Conference: Off the Press


Off the Press: Electronic Publishing in the Arts
International Conference, Bazaar, Workshops, Art & Performances
Location: Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and WORM.

Thursday 22 May @Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
09:30 – 10:00 – Doors open
10:00 – 11:00 – Session 1: Today’s Book Publishing
11.00 – 13:00 – Session 2: One thousand and one Publishing Workflows, Tools, and Platforms
13:00 – 14:00 – Lunch break
14:00 – 15:00 – Session 3: Introducing Digital Publishing Toolkit
15:00 – 15:30 – Tea break
15:30 – 17:00 – Session 4: Showcases

Thursday 22 May @WORM
20:00 – 22:00 – ‘Digital Arts & Crafts in the Field of Publishing’ curated by Silvio Lorusso

Friday, 23 May @WORM
09:30 – 10:00 – Doors open
10:00 – 14:30 – Three Parallel Workshops
14:30 – 15:00 – Tea break
15:00 – 16:30 – Session 5: Underground e-publishing
16:30 – 17:30 – Bazaar

Thursday 22 May @Museum Boijmans van Beuningen

Session description:
In this opening session of the event we focus on the role of images and artistic inventions in the publishing domain. Publishing in the arts is not just about catalogues or art history monographs. How do artists respond to the growing diversity in platforms and to cross-overs between paper and digital? What is the status of the image in an increasingly multimedia world? What artistic strategies can be identified in today’s networked age, when image and text are starting to have a new relationship to each other?
Moderator: Geert Lovink

~ Joost Kircz (NL): Today’s Book Publishing
The Fashionable Fever of Going Electronic
Art and design books are joining the fashionable fever of ‘going electronic’. Here, in contrast to novels, images are more important than text. In the arts the text explicates the image, whilst in many other genres the image illustrates the text. This fundamental difference makes an electronic arts book a much more demanding, challenging and problematic project. Firstly, we encounter the same issues as with purely textual works; secondly, we have also to address the issues of image quality, colour control, the spatial relationship between text and image – and even more than with text – the relationship between ‘items’ (parts of text, images of cutouts) and large repositories, such as those of museums. Lastly, art printing can choose between many different qualities and types of paper to print on, but the screen is a glowing, often flickering substrate; so it must also be decided which substrate works best for which reader or consumer.

~ Alessandro Ludovico (IT)
Networks as agents in the clash between personal and industrial post-digital print
The post-digital print era has definitely begun. On one hand, the boom in net content or IT process-based artists’ books (with a whole taxonomy of techniques and approaches), and the collective effort to scan underground print culture and share it in digital repositories, is revamping the production and rediscovery of critical content in a classic form. On the other hand, the unveiling of Google’s huge industrial scanning plans, the growing unsustainability of newspapers’ business models, the growing role of software in literary and journalistic production, and the constant fine-tuning of commercial e-publications’ rules are slowly changing the industrial printed mediascape. The resulting scenario helps to shed new light onto the role of networks in these processes, and the possibility of considering them as agents rather than as media per se.

Session description:
… Shahrazad awoke and signalled to her sister Dunyazad who sat up and said, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, recite to us some new story, delightsome and delectable, wherewith to while away the waking hours of our latter night.” … and thus, on the first night of the Thousand Nights and a Night, she began…

This panel explores the diversity of tools and processes for publishing online from highly designed and specialised platforms and content management systems to more DIY heterogeneous and dynamic toolchains. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches. A group of practitioners representing a range of disciplines and approaches share their experiences.
Moderator: Michael Murtaugh

~ Elizabeth Castro (US)
Program Title: CatalanTalk—Publishing multilingual interviews, from Twitter to ebooks to paper
This talk will explore the use of social media and an active volunteer community to publish and distribute multilingual interviews first on Twitter and then convert them into ebooks and paper form in order to raise awareness about Catalonia.

~ Adam Hyde (NZ)
Books are evil
Adam will talk about his experiences over the last eight years with different free software tools and methodologies for creating digital books. Tools include Booktype, Lexicon, PubSweet, Objavi, BookJS, Booki and others. Methodologies include Book Sprints, Collaborative Knowledge Production, and others.

