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Hol publisher, Greg Albers, stepping aside to take on digital publishing at the Getty. Read more →

On art and books and reading books on art (the thoughts of Hol publisher Greg Albers)

Blog ♥ Books on Art


‘Tis the season….for art fiction? 

For whatever reason, the holidays tend to put me in the mood for fiction about artists, the art world or art history. So if you also feel like curling up in front of the fire with an art-related novel, here’s a short list of options:

The Unknown Masterpiece by Honoré de Balzac (1831). Bonus: Hol's handy Museum Book Club reading guide is here.

The Masterpiece (L'Œuvre) by Emile Zola (1886)

Madonna of the Future by Henry James (1873)

The Moon & Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham (1919)

The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone (1961)

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (1988)

My Name is Red by Orham Pamuk (1998)

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (2009)

A Painter’s Life: a novel by K.B. Dixon (2010) Bonus: Hol's Museum Book Club reading guide is here.

The Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (2010) Bonus: Hol's Museum Book Club reading guide is here.

The Art Critic by Peter Plagens (2012)

The Art Forger by Barbara Shapiro (2012)

Happy Holiday Reading!




If you believe Flannery O'Connor

Hol's new managing editor, Leah, here.

I love reading. I’ve always loved reading, and I’ve never really been a discriminating reader. I love novels, short stories, and long-form non-fiction as much as I enjoy perusing the occasional obituary or classified ad that I might come across in some stray newspaper. In Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor writes that “people without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them. They don’t take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage. The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel, of course, is a way to have experience.” In my more philosophical moments, I like to think that I live by these words, and that everything I read—be it a tome or a blurb—is crucial to my experience as a human being.

Looking at art is a way to have experience as well, and if we believe O’Connor, long looks at art allow us to see past what’s easily visible in our time and place. (O’Connor also writes that if you want to be a writer, you should take up painting, but that’s a subject for another blog post.) Before I get too dreamy here, let me just impart that looking at art, coupled with reading about art, is a truly exhilarating way in which to meaningfully experience worlds past, present and future.

My love of reading and art led me to review art books, but over the last year or so, I’ve written fewer and fewer reviews. I’ve still been reading art books, but the demands of my gallery job and other writing commitments haven’t allowed me to thoughtfully review them. This fall, I made the decision to leave my gallery gig and devote myself more fully to writing projects. Needless to say, I was thrilled when Hol’s founder, Greg Albers, approached me to see if I’d be interested in working for Hol when he moved on to Getty Publications. As Hol’s new managing editor, I’m excited to talk about art books that I admire, respect or wrangle with. I’ll be using this blog to consider art books and writing, as well as the genre’s place in literature at large. In the process, I hope to freshly reflect on Hol’s engaging, thoughtful list of art books.

These blogged musings will (hopefully) offer you—the reader—an invigorated experience of art writing old and new. If you ever have a question or comment on these posts, please don’t be a stranger. Get in touch with me at triplett.leah@holartbooks.com.


Straightforward decisions that lead in interesting directions

Almost exactly six years and six months ago, I left my job at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to launch Hol Art Books, and today I am leaving Hol and heading back to the museum world to take up a new position as digital publications manager at the Getty.

When I look back on the trajectory of Hol over the years, I think about it as one of exceedingly straightforward decisions that somehow led me in some pretty interesting directions. I decided to publish the kinds of books I did because those were the kinds of books I wanted to read. I decided to implement a team publishing system because I needed collaborators and didn't have a lot of money. I published in both print and e-book because I wanted the most possible people to read my authors' books in whatever format they wanted to read them in. I made a switch to publishing almost exclusively e-books because I could do more with less. I started talking and writing about digital publishing in the arts because I was one of the only ones doing it. And I decided to take the job at the Getty because they imagined it and then offered it to me—a straightforward decision (if not also lightly made) that will no doubt lead me in interesting new directions. 

Hol and the wonderful books of our amazing authors will carry on in interesting directions too, and there will be more details on that in the coming weeks. For now, I just want to say thank you, and farewell, and good reading to you all.


