the artists or the writers, otherwise we will be 'robots'

John said...

Teresa ordered a copy from Gaspereau and insisted on a copy done the traditional way.

Karen J said...

Hi John,
I knew you'd like this story!
Happy Holidays.