~ John Haltiwanger (US/NL)
Free Your Objects (And Let the Subject Follow) – Textuality and Reciprocity in the Metastability
Tools evolve reciprocally with their use, as do the users of those tools. What we can do and what we wish we could do are enabled and limited not only by the tools we have access to but also by the larger socio-economic conditions that determine these tools and their modes of production and operation. Tools actively participate in shaping our identity as producers, makers, and appreciators. Through the the case study of a multi-output typesetting workflow that uses only libre software, the talk will explore a vocabulary to think differently about how we work with text today, one that focuses on qualities of re-composition and the dynamics of a different type of ownership.

~ Oliver Wise – The People’s E-Book (US)
Making .epubs easy with The People’s E-book
Oliver Wise from The People’s E-book will walk the audience step by step through the creation of an .epub using The People’s E-book. He will explain the advantages of creating something that limits your options and explain the founding principle of keeping things as simple as possible. He will also showcase the open source nodejs module ‘pe-epub’ that was developed for The People’s E-book, and expand on the possibilities for its use in a wide variety of settings.

Session description:
The Digital Publishing Toolkit initiative, a network of two applied universities and art school research departments, four Dutch art and design publishers and several graphic and media design bureaus, is working on an accessible “how-to” guide for electronic publishing in the arts along with a collection of open source software tools for editing and designing electronic books. This session will give an overview of the Digital Publishing Toolkit initiative research results and their most interesting findings in the field of electronic publishing.Moderator: Margreet Riphagen

~ Florian Cramer (DE/NL)
Electronic publishing in the arts – what does work and what doesn’t
The computer industry promises for electronic publishing – better audiovisuality, more interactivity, easier distribution, lower costs, easier do-it-yourself publishing – often don’t quite match the reality of what is possible with electronic books and magazines, especially for small and low budget publishers. On the other hand, there new yet not-so-obvious opportunities and possibilities for publishers that go digital. This presentation will summarize some of the general experience designers and publishers gathered in one year of conducting the Digital Publishing Toolkit project.

~ Miriam Rasch (NL)
Hybrid Workflows for Hybrid Publishing
Any publishing workflow that takes into account not only print but also digital publications – be it a website, an online PDF, ePub or other form – has to be flexible. In order to be open to different outputs, the workflow should comprise different strategies and tools – while at the same time being clear and transferable between authors, editors, and designers, just as the content is clear and transferable between output formats and platforms. The INC subgroup tries to establish precisely that, balancing between technological constraints and possibilities, between high qualitative standards and a flexible and creative handling of materials. We hope to present an outcome that illustrates precisely this: your own personal ePub, collected for you on your own terms from a range of articles, blogs, photos, or videos. Want to know about social media without mentioning Facebook? Curious to see a collection of videos and essays on web search, with a focus on algorithms? What new forms of personalized publication become possible when editing, compilation, and design processes themselves become partially algorithmic?

~ Pia Pol (NL)
Digitizing Context Without Walls, Creating ePub3s through the Epubster Generator
Valiz and the art publicist Daphne Pappers are currently developing a new series of publications named Context Without Walls. The publications in this series are focused on artists from all over the world. The books are multilingual and contain essays as well as images. The paper versions of Context Without Walls are being designed by Meeus Ontwerpt. Valiz, the designers of Meeus Ontwerpt and the developers of PUNTPIXEL have together attempted to create a digital version of Common Skin, the first publication in the Context Without Walls series. Taking into account the technical possibilities and questions of design, they have sought a solution for the issues that arise when turning a paper book into an e-book: the Epubster. The Epubster is generator which enables a publisher to create ePub3s with extensive designs as well as images in the format of a series.

~ Loes Sikkes (NL)
Highlights – ePub personalizer
Rotterdam-based designer Loes Sikkes (Medamo) will present the Highlights research project, designed in collaboration with the nai010 publishers and the PUNTPIXEL developers. This example shows how users can compose an ePub. Within a digital edition the content of a collection can be handled dynamically, providing new possibilities in comparison to a static printed publication. The Highlights research project focuses on the translation of existing information/content to a new product, with the added value of allowing users to influence the composition of the content of the digital edition. The research focuses on selecting within existing collections and personalizing the digital publications. The evolving open-source application is suited to other topics provided it concerns a collection and is a concrete product for the Toolkit originating from this research.