The posts that got away

My first post on this blog was on March 15, 2007. In the six and a half years since, there were a number that never saw the light of day. Some sadly, most thankfully.

UNTITLED, October 2012
Me whining to myself.

It took four and a half years, but I finally realized that "calling people out", even when it was done in love, was a ridiculous way to spend my time.

This one wasn't always a draft. Mea culpa.

MARFA, TX, July 2011
I liked this attempt better.

ART LIT: ANDY WARHOL, February 2010
Right. Warhol wrote a lot and a lot of people wrote about him. There was one Warhol book post I wanted to write but never got to though, on the Grove Press editions of a and Blue Movie.

Every month should be Frank Gohlke month!

AT THE MET, DAY 6, July 2009
Apparently five days "At the Met" was my limit.

I try very hard to avoid buying from Amazon, but nobody's perfect.

So, where did it all start? On the porch of the very civilized Greyfield Inn, over a gin-and-tonic-soaked wedding weekend.

ON THE ROAD, October 2008
Not Kerouac. Not even close.

This was shortly after our move from Boston to Tucson in 2008 and I was just happy to finally have my own little home office.

Warhol again.

UPDATES, March 2008
Was letting readers know that I added some stuff to the site, particularly a link to del.icio.us. Cutting edge!

These were more like notes to myself about the Tools of Change conference. They don't make sense to me anymore, so good thing I left them unpublished.

FAQ: SCHEDULE, February 2008
Nobody really asked much about the schedule anyway.

Just this pretty good quote: "Spent its money making shows for its viewers rather than working to find viewers for its shows."

T, December 2007
Was seeing more art coverage in the New York Times T magazine than in the paper itself, and thought "That's weird".

Me on my high horse again.

I did a lot of these In Review posts in an attempt to be THE source for information on notable books about art. Problem was, they were boring posts.

SLUSH PILE DRAFT, November 2007
PROMOTING HOL, November 2007

Not sure why these are blog posts and not notes in a computer file somewhere.

SEED FUNDING, September 2007
A good quote good in 1970, good now: "Each new book is a new venture; in a sense it is a new business, involving many of the same but also many different considerations from the business as a whole" —Herbert S. Bailey, Jr., The Art and Science of Book Publishing, 1970. 

ALL'S QUIET, September 2007
I was feeling lonely. This was my tree-falling-in-a-forest post. 

THE FACTS 101, August 2007
A pretty long post on the facts of publishing and how to overcome them. Overcoming the facts 

MUTE, July 2007
A pretty long post on Mute Magazine, which I was fascinated by but honestly couldn't quite wrap my head all the way around. 

This one kills me. It was just two weeks after I quite my job to work on Hol full-time and I wrote, "One thing I've learned well over the last couple years is that just because you can do it yourself, doesn't mean you should." Amen, Greg.


A great new artist e-book series

Just put up a new post over at Beyond the Printed page, "A Breath of Fresh Air: The Continued Rise of the Artist E-Book", on the great new books by Klaus_eBooks. Four titles have been released so far, and I've enjoyed every one of them. From left to right: TG-30, by Body by Body; Template Jams, by Deanna Havas; Twelve, by Ann Hirsch; and Alien She, by Isaac Richard Pool.


The People's E-Book is in Beta!

That's right, the People's E-Book—a project we started in March following an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign—is is built and we have a growing number of users logged in and making e-books right now! They're helping us test out the system before its big public release, and we can't wait to get you in and making e-books too. Just visit beta.thepeoplesebook.net to get on the list. It may take awhile, but we will get you a beta invite for early access to the tool just as soon as we can.

Meanwhile, check out our latest video and start getting those e-book ideas flowing. Soon, it will be e-books for everyone!


Agile Publishing

Download the E-Book, 1.9MB

(Cover type: Human Letterforms by Tyler Lyons. tylerlyonsphotography.com)

This afternoon, I'm on panel called "Print and Digital Media, the Museum's 21st Century Storytellers" at the American Alliance of Museums annual meeting in Baltimore. Joining me on the panel are Kara Kirk from the Getty and Liz Neely (@lili_czarina) from the Art Institute of Chicago. For my part, I'll be speaking about "agile publishing" which I define in the talk as:

"Any fast, reasonably cheap and simple method of telling our stories in a meaningful, frictionless and often iterative way."

I first wrote about agile publishing last year in a post for Beyond the Printed Page about Harvard Art Museums' unique digital companion publication for their exhibition Jasper Johns / In Press. In today's AAM panel, I'm talking about that project along with two other case studies: A magazine version of an exhibition catalogue on Ai Weiwei, by the Hirshhorn Museum; and my own recent project, a free e-book of all the exhibition materials from the show, From Above: Aerial Photography from the Center for Creative Photography at the Phoenix Art Museum (a project about which I'll be writing about in more depth in the coming months).

As usual, the full presentation is available for download here as an e-book. It's in the EPUB format, and though optimized for presentation on an iPad, it should be readable (if not also always pretty) on most other devices. iPad/iPhone users, visit this page on your device, click the download link and select "Open in iBooks". Android users can do the same thing, but with the reading app, Aldiko installed instead of iBooks. And to read from your desktop computer, we recommend Sony's free reading app, or the free Readium extension for the Chrome browser.


Bringing you more great books with The People's E-Book

Just over three weeks ago, we launched a campaign to build The People's E-Book, a simple e-book creation tool for artists and authors, aimed at bringing you, our readers, ever more new and unique digital publications. Along with an amazing showing of grassroots support, the project was also featured in Hyperallergic, TeleRead, GalleyCat, New York Arts Exchange, Downtown Phoenix Journal, and Kickstarter itself!

As of today, an amazing 816 backers have given in amounts from $1 to $1000 and The People's E-Book will be built. In these final few days of the campaign, as we push to raise the money needed to build it even better, we want Hol Art Books' readers to be the first to hear of a special new offer.


  • Choose any 2 E-BOOKS from Hol, current or forthcoming in 2013
  • + Get the "My Other Book is a Paperback"
    e-reader sticker
  • + Your name on the "People's E-Book is People Funded" web page
  • All with a $35 pledge

2 e-books not enough? For a pledge of $100, choose 5 E-BOOKS (!) and one of our conversation-starting E-Book Shelf Surrogates.



Critical Condition

From ARTnews, February 2013: 

Like Homer’s Odysseus, Peter Plagens is a man of many shifts: critic, artist, novelist. In his latest enovel, The Art Critic (Hol Art Books), Plagens combines these roles as he writes caustically about the art world from the perspective of Arthur, a reviewer for a “Major News Magazine.”

The Art Critic is a dilemma novel—its hero is experiencing a crisis. And Arthur reminds us of Plagens writing for Newsweek, where he worked as senior art critic from 1989 to 2003. Arthur’s job is to hit high-profile shows so people everywhere can have some idea of what’s going on in art. Like Plagens, he excels at this, despite being unable to write about things he actually likes. But Arthur is missing something: no wife, no children, not looking forward to anything more than very modest fame and even more modest fortune. Mephistopheles tries to entice him with all the things he lacks. Arthur is tempted but ultimately sides with his better angels.

Of course, inquiring minds want to know if this is a roman à clef and at the same time an autobiography. “The professional part is pretty autobiographical, albeit given a little Douglas Sirk–esque jazzing up to make it more readable as fiction,” Plagens says. As for Arthur’s personal dimensions, “The critic is younger, taller, and handsomer than I am. He’s single and has a fraught, who-gets-the-girl love life.” The author is, wisely, evasive and ambiguous about what happens to Arthur in his romance with Helen and his collision with her mega-collector father.

