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Kalpna Patel: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Tech Forum session.
I'm Kalpna Patel, product coordinator at BookNet Canada. Welcome to "Future Book(s):
Sharing Ideas on Books and (Art) Publishing." Before we get started, BookNet Canada
acknowledges that its operations are remote, and our colleagues contribute their work from
the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Ojibwe of Fort William First
Nation, the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, the Wyandot, the Mi’kmaq, and the Métis, the
original nations and peoples of the lands we now call Beeton, Brampton, Guelph, Halifax,
Thunder Bay, Toronto, and Vaughan. BookNet endorses the calls to action from the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and supports an ongoing shift from gatekeeping
to space-making in the book industry. The book industry has long been an industry of
gatekeeping. Anyone who works at any stage of the book supply chain carries a
responsibility to serve readers by publishing, promoting, and supplying works that represent
the wide extent of human experiences and identities in all that complicated intersectionality.
We at BookNet are committed to working with our partners in the industry as we move
towards a framework that supports space-making, which ensures that marginalized creators
and professionals all have the opportunity to contribute, work, and lead.
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Now I will introduce our speakers. Pia Pol is publisher and co-director at Valiz. She started
there in 2008 as a coordinator and editor. She studied English language and culture and
American Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her focus is on bottom-up initiatives in
cities, urban development, and public space. Pia also explores the possibilities of digital
publishing and has co-edited two volumes on the subject. Besides her work at Valiz, she
delivers lectures and is a recurring guest teacher at the Royal Academy of Art at The Hague.
Lotte Schröder is a designer and image-maker from Amsterdam. Jesse Muller is an
Amsterdam-based bookseller with a background in contemporary art. In 2021, she founded
Jesse Press, an agency and distributor for independent publishers. And now I'm gonna hand it
over to Pia.
Pia Pol: Thank you, Kalpna, for that wonderful introduction. And thank you everyone who
showed up to be part of this session. Much appreciated. Kalpna said a little bit about my
background, but I'd like to introduce myself, and especially Valiz, the company that I work
for a little bit more extensively. Valiz is a small independent publishing house located in
Amsterdam in the Netherlands. And it was started by my colleague, Astrid Vorstermans, 20
years ago, and I joined it about 15 or 16 years ago. In the meantime, the group that we run
Valiz with has grown significantly. Started out just Astrid and I joined, and now we are six in
the office. And we work together within an extremely large network of freelancers of up to, I
think, 20 or 30 people at the same time.
Our subject matter ranges from contemporary art, theory, critique, design, also urban affairs,
and all the...how do you call that? All the topics that cross over between those. Our books
offer a critical reflection. They aim to have a sort of interdisciplinary inspiration, and we
really try to see if we can establish a connection between different cultural disciplines and,
sort of, social-cultural questions that are going on. For us, a core value is to try to route the
projects that we do into society or into societal issues as much as we can.
I think worldwide, we're best known for our titles. "On the Necessity of Gardening: An ABC
of Art, Botany, and Cultivation." As the title is sort of self-explanatory, it's about gardening
and arts, and how the garden has been an inspiration for artists all throughout the times.
Another book that's pretty well known is "Wicked Arts Assignments." "Wicked Arts
Assignments" is a collection of the best, or craziest, or most inspirational arts assignments
from teachers and students, everyone involved in the teaching of the arts. And the third really
well-known one is called "Caps Lock." This is a book by Ruben Pater about the hold that
capitalism has on design.
We publish anywhere between 10 and 20 new books per year. And what I really want to talk
about today is the book that we did on the occasion of our 20-year anniversary called "Future
Book(s)." We'll dive into it a little bit more later. Yeah, this book is really important for us
because we felt like we needed to do something because we need to mark our 20-year
anniversary, and we thought it would be boring or too introverted to make a liber amicorum
or just make a book about Valiz and everything that we've done and everybody that we work
with, which of course, for us would be really fun, but is not as interesting maybe for people
who don't know us or who are not our close friends. So, we thought, okay, what can we do?
What is interesting for us to publish? And how can we commemorate this event for
ourselves?
So what we decided to do instead is make this book called "Future Book(s)," subtitle is
"Sharing Ideas on Books and (Art) Publishing," because we wanted to, sort of, extend the
discussion that we have here at Valiz where we sit at the table and reflect on our practice and
think, okay, what are we doing? Does it make sense what we're doing? What is publishing?
What does it mean? How is it evolving, etc., etc.? So what we did is, think, okay, who do we
know who can write about this subject, or who has a say or has an idea about this? And then
we thought to ourselves, actually, basically our entire network, our entire Valiz network
probably has something to say about this. And wouldn't it be fun if we include these people
whom we've worked with, or whom we've known, or who have written with us before?