~ Arjen de Jong (NL)
Sketching Skills
The BIS-publisher workgroup set out to research the following issue: how can we make highly interactive rich media publications, accessible on multiple devices, at a reasonable cost? They show the problems and solutions encountered in their case study Sketching Skills, an App version of Sketching, the bestselling book that teaches sketching to industrial designers, by Koos Eissen and Roselien Steur.

Session description:
As the field of electronic publishing continues to expand, it is giving rise to new possibilities in design, distribution and modes of publishing. A wide range of designers, artists, or (designer/artists as) publishers will elaborate on their practices, present new approaches to book design, and give insights into how they are tackling the challenges of electronic publishing.
Moderator: Kimmy Spreeuwenberg

~ Joaquín González – Visual Maniac (SP)
Setting up an art digital book store, or ‘Working out how to do something is better than waiting for a magic formula’ visualMANIAC was born with the intention to preserve the role of the specialist publisher and bookseller in the digital world. We love the papery smell of a good book or a magazine fresh off the press, but we’re also strongly drawn to pixels, their immediacy and lightness. With digital publishing now an industry dominated by major corporations, is it possible to create independent spaces where specialized publishers can find their own routes into the digital domain, away from the interests of the big groups? We have been developing this project for almost three years, and we have learned that digital will not be a worthwhile sales channel until publishers take it seriously. They should devise a strategy and assess whether it is worth developing sophisticated apps, editing ePubs, offering PDFs, or embracing all of these possibilities at the same time. Nobody knows what the future of publishing looks like, so we had better start working on how we want it to be.

~ Michelle Kasprzak – _V2 (NL/CA)
The eBook as a Vehicle for Re-dissemination and Creation
In this talk, Michelle Kasprzak, Curator at V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam, will discuss the creation of an eBook series as a complement to public events at V2_. The strategies behind its series of Blowup Readers – including using the series as a vehicle to mix old and new content, experiment with different forms of collaborative writing, re-purpose archived material, disseminate artistic research, and reach new audiences – will be analyzed and discussed.

~ Matthew So – Badlands Unlimited (USA)
Badlands Unlimited: We Make Books in an Expanded Field
Badlands Unlimited publishes books on a varied range of topics that do not cover specific genres, but which have included a .gif-filled eBook as an art-advertising White Pages, entitled AD BOOK; an English translation of three essays by Saddam Hussein on the purposes of democracy, entitled On Democracy; a series of formerly unpublished interviews of Marcel Duchamp by the New Yorker art critic Calvin Tomkins, entitled Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews; and most recently, a book of drawings by the art curator and critic Hans Ulrich Obrist, entitled Think Like Clouds. Matthew So, an associate of Badlands, will speak about the more important and recent of these titles. A few book trailers will be shown. Matthew handles sales, distribution and inventory operations at Badlands. Questions in relation to these functions will be answered, and unrelated questions will make for interesting conversation.

~Angie Keefer
Meta The Difference between the Two
Historically, the birth of a new language was an arduous drama played out in slow motion over what may as well be units of geologic time compared to the minute scale of an individual human lifespan. Today, the process can be practically instantaneous, as in the case of computer languages, when a given linguistic anatomy fully integrates a new technology. In fact, technological change has consistently catalyzed language change. Our written phonetic languages descend from relatively complex, non-standardized pictographic systems, in which individual signs represented single concepts or things, rather than sounds. Only as technologies of inscription evolved and literacy increased accordingly did it become necessary to make writing more expedient. Even still, our written languages were conceived almost inadvertently; design followed inception.

Session description:
“We pursued distractions and called them enhancements.” This is how e-book designer Peter Mayers drily summarized the recent history of experimental digital publishing in the New York Times.

It is time to look closely at the plethora of available functionalities and the value they have beyond the rhetoric of innovation. If not in the baroqueness of rich media, slick interfaces and smooth gestures, where does the core of digital publishing lie? What happens when, instead of asking what e-books can technically do (especially in comparison to print), we ask how can they be produced, altered, stored and distributed?

During the session, artists and designers will present their own practices and approaches to digital publishing that both take advantage of and question the current modes of content production and dissemination. The presented cases will open the debate on possible strategies to build sustainable, networked or hybrid publishing models.
Curator: Silvio Lorusso

~ Delphine Bedel, researcher (NL)
The Networked Book – Publishing as Artistic Practice
Artists’ books seem not to have yet taken the digital publication as a means of production and creation of its own, and seem to keep ‘paper books’ as their model. Facing the complexity of understanding the challenges of the current revolution in publishing, Bedel’s PhD research aims to address the transition in the publishing industry and digitalization of content, from the perspective of the book as a privilege medium for artists. Shifting from print to software culture, how are we to frame and create the relevant and urgent critical tools (theory, softwares), and challenges to be investigated by artists/publishers? New modes of production, appropriation, distribution and collaborative practices, as well as extended forms of ‘books’ will be presented.

~ Six:Thirty (UK)
Experiments in Collaborative Publishing
For the Off The Press conference, Six:Thirty explore the significance of online networks to the role of the designer. During an experiment at the V&A museum entitled Collate, the studio set out to co-create a publication with visitors, using images automatically downloaded from a creative commons resource. The installation and resulting book represent a new collaborative approach to publishing, where designers define a process and users determine the result.

Six:Thirty create new experiences with design and technology. As designers and technologists they use a broad range of experience to deliver projects for brands and cultural institutions. Six:Thirty’s work is realised in branding, creative direction, and user experience design.

~ The People’s E-Book (USA)
Publishing Constitutes a Public
Oliver Wise and Eleanor Hanson Wise of The Present Group and The People’s E-book will present an overview of their current and past projects in order to showcase the different community-based funding models they use to support their practice. They will present an artistic production and publishing practice rooted in both the physical and digital worlds, and how their experiences shaped the building of The People’s E-book.

The People’s E-Book is a free e-book creation platform for artists, authors, and alternative presses who want to experiment, publish new types of books, and push into new territory. After raising almost three times its Kickstarter goal in 2013, The People’s E-book is now in beta and its community is outputting reflowable .ePubs for free everyday.

~ Traumawien (AT)
Ghostwriters and Literary Trojan Horses
TRAUMAWIEN will present the 2012 work GHOSTWRITERS: bots that compiled and uploaded hundreds of e-books on with text stolen from YouTube video comments. And the 2013-ongoing work HIJACKED EBOOK BESTSELLERS AS LITERARY TROJAN HORSES, which uses piracy distribution mechanisms to massively publish altered/contaminated book contents exploiting what will be known as ‘native advertising’ in digital journalism and digital book publishing.

TRAUMAWIEN.AT (Vienna, Austria and St. Gallen, Switzerland) published conceptual digital literature from 2010 to 2013: these included continuous algorithmic works as well as asynchronous ‘Artclub’ Events merging theatre, digital literature, acid techno and art exhibitions. Since 2014 it has focused on a definition of ‘relational publishing’ as a practice.

~ Willem de Kooning Academie students (NL)
Trial and Error
With the Digital Publishing Toolkit project and its ensuing Off The Press conference event as a catalyst, second-year students at the Graphic Design Department of the Willem de Kooning Academy were asked to research the theme of digital publishing. What are its consequences, its opportunities, its effects on reading, production, distribution, and so on? What role can they, as the upcoming generation of graphic designers, play in the process of ideation and design? How relevant do they feel that it is?

The first part of the assignment consisted of extensively testing and reviewing various tools and platforms related to the digital publishing field. For the second part (still in progress) the students were asked to apply their findings, not only from the testing of tools, but also from their design research, to the transformation of a non-digital text into a digital text. They worked with texts originating from Octavo Publishers’ publication Een ruimte om in te bewegen by Serge Daney. They translated these texts into a digital publication for computer, tablet, e-reader or smartphone – with design approaches ranging from the experimental, critical and provocative to the functional, practical and all-embracing.

~ Manuel Schmalstieg – Greyscale Press (CH)
Black holes in the Gutenberg Galaxy: Non-books, anti-books, maybe-books, and everything in between
This talk will review the latest productions of Greyscale Press, and expose the promiscuous workflows and methodologies it puts in place to fit its needs, urges and dreams.