Asked why he wrote the book, Plagens answers, “It was probably less of a decision than being inevitable. Fifteen years at Newsweek left me with a lot of pent-up stuff, from art judgments I couldn’t squeeze into the magazine’s very short-form format to wanting to show a bit of the behind-thescenes business about a critic’s job—discussions with editors, prowling the galleries, etcetera.” In other words, he had things to get off his chest. Plagens doesn’t leave us laughing, but more importantly, he doesn’t sneer at Arthur’s plaintive choice of the virtuous path. Part of success is renunciation. Arthur, like Plagens, is good at what he does and decides to keep on doing it.

—Alfred Mac Adam

Copyright © 2013 ARTnews. 
Reprinted here with permission. Download the PDF.


Converging and Diverging at the 101st Annual CAA Conference

Guest post by Leah Triplett (@leah_triplett), who writes regularly for BookslutBig Red & Shiny, and other fine publications.

The College Art Association’s membership is incredibly varied, boasting Ivy-leaguer professors, experimental artists, creative entrepreneurs and undergrad students of all ages. Thousands of CAA members gather every year in Los Angeles, Chicago or New York for a yearly conference and book fair where they can learn the latest in art historical research and publishing. Wrapping up last Saturday afternoon, the CAA conference at the Hilton New York was an exciting venue to see such a diverse group keenly discussing every possible facet of art and art history.

I kicked off my CAA Conference experience on Thursday night in Chelsea, at a conversation between novelist Lynne Tillman and David Wojnarowicz biographer Cynthia Carr presented by the School of Visual Arts’ MFA in Art Criticism & Writing Department. Earlier in that day, the CAA’s “How to Get Published and How to Get Read,” a panel that I unfortunately missed, reportedly drew a massive crowd of writers, editors and critics, all eager to publish their work. Expensive programs (with prestigious faculty) such as the SVA MFA in Art Criticism and Writing were lively discussed, as audience and panelists alike probed the value of such degrees in actually crafting and circulating writing. Do you really need an MFA to write about art, or to publish that writing? I was hoping that Carr and Tillman’s audience, which was largely populated by students, would recreate the debate for me, but questions from the audiences mostly revolved around how Carr decided to write and structure a biography of a friend (particularly as that friend died tragically young). Carr was soft-spoken and earnest in her presentation and very thoughtful in her responses to the audience, suggesting that to write any story, you just need to start where you can and keep working (and fervently so!). Carr was sincere, and refreshingly didn’t pander.

The next morning, I was at the New York Hilton bright and early for a day of rigorously academic lectures, stopping in first to “Feminism Meets the Big Exhibition: 2005 Onwards.” It was standing-room only as revered feminist art historians such as Griselda Pollock critiqued block-buster revisionist exhibitions of work by women artists. It was almost just as crowded at ARTspace and CAA Services to Artists Committee's “Meta-Mentors: Double Duty,” where I expected to hear writer-artists-teachers like Phong Bui of The Brooklyn Rail, Christopher Joy of Gorky's Granddaughter, Austin Thomas of Pocket Utopia, Amalia Winger-Bearskin (who started Art Art Zine) and David Humphrey explain how they manage to get so much done in one day, and how they balance the sometimes conflicting roles of critic and writer. Bui, who teaches at the SVA Art Criticism and Writing Program, seemed a little less than excited to be presenting at CAA. Nevertheless, he told the audience that sees his work with the Rail as a duty and contribution to society at large. Sociability and connection seems to drive the other panelists in the work that they do, respectively. Humphrey began writing because he “had a bug to write,” and because he “thought [he] had something to contribute.” Likewise, Joy said he started Gorky's Granddaughter because he wanted to engage other artists on their own terms, and because while he loves being alone in his studio, he felt a need to be “immersed in people.” Winger-Bearskin echoed that sentiment, describing her unconventional path to MFA and working artist as predicated on her need to bridge solitary practice with collaboration. Balance and honesty is imperative to Winger-Bearskin’s work, as she explained that her work as an artist, educator and publisher is “not just a sprint, it needs to be sustainable.”

I thought that perhaps I’d died and gone to thriving Barnes & Noble heaven where only art books were allowed.