So, we sent out an open call to about 500 people. And some we knew really well, and others
were maybe a little bit more loose in our network, but we felt that they would have their own
unique perspective and hopefully would contribute to this book. So, I think the common
denominator between all the people that we sent the open call to was like, "You have a
specific relationship to books." And we sent them a single question, and we said, "When you
think about the future, try to establish what future you envision in 5 years, in 20 years, or in
72 years. And you can pick one of the three and do with it as you please."
And then we thought, okay, well, maybe that is too broad. Will that lead to a sort of coherent
book? So, we thought, well, for some additional orientation or direction, we might give them
two perspectives."And the first perspective that we gave was, what does this future look like
in the short, the medium, or the long term? And what would we need in this future to lead a
good life? And then specifically, what could the role of one or several aspects of art books
and publishing be, of course? And the second, sort of, guide that we gave was, could you
start from a theme that is close to your heart and how this is translated in books or in
publishing in the short, medium, or long term? And then we thought, we'll send it out and
we'll just wait and see what comes back.
And of course, it's super nerve-wracking when you do something like this because we knew
that the 20-year anniversary was coming. I think when we sent this, it was in December that
we sent this out, and we knew that we were gonna celebrate this in early June, which if you
have any familiarity with book publishing is an extremely short time to make an entire book.
So, we told everyone, "Okay, you have, sort of, over the Christmas break to come up with a
contribution, and then hopefully in the month of January, we'll have all this text." And of
course, we were super enthusiastic about the idea, and we thought, "Oh, this is going to be
great, but what if, like, nobody sends anything in? Then we end up with, like, a flyer with us
saying, "Yeah, book publishing is really important, and here are two other people who also
think so." Or what if people don't do what we ask and we get a sort of random array of
contributions that really have nothing to do with each other, don't answer any questions, and
we won't know what to do with it?
But thankfully, this didn't happen at all. In early January, the first contributions started
pouring in, and in the end, we received well over a hundred, which for an open call sent to
500 people is a really great response rate. And it was overwhelmingly beautiful and
inspirational to see what we got. And in terms of practicality for us, it meant, like, collects
everything, read everything. And instantly between the both of us, my colleague, Astrid
Vorstermans, and myself, and I have to admit that Astrid really did the gist of work in this, is
start editing these texts. And that's normally something that we are involved in, but also use a
lot of freelance editors for, but now it was really us saying, "Okay, this text is great, but it
needs to be a little bit more of this, or it needs to have a little bit less of that."
And we really tried to...and that's also what we ask people. It's like, don't make this about
Valiz, but make this about book publishing as a whole, or art book publishing as a whole. So,
if a text was really focused on Valiz, we tried to see if we could make it a little bit more
broad, or a little bit more abstract, further away from Valiz as a subject. I think there were
one or two contributions where we were like, I don't know if this is appropriate for the book,
maybe it needs some really heavy editing. But of course, the great thing was that these were
all from people that we had some form of relationship, so it was much easier to say like,
"Hey, maybe you can do a little bit of this, or you can do a little bit of that." And people were
fine with making these edits.
So in the end, yeah, we had a really beautiful stack of contributions, and we were going back
and forth and back and forth in editing these. And then, of course, came the step, how do we
translate this into an actual book? And that's something where we also thought, okay, it
would be great to actually involve our network and honour the people that we work with as
much as we can. And we decided that it would be really cool to ask actually a group of
designers who are not usually working together, but ask each of them to maybe design a
choir and, do it in their own way. And we would have, sort of, these master pages. And of
course, the size of the book was set, and we knew that most of it was going to be in black and
white.
But really try to see if the sort of thematic lines that we were identifying in the contribution
would also be translated into maybe the design a little bit more. And maybe that's a good
time to also invite Lotte Schroder, who is actually one of the designers of the book, she wrote
a contribution for it as well and she designed the cover, to explain a little bit more about what
that process was like for her and, yeah, what it was like working with such a maybe un-
standard assignment. Lotte, can I give the floor to you?
Lotte Schröder: Sure, of course. Hi. Hi, all. I'm Lotte. Thank you, Pia. Hi, Jesse. Hi,
everyone. Yeah, let me start at the beginning because it was a 20-year anniversary, but Valiz
has been around for 20 years, so there has been a 5-year, a 10-year, and as you can see, a 12-
and-a-half-year anniversary, which for the 12 and a half years, I gave them a copy of a Philip
K. Dick book that's actually titled "Valis," but it's with an S at the end. But I thought it was a
nice re-appropriation of an existing book, rewriting the existing text, but then to celebrate the
publishing house. So that's been lying around the office for a really long time. And then
when the 20-year anniversary book came up, they asked me if I could reinterpret, yeah, this
hand-drawn collage-y cover that I made.