The electronic publishing disruption has induced a range of uncanny side-effects: print-on-demand spam is lurking on library bookshelves, publisher-entrepreneurs are buying into the infinite monkey theorem, and a whole generation of writers is turning SEO-aware. The Gutenberg Galaxy is full of black holes.

Embracing these phenomena, Greyscale Press deliberately runs against the tide of analogue-to-digital conversion, turning born-digital materials into physical forkbombs.

Greyscale Press, a post-digital publishing house, is crafting book-like artifacts and merging the tool sets inherited from 20th-century modernist avant-gardes, post-structuralism, the free software and copyleft movement, and the latest strains of crypto and cypherpunk activism. Recent publications include L’Eve future, a crowdsourced collection of typographic specimens for over 200 libre and open-source fonts; netfahcsnegiE enhO nnaM reD, a mirrorview edition of Robert Musil’s A Man Without Qualities; and the freshly-launched #freespeech collection, a series of readers on privacy and data politics.

Friday, 23 May @ WORM

The workshops run parallel to each other. Please note that there is a limit of 30 participants per workshop, and it is necessary to buy a separate ticket to participate in the first two workshops. (
“Superglue:Reshaping the Web” is a free workshop hosted by WORM.
Registration is required: registration@worm or use this form.
No prior knowledge or skills necessary for the three workshops. Bring your own laptop.

~ Megan Hoogenboom (NL) – ePub design for graphic designers
Paper to Code: Transforming the Future of Reading
What happens when a visual poem is translated to .ePub 3? Which elements are lost and which elements have to be added? In this workshop .ePub 3 will be explored on the basis of a transformation of a visual poem. We will go from paper to code, from page to HTML, from analogue to digital.

Hogeschool van Amsterdam instructor Harold Konickx will select two poems to work with. During the transformation some elements will have to be deleted (the page, for example), while others can be added to enrich the poem (such as hyperlinks and audio files). By working with part or all of a visual poem the shortcomings and opportunities of the .ePub are quickly discovered. Every person reads or interprets a poem in their own way, which results in a different transformation. The different outcomes also influence the way one reads the original poem. This workshop provides a creative introduction to .ePub 3: a crash course in .ePub 3 and in making a personal translation of a poem.

~ John Haltiwanger (AU/NL) – (Multi)Markdown in combination with Pandoc
Electronic Publishing Workflows: (Multi)Markdown & Pandoc
Pandoc is a minimalist open source program that converts documents between different formats – including HTML, epub, PDF. In conjunction with Markdown, a way of marking up plain text files with easily readable formatting signs popular for E-Mail and blogging, it can be used as a powerful system for publishing in different document formats and media (web, print, e-book…) from one single source document file.

This workshop will teach participants the practical use of Pandoc and Markdown, departing from their own particular backgrounds, needs and expectations. We will take individually selected online texts and convert them to Markdown. From there we will craft Pandoc translation templates for HTML/CSS and PDF (using the open source typesetting framework Context). These templates may be context-specific (only fitting one particular type of publication) or generic (suitable for a broad range of publications) as we design them. But they will nevertheless be universally applicable to any Markdown source document. Participants will leave with a small arsenal of Open Source, cross-media typesetting and document generation tools, and their own design templates for these tools.

~ Danja Vasiliev, Michael Zeder & Joscha Jäger – Superglue: Reshaping the web?
Superglue: Reshaping the web?
Web 2.0 promised that everyone could become a free and creative media publisher, but had exactly the opposite result. Today, most people’s web content is locked into the proprietary services of only a handful of Internet social media giants. Individual freedom of expression fits perfectly in a consumerist environment of templates and themes. Privacy is not an issue because “we have nothing to hide”. And cloud computing refers to everything except the clouds of CO2 that are being emitted by data centres all over the world. Superglue is the successor to Hotglue (, a tool to intuitively create your own website that is being used by thousands of users. Superglue not only allows Internet users to simply and cheaply design websites, but also run a energy saving micro-webserver and bring personal data back to your home and thus truly own it again.

In this workshop you will join the Superglue development team for a four-hour exploration and alpha testing. Evaluate Superglue and provide your feedback on its design and functionality. Learn how to build Superglue websites and find out how to get involved in the project.

