Thursday, 25 February 2016

Who Buys their Books at a Supermarket?

Love on the Left Bank: Would you buy this book at a supermarket?

We ran this post a week or so back wondering if there might be some ways of expanding the photobook market, namely 

1. Deepen the reach of photobooks, so everybody can buy them, and wants to buy them, so they appear on the shelves of supermarkets, not just at bijou photobook stores.

2.  Open up the definition of photobooks. There are plenty of books with photographs in them that sell in the tens of thousands. Maybe we shouldn't be so picky.

3. Make more interesting books. There are plenty of books with pictures that sell in the millions. There are probably about 40-50 in my home, children's books, manga, graphic novels, all of which were bought to read.

4, Make cheaper books

5. Expand the geographic reach of photobooks. Go to places where there is not a culture of photobooks.

Then the other day, we got this response to Hansgert Lambers of Expose Verlag, which rather confirms our suspicions that the photobook market is small for a reason. (But we still think number 2 - opening up the definition of what a photobook is - is a great idea).

'Here are some thoughts of a small and ailing photobook-publisher in reply to advice given on photobookbristol blogspot:

ad 1.   I don‘t believe in selling photobooks in supermarkets. They do have books on offer: DIY-manuals, detective stories and other fiction. Have you ever considered buying your literature there?

ad 2.   New ideas? Fine, so I published a book containing 50% words and 50% pictures, closely linked to each other. Well, the words are poems from a not so known author, also poetry is perhaps worse to sell than photography. Oh, and the poems were in German – who offers to translate them into English to make the book desireable in a wider market? So this didn't work. But if you get Salmon Rushdie to cooperate, things might turn out better.

Also mind: a garish outfit is not modern design!

ad 3.   A narrative is no silver bullet. Except for »Love on the West Bank« how many books with a narrative (in the sense of stories, novels) do you know? Neither Frank‘s »The Americans« nor Avedon's »Observations« have it although they certainly have wonderful sequencing and thus a good rhythm and convincing melodies which most of those books that ”are disconnected to the world“ lack. (I am very much for banning books which only display the ego of the author – but would that enlarge the market for proper photobooks?)

ad 4.   Cheap photobooks are no general solution. Craig Atkinson with his Café Royal Books found a niche, and I admire him for that. These “books” suit perfectly his subject matters. Also Anders Petersen once told me that he prefers his »Café Lehmitz«  in the pocket book version as that is appropriate for the theme. On the other hand I found that people who buy a book for € 20 would also have paid € 30, whereas those who term € 20 as too expensive would not have bought it for € 10 either.

ad 5.   Let‘s wait for the outcome of Dieter Neubert‘s venture to China. I wish him luck but have my doubts whether this will have any lasting effect on photobook distribution.

Aside: The popstar Blondie had in her carreer an interlude as jazz singer Deborah Harry. Do you think the money she earned during that jazz-period amounted to much compared to her pop-income? Poetry, jazz and photography – these genres will never generate big money.

but I have a suggestion:  We need to give photobook-connoisseurs of the world a notice board, a web portal where all relevant photobooks will be listed with brief descriptions and links to further information including outlets. There should be editors to first of all exclude irrelevant contributions (censorship? of course!) and then write short (!) evaluations. Existing blogs are mostly too elaborated or in German only or just hidden somewhere.
There would have to be a PR-task to begin with, making this site natural and even obligatory reading for photobook devotees in Auckland, Osaka, Montevideo, Bielefeld or Sheffield. Or is there any other way to make someone in Belfast or Montreal aware of a new and unusual photobook published in Berlin?'

››› Hansgert Lambers

No comments:

Post a Comment