Jul 5, 2016

Making The Old New Again. And Doing it the Right Way.

Over the years, I’ve bought a lot of books on Ebay. Primarily, these are books on art, history and architecture, and many are old, out-of-print editions. Some are relatively rare and hard to find.
Yuck! #1

Occasionally, due to high cost or rarity, I’m unable to obtain a particular book; a good example of this might be Old Cottages, Farm Houses and other Half Timbered Buildings in Shropshire, Herfordshire and Cheshire, by E.A. Ould, originally published by Batsford in 1904. Original editions are almost impossible to find. A digital copy is available via Google Books as well.
 Which brings me to the third option, a new, POD copy available from one of many “public domain” specialist printers. This also brings me to the point of this post.

I have only come across a few physical copies of these types of books, and each one has been severely wanting in terms of quality and design. A post on The Long Gallery, regarding the example of Alan Jackson's The Half-Timber House: Its Origin, Design, Modern Plan, and Construction sets this matter out clearly; the new version was produced from a very poor copy of the original, to the extent that the illustrations were almost useless as a complement to the text. Thankfully, I have been able to obtain an original edition of the book, and the quality problems are plain to see.
Uggh! #2

I suspect this issue is quite common among the majority of “public domain” publishers who apparently do a quick “rip-and-scan” of an old book (or a print/digital copy of an old book) and then make it available to buyers at a vastly inflated (and often outrageous) price. Often, these types of books include poorly-reproduced illustrations, sloppy or illegible text, crooked page scans and photographs obscured with a distracting moiré pattern. Many of these examples are simply shameful, and could be immediately dispatched to the garbage can.

Sadly, for buyers in search of a particular book, there may be no other option. Until now.

Suffice to say that why I do make use of digital books, I generally prefer printed books—especially since I like to add them to my library shelves. As a result, we have taken on a new effort, which is to uncover older works that are deserving of good treatment and re-publish them in all-new editions, with a serious approach to quality and design.

When I say all-new editions, I mean that the text has been run through OCR and proofed, the book has been laid out with an all-new design (deemed to be complementary to the original) and that the images have been carefully re-scanned and photo-retouched in order to make the quality as good as possible. This also includes an attractive, new cover. The result is almost a new book, and one which represents some significant time and effort to produce. And yet—I feel we can sell such a book at a price which is still lower than the noxious “rip and scan” versions one finds today.
 Really? #3

In doing this, we seek to create an edition that we would be proud to have on our own library shelf, with a quality design that actually relates to the book’s material. If you’ve seen these modern re-prints on Ebay or on Amazon with their generic cover designs (often featuring images that bear no relation to the subject matter) you know exactly what I mean.(see the illustrated cover examples)

In some cases, we may also include supplementary material or commentary that provides modern insight, or which puts the historical material in clearer context. Likewise, illustrations that provide visual explanation may be added where appropriate, or where it may complement a book full of pure text.

Our initial efforts along these lines have included some smaller works; two books in a series on brewing beer, and an arts series that so far includes two brief works by William Morris. In addition, our edition of Stories of Ohio, by well-known American author William Dean Howells is another example of how we are interpreting these classic works for new generations. You can see these in our current lineup.

As we move forward in this particular effort, we are determined to build a significant niche featuring overlooked architectural titles. We are nearing completion soon on a work involving house building utilizing traditional earth-built methods, which we believe will have significant interest for those adherents of sustainable construction techniques.

Stay tuned.

No comments:

Post a Comment