The Future of the Photobook

Posted in Photobooks (general) by Alec Soth on December 13, 2009

Miki Johnson has initiated a crowd sourced blog post over at LiveBooks. The topic of the discussion is the future of photobooks. Coincidentally, I’ve just launched the blog for my little DIY publishing venture, Little Brown Mushroom. Needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about books lately, so I figure I might as well throw in my two cents.

What do you think photobooks will look like in 10 years?

While most print media is dying, the photobook is going through a renaissance. I can only hope the vibrancy and appreciation of this medium will increase. If we’re lucky, maybe by 2020 The New York Times Book Review will give photobooks the same attention they give, say, graphic novels.

Will they be digital or physical?

They’ll be physical in my house. But then I’m getting old.

Open-source or proprietary?

Um, really old.

Will they be read on a Kindle or an iPhone?

I suppose, whatever. But there will also be physical books. All I care about is physical books. When I’m not making them, I’m buying them. I have zero interest in making or buying a digital book. That said, I am truly excited about the potential of new media for photographers. I’m currently experimenting with online audio slideshows and the like. But I see this as a new medium, not a book. For me, a book is a physical object.

And what aesthetic innovations will have transformed them?

Part of the photobook renaissance has to do with the increased ease of DIY printing and distribution. Just as musicians no longer require professional studios to cut an album, photographers have the ability to make their own books. Lately I’ve been dipping my toes in these waters. One of the things I’ve learned is that the options are really vast. New technology will only offer more options. But I should be clear that this doesn’t make publishers obsolete. Gerhard Steidl has devoted his life to learning the craft of bookmaking. I’ll never compete with that.

5 Responses

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  1. Lewis Koch said, on December 15, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    yes! ditto to all. absolutely. in the struggle, Lewis Koch

    see website, above, re: recent book, and here–

    if interested in a inscribed copy, just let me know–

  2. […] a place to talk about good books (our own and others)” and Soth has given his own response to The Future of the Photobook – currently under discussion elsewhere – in the blog.  But following  the death last week of […]

  3. Chris said, on January 4, 2010 at 9:58 am

    “All I care about is physical books”

    with you on this one, I also share your excitement about new ways of sharing pictures – especially physical books : low cost, homemade, tactile and just plain out there being shared and looked at.

  4. Tim Wright - Lulu Blog said, on February 5, 2010 at 11:19 am

    More on the future of photo books from Senior Product Manager at online publisher Tim Wright:

  5. wedding photographer manchester said, on September 22, 2011 at 7:27 am

    For those who wish to be published in print, I see short run self publishing companies like doing very well. The next growth are I believe is self-published pdfs.

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