Feeling like I needed some balance myself, I decided to take a break and hit the book and trade fair, AKA the Art Book Promised Land. The book and trade fair is a two-floor mall of the latest in art and art history titles, and for a moment at the threshold, I thought that perhaps I’d died and gone to thriving Barnes and Noble heaven where only art books were allowed.

The fair was buoyed by major publishers like Prestel, Yale, The MIT Press and University of Chicago Press. It’s a heady whirlwind, a mecca of just-published or forthcoming titles, like Power to the People: The Graphic Design of the Radical Press and the Rise of the Counter Culture, 1964-1974 from the University of Chicago Press. But it felt as if radical publishing was missing from the book fair, as exhilarating as it was. It was hard to find the independents, and most of them were zines or journals like X-TRA or East of Borneo, both fantastic publications, but not book publishers. I personally believe that books and the stories within them—written or visual—are vital to art education, appreciation and edification, and I missed seeing some of the great small presses exclusively dedicated to publishing invigorating art writing and innovative, multi-disciplinary research. What’s more is that I’m almost positive that the only publisher actively advocating ebooks or e-reading was ARTBOOK|D.A.P., who had an iPad out demonstrating the ease and convenience of digital reading. But again, they weren’t promoting the ebook as the province of the new frontier in art publishing, but as a traditional book translated verbatim into a digital one. That said, it was great to discover small art book publishers such as Lars Müller and to see large international ones like Hong Kong University Press. 

Openness and information accessibility was a hot topic within conference panels and book fair booths alike, and I was delighted to see so many publishers offering open-access to content to researchers and students. New platforms like University Press Scholarship Online seek to make research easily-available to scholars in streamlined database, for a cost. It was also exciting to see publishers like Brill (established in 1683) offering comprehensive online collections of primary sources like “History of Modern Russian and Ukrainian Art Online Monographs and Serials, 1907-1930.” Access to this priceless compilation of rare periodicals and archival materials would save a researcher untold hours in the art library stacks, but unfortunately rings up to $18,480 for access. 

What I thought was most remarkable about the book fair was the amount of titles focusing on internationality and marginalized cultures and art forms. Several publishers boasted critical studies of Canadian art history, a field owing its revitalization this side of the border to shows like MASS MoCA’s Oh, Canada. Titles exploring the legacies and complexities of the Armory Art Show (it opened 100 years ago yesterday in New York) seemed to pepper every booth, and were often alongside fresh titles like Penn State Press’s Cold Modernism by Jessica Burstein. Gratifyingly, tomes on Cuban art, Nordic art, and Post-Soviet art abounded.

Overall, this year’s CAA Conference was fantastic way to meet people from all corners of the globe that care about art and art books as much as I do. Though the conference and book fair slants towards the academic, I was overwhelmed by the passionate dedication that art scholars, journalists, publishers and students all share in their drive to elucidate the story of art.


The 1913 Armory Show and its Publications

On the evening of February 17, 1913, with four thousand guests milling around in the eighteen improvised rooms within the shell of the 69th Regiment Armory, the International Exhibition of Modern Art, more familiarly known as the Armory Show, was formally opened to the public. This sensational exhibition, which included examples of the most advanced movements in European art, was the first of its kind held in the United States and was the result of more than a year’s planning and organization by a small group of artists, the Association of American Painters and Sculptors...

Few of those who crowded the octagonal-shaped rooms formed by a network of burlap-covered panels could have any inkling of the impact that this event would have upon the future of American art.

—Milton W. Brown, The Story of the Armory Show

While the 1913 Armory Show left an indelible mark on American art, now, nearly a century later, the story of the show itself is often told shrouded in myth and legend. Amusing tales of bewildered, culturally provincial audiences and outraged critics abound, but tracing the history of the show back to its beginnings, there exists a trove of archival materials which record the facts underlying the legends, and the very intentions of the show’s organizers. Among these files of correspondence, press clips and memorabilia, one finds a series of modestly-produced but remarkable pamphlets.