So that's what I did, of course, lacking all the skills that all these beautiful classic sci-fi
novels have. But yeah, trying to just, like, stay true to what the original book was. I started
sketching, as NSPS said, you know, it's a short time, so being on the road trying to fit in
somewhere sometime to work on it. So yeah, it's a mix of, yeah, like, hand-drawn kind of,
like, weird landscape-y images that, yeah, maybe have no real connection to publishing, but,
like, are about the future or about, like, dreaming away a little bit. And, yeah, the book is
designed by...I have to now check my notes if it's seven people, so it's seven different
designers that all got asked to do a section.
So, I did the cover and some, like, of the introduction notes. But, so these are all spreads all
designed by different designers. Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to really maybe,
like, work on it together or, yeah, exercise actually what it would mean to assemble this book
as a group of designers. Because that's something I've never...I mean, experienced, of course,
working together one-on-one, but what if you have to, like, work with a group of seven
people? But there's another book coming up by Valiz that deals with this. So, there's a chance
to experience that still. But, yeah, so for me, it's just a continuation of my own imagery and,
like, using hand-drawn typography and, yeah, just, like, creating a bit more of a maybe open
atmosphere to what, like, future books is.
Also for me as a designer, I'm more interested in maybe image-making or, like, yeah,
creating more of an atmosphere than really literally reacting on the subject. So, also my
contribution, I'm sorry, I don't have it in front of me, is also more about work ethics, and
work relationships and, yeah, how they change and how I would like to see them improved in
the future. And not so necessarily about books or book designing, or about what that practice
kind of means. But, yeah, I don't know what to say more about it. It's pretty straightforward.
Pia: Maybe I can ask you a question about it, Lotte because maybe to explain a little bit
further, when we received all the contributions, we started, of course, thinking about, how
should we order these things because they are from people with such different backgrounds. I
think the youngest person contributing was 4 at the time, and I think the eldest was probably,
like, 90 or 89 or something in this range. So, it was so diverse and we really started looking,
like, what are themes that we can recognize? And I'll dive more into the content of that later.
But in terms of ordering, we found all these themes that were maybe, now that I look back at
it sometimes, a little bit vague, but felt very clear at the time. Is that something that you
incorporated in your design thinking also, or because you have a very, I think, particular style
and you work a lot with drawings, is that something that you did something with? Or is it
more that you think, "okay, this is the size, I have to do something? How does that go for
you?
Lotte: Yeah, because I think when we started, or when you guys asked me, it was not really
clear actually what the content was going to be. It was really at the beginning, so it was
almost like a blank book, and there was an intent, of course, and there is a title, and there
was, of course, already the kind of, like, previously established kind of dummy or, you know,
something to build further on. But I think there was no content yet to react upon. And also
for me, in these cases, yeah, I mean, that's going to be, like, a hundred different types of input
or, like, points of view, which are, like, impossible to all, like, fit into one, kind of,
overarching design. So no, yeah, it started a bit like a blank page, so just to be...which was
also nice.
I've never experienced this, that you just do the cover. And then it was also for all the
designers, like a real big, like, "Oh my God, what's going to look like, how everything is also
going to work together?" We were very curious how each individual contribution was going
to kind of...how much are they going to distinguish from each other, or is there actually some
similarities? You know, are we all, like, in from the same bubble, or do we have some, like,
you know, authentic inputs? But, yeah, no, so yeah, I just started with not very little, but
yeah, it's a book about the future.
Pia: That's very true. I think for us, of course, receiving them was, again, a sort of extra
second layer of gifting, after all these contributions, then seeing what everyone did to them.
And I thought it was really funny because I feel like there's a very strong relation between
every single choir and every single, sort of, individually designed section. But in terms of
technicality, it was very different where I thought, okay, just looking at the InDesign files
and how everybody builds their InDesign is clearly very, very different. That was really fun
to see, but I thought it was really surprising how well everything in the end fitted together.
Of course, partially because there's this strict grid of, it has to fit in this, and it has to adhere
to these rules such as, you know, that there was gonna be these strip tags on the sides of the
pages. And saying, "Well, this is..." yeah, like, you see on the sides of the pages here, and
that there needs to be a navigational line at the bottom. So everyone had to adhere to that.
But then whatever happens on the pages, it was completely up to each individual designer.
And still somehow when I go through the book, it has a little bit of a book within a book feel
at times but there's definitely a sort of coherent line in it, which was, to me, a very pