The Public in Publication Studio

Matthew Stadler has written a detailed day-in-the-life story in Design Observer at his innovative publishing studio…part printing press, part community event project, part hybrid store front business that, here’s hoping, may soon become a settled model of what bookmaking could look like.

The entity calls itself modestly Publication Studio, founded by Stadler, former editor of Nest Magazine and publisher of Clear Cut Press, and Patricia No in Portland, OR. What I find so intriguing about their model is that paper book printing seems to draw license and energy from what we normally attribute to digital practices: instant on-demand replication (they have their own hot-glue perfect binder in the store – you can walk in with a thumbdrive and walk out with a fresh book), they like to issue texts composed of nothing more than a clever image mashup pulled from the web like someone’s tumblr page, and they mess around with the murky terrain of copyright by reissuing out-of-print works without going through (the often defunct) publisher. When its so easy to hotglue a spine onto a printed-out pdf, printing might be the next hum drum home brewed act of piracy after the torrent download.

Or sort of. Those are debatable statements. Operating a perfect binder is no easy task, and PS has mastered it as a craft. Which is also why their business model works, even if they offer their books online for free: people want the book objects, they have simplicity and style, and they’re the embodied effort of something much larger, a dedicated community of book lovers, of books as more than texts.

PS has grown affiliated offshoots in cities like Toronto, LA, which act less like franchises and more like forks thriving in their different contexts. Each ‘sibling studio’ contributes books and events to the overall catalog and can publish and profit from selling books originated by any other studio. This concept also seems derived more from what today is attributed to digital culture than from older proprietary models: the more that’s shared, the more everyone gains.

From Stadler’s article:

We make books as a kind of public space; and we extend that space into a digital commons (all our books can be read free and annotated online); we also host the social life of books. Our storefront is the nexus of all of that — home to the social, digital, and physical business of literature.