The 1913 Armory Show pamphlets were published by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors in support of the exhibition. The series of four, short booklets comprised of excerpts from artist Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian journal, Noa-Noa; Odilon Redon and A Sculptor’s Architecture, by Association member and show organizer, Walter Pach; and Cézanne by noted French art historian Élie Faure. Printing a reported 5,000 copies of each, the pamphlets were sold—along with postcard reproductions of many of the works on display—at the entrance booths to the New York exhibition (February 17–March 15).

While the Association stated its aim for the Armory Show as simply “to put the paintings, sculptures, and so on, on exhibition so that the intelligent may judge for themselves by themselves,” they were no doubt hopeful of a positive reception for the work. And, definitively on the side of the “new” art, the show pamphlets were surely aimed to that end. They were aides to better inform the American public about the current European art on view. There’s no record of whether the pamphlets were received that way, but they remain valuable and engaging source documents for consideration today.

When the exhibition moved to Chicago (March 24–April 16), the semi-provocative Noa-Noa was withdrawn from circulation by the local exhibition directors on “moral grounds”. Along with the city’s decidedly more conservative atmosphere, press coverage was also lighter and arguably less balanced than it had been in New York. This in mind, organizers Walter Kuhn and Frederick James Gregg (who was acting as the show’s public relations director) decided to publish a fifth pamphlet, For and Against.

Referred to as the “Red Pamphlet” for the color of its cover, For and Against gathered, as one would suspect, essays both for and against the new art. Most of the included pieces had been first published in magazines and newspapers during the show’s New York run. Taking the position of “for” the new art were Frederick James Gregg, Walter Pach, and artist Francis Picabia. Representing the “against” faction were artist Kenyon Cox and critic Frank Jewett Mather, Jr. Somewhere in between the two camps, and lending a local perspective, came The Chicago Evening Post. Once again, 5,000 copies were printed and sold at the show entrance.

In all, the idea that an exhibition’s organizers would publish texts in support of the art works and artists they were showing is not a surprise. It’s a practice that thrives to this day in exhibition catalogues, gallery handouts and museum learning guides. To also voluntarily publish views against those same art works and artists, however, is as radical a proposition as one could hope to expect from this legendary show.

The complete texts of these pamphlets are available in our book, Documents of the 1913 Armory Show, in a FREE e-book and discounted hardcover and paperback editions to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the show.


E-Book Shelf Surrogate ™

To participate in the LA Art Book Fair last weekend, I needed to come up with something to do to sell our e-books other than sit there at the table, alone except for my iPad. How sad that would have been. I came up with the E-Book Shelf Surrogate™, an 11 x 17 color print that can be cut and assembled into a book shape, complete with bookmark and real tassel, to sit on your shelf. Read the e-book, have the surrogate as a souvenier of your reading expereince and as filler for your bookshelf. Overall, they went over quite well. They started a lot of conversations, led to a lot of smiles, and even got some love from the inimitable art blogger and reporter, C-Monster in her post "Art books and fake books at the Printed Matter L.A. Art Book Fair". Not sure yet how, or in what manner we'll make these surrogates available in the future, but in the meantime, our step-by-step on making one:

Each E-Book Shelf Surrogate™ starts as an 11 x 17 full-color print and is packaged with a real bookmark tassel

To assemble, start by carefully cutting out the pieces

Fold along the lines, I recommend pre-scoring if you can

Matching the marked tabs with the corresponding slots, assemble the surrogate into it's final book shape

Use a standard hole punch, and thread the tassel through the bookmark

Ta-da! The completed E-Book Shelf Surrogate™ and Bookmark

Nearly indistinguishable from "real" books

But your own, very readable e-book copy of Peter Plagens' novel, The Art Critic, in our online store.


Our new project: Not one book, but thousands

I am pleased to announce our newest project, The People's E-Book, a super-simple online tool with an intuitive visual interface to allow anyone to make e-books quickly and for free. It is a web application for barebones e-book publishing. What the photocopier was to zines and artists books, we hope The People’s E-Book will be to digital books.

As a reader and as a publisher, I love books that deepen my direct experiences with art out in the world—engaging stories that encourage me to go look at art. This is why I love artists books too; because with artists books the book in my hands is the art. I think e-books can be the art too.

The People's E-Book Will Be People Funded

The People's E-Book is a collaboration between Hol and The Present Group. While at the LA Art Book Fair this past weekend, we launched our initial funding effort on Kickstarter and were greeted with a humbling outpouring of early support for the tool, including already being selected as a Staff Pick. I know many of you will be eager to support it as well, and I hope you'll also consider passing it on to others.

In Your Hands

When I started Hol, no one thought you could have art books that focused on words rather than images; no one thought a press could allow independent teams of people to collaboratively publish a book together; and certainly no one thought digital publishing had any place in the visual arts. I am proud of the chances we've taken and the ground we've broken so far. I am even more proud to have had your support along the way. I'm asking you to join me again by pledging today and continuing to redefine what art books can be published, and who can publish them. Help us make not just one book possible, but thousands.


Hol Art Books @ the LA Art Book Fair

E-Book Shelf Surrogates:
How do you sell e-books in a physical space? At the LA Art Book Fair, Feb 1–3, we'll be selling our e-books with beautiful 11 x 17" prints that can be cut, folded and taped together to form a model paperback book and bookmark, with real tassel included. Do you read e-books but also want a trophy for your shelves? Problem solved!

E-Book Fair Guide:
We're publishing the e-book edition of the official fair guide, and will be live publishing updates into the book on site. The e-book will be available for free download at the fair and on the web, with new editions posted daily.

The People's E-Book:
We're debuting a new web app now under development with The Present Group.  The People's E-Book is a super-simple e-book creation tool for artists and alternative presses. At the opening of the fair we're releasing details of the tool, and starting a Kickstarter campaign to people fund The People's E-Book: thepeoplesebook.net or @peoples_e.

E-Book Signing:
Sunday at 2pm, Richard Hertz will be signing e-book editions of his books Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia and The Beat and the Buzz. Yes, signed e-books.

Lots of updates to come. Hope to see you there!


Where Am I?

What happens when we can make books respond to our environment? What if instead of locating the best text to read for where we are, the best text could locate us? What if we created an e-book to be navigated in real space?

These are the question I ask over at the Beyond the Printed Page blog, and the answer I came up with was a surprisingly simple, first of its kind e-book that automatically tracks its reader's location and directs them to specific information about that location. In this case, it's an art guidebook using five artworks at the Indianapolis Museum of Art's 100 Acres sculpture park. And the best part? It actually works!

Read more -->


If E-Book Publishers Designed Websites

As regular readers of e-books know, there is no easy way of navigating past the frontmatter of an e-book (cover, title page, copyright page, dedication, etc...) to get to the main content, except by turning each and every page, one by one. And yet, many publishers continue to format their e-books in this way, loading the front of their books with page after page of mostly filler material. This is a relic of print book design and I'm continuously baffled as to why it persists. To highlight what I see as the ridiculousness of this practice, I hypothesized what traditional book publishers would do if unleashed upon other digital content. The results are pretty in their own way, but a site that takes 6 clicks for users to reach the main content? It wouldn't last a day.


Dear Francine Prose, I love you

In this Sunday's NYT Book Review, Francine Prose reviews John Updike's posthumous collection Always Looking: Essays on Art, his third such collection. As much of her glowing review of Updike's work though, I can't help but be smitten by her thoughts on novelists and poets as art writers. A subject long close to our hearts here at Hol. From the review:

"… novelists and poets bring along, to the gallery or museum, a particular set of skills. Having a gift for narrative and an eye for the revelatory incident, novelists excel at swiftly but comprehensibly guiding us through the high points of an artist’s life. Accustomed to transmitting quantities of information without making readers feel swamped by exposition, writers of fiction understand how to enliven sections dense with fact. Obsessed with detail, poets and novelists notice what is transpiring everywhere in a painting, and how each brush stroke furthers the illusion that we are seeing a hand or a pearl necklace. Most important, novelists and poets have had practice using language to describe not only how something looks but the experience of seeing it." 

And later:

"Often, Updike’s descriptions of paintings do one of the most important things that art writing can accomplish, which is to persuade the reader to seek out, or take another look at, a painting or sculpture."

And finally, for when you finish reading Updike on art, Prose offers us a selection of other wonderful works for consideration. To which you might add Prose's own thoughtful and entertaining biography of Caravaggio.


A Startup-in-Residence

Download the E-Book, 1.2MB

Today, in a panel called "Moving Forward by Looking Sideways: Creative Thinking in Museum Digital Strategy" (Museum Computer Network, Seattle 2012), I'm speaking about my path as a startup art book publisher, and how a startup mentality might serve museums in undertaking new programs and new technology. I'm also further advocating for the idea of startups-in-residence as a new take on the artist-in-residence programs so common in museums today. Just as artist-in-residence programs bring contemporary artists into a museum and give them a bit of support and access to museums resources, a startup-in-residence could do the same with creative entrepreneurs of all types. And where the final product of an artist-in-residency might be a new body of work or an exhibition, the product of a startup-in-residency could be a new bit of technology, a new kind of programming or whatever.

As usual, the full presentation is available for download here as an e-book. It's in the EPUB format. iPad/iPhone useres, visit this page on your device, click the download link and select "Open in iBooks". Android users can do the same thing, but with the reading app, Aldiko installed instead of iBooks. And to read from your desktop computer, we recommend Sony's free reading app, or the free Readium extension for the Chrome browser.


Pages of light

"Above all, the artist thanks Scott Nedrelow and Ruben Nusz of Location Books for inviting her to create a book ... with pages of light rather than pages of paper." —JoAnn Verburg, AS IT IS AGAIN, 2012

"Properly we shd. read for power. Man reading shd. be man intensely alive. The book shd. be a ball of light in one's hands." —Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur, 1938


Museum Book Club 101

More and more museums are starting book clubs every season. What started as a list of four clubs nationwide in June of 2007, has grown to an astounding fifty-three clubs listed on our Museum Book Club page today! Whether you're a reader or a museum staff member, here's our quick guide to joining a club, finding a book to read, or starting your own:

Join an Existing Club at Your Local Museum
Most often open to the general public rather than limited to members, museum book clubs are also often free of charge. To see if there's one in your area, check our list or contact your local museum directly. The readings in these book clubs are usually chosen by the museum's curators or art educators and will reflect their institution's specific collection or current exhibition. Participating in one of these clubs, once or many times, can be a great way to get to know your museum, and to learn something about art from the people who know it best.

Go Our On Your Own
If there's not a museum near you offering a club, there's no reason you can't start your own. Just pick a book, and find a few friends.

Choose a Book
To choose a book for your club, browse our guides, or the expanding catalogue of books that museums have previously chosen for their own groups. Look to your local museum. Do they have an interesting exhibition coming up, or a particular strength in their permanent collection? With a little research you'll probably find some great books to go with them.

Set a Meeting
No one in a book club has ever complained about talking art literature over plentiful food and wine. Some even offer to contribute food and drink themselves. Even better though might be to hold your meeting at your local museum. Get everyone together in the galleries for an hour, then sit down to lunch or an early supper at the museum cafe and talk about the book. Ideally, the work you look at in the galleries will be connected to your book selection, but even being in the space and enjoying the art can stimulate conversation.

Work with Your Museum
Your museum may offer other opportunities for your club. You might be able hire a museum docent to guide you through the collection and even talk specifically about the work your book focuses on. They may have meeting spaces besides the cafe, does your museum have an art library? The shop might be willing to special order copies of your book and sell them to your club at a nice discount. Reach out to them. Look for information on their websites, and if you need a contact, check with the Education department first or call the museum and ask the operator who you might speak to.