Participants will receive a Superglue router and the download links to the Superglue plugin that enables you to edit your webpage directly in the browser, and the firmware that turns your Superglue router into a personal web server. Superglue is ‘hosted’ by WORM ( together with the Libre Graphics Research Unit ( and supported by Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie ( and the European Union (

Session description: Just like mp3 in music, electronic publishing began as a non- or even anti-commercial subculture: with literary classics freely published by Project Gutenberg, with underground books and pamphlets such as the “Principia Discordia” and Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal this Book” circulating on electronic bulletin boards, computer hackers swapping “disk mags”. Long before the Amazon Kindle, ASCII e-books and e-zines were popular underground media, with their own minimalist aesthetics and radical politics. Since the 1990s, artists and media activists have entered this field as well, building up pirate libraries with electronic versions of classical art and critical theory books, and extending the concept of free software and peer-to-peer file sharing to publishing. What has been achieved in this culture, what is its status quo, and what can mainstream publishing learn from it?Curator: Florian Cramer

~ Sebastian Luetgert (DE)
Precarious Publishing, Autonomous Archiving, Collaborative Collecting
As every Western visitor to South and South-East Asia has to learn, no such thing as an ‘underground scene’ can be found there, as the required historical and material preconditions do not exist. What exists, other than a breathtaking abundance of unattainable material wealth, is precarity of every hue. And it is precisely precarity, a pragmatism of leakage and residue rather than a politics of ‘underground’, that independent publishing initiatives in these regions usually stem from. As we shift from sharing files to sharing libraries, from a peer-to-peer to an archive-to-archive mindset, and from building download ratio to building institutions, the task is to not just acknowledge, but to actively exploit the practical contradictions faced by publishing projects outside the Western world.

~ Marcell Mars (HR)
Free access to resources for every member of society
Public library embodies dreams and fantasies from the past about the future where it is possible to produce knowledge about knowledge and where every member of society have free access to these resources. It is not a surprise that librarians who were dreaming about these epistemological heavens imagined the world without borders where people live in piece and prosperity. In only 100 years after Melvil Dewey, Paul Otlet, Henry La Fontain, Karl Wilhelm Bührer, Adolf Saagert, and many others were establishing Repertoire Bibliographique Universel, Mundaneum, Die Brücke – Internationales Institut zur Organisierung der geistigen Arbeit, League of Nations, International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation or just helping public libraries all around the world give access to knowledge to every member of society, only 100 years after, all of these dreams will die with the last of public library being shut down because of commercial interests of publishers and austerity measures.

~ Dusan Barok (SK)
Digital Imprint: the Motion of Publishing
It has become an established fact that virtually all utterances in digital networks are being recorded. Vast archives spanning the globe – run not just by information agencies, but by the whole industry in the widest sense – are storing a treasure trove of mostly raw, unedited material they do not intend to publish. Regardless of what preventive measures are taken, the reality of their existence persistently surfaces through ‘editorial intervention’ (typically in the form of leaks), today a genre in its own right. Framing this phenomenon as symptomatic of the presence of digital networks in the very fabric of cultural expression invites us to rethink the roles we play online. As the subjects of tracking and surveillance, we tend to view this role as one of passive acceptance, defense, or an eventual exit. But viewed in light of these ambiguities, what would it take to reclaim the emancipatory potential of networking formerly articulated in the positive ‘netizen’ notion of the user by reframing it to those of the author and editor?

A number of artists, publishers and related practitioners of electronic publishing will be present during this Bazaar to showcase their projects in an informal way, looking forward to meeting visitors for acquaintance, discussion, and exchange of ideas.


Off the Press – Electronic Publishing in the Arts documentation

Day 1 – 22 May 2014

Day 2 – 23 May 2014

DAY 1 – 22 May 2014

Session 1: Today’s Book Publishing

Session 2: One Thousand and One Publishing workflows, Tools, and Platforms

Session 3: Introducing The Digital Publishing Toolkit

Session 4: Showcases

Digital Arts & Crafts in the Field of Publishing

DAY 2 – 23 May 2014

Session 5: Underground e-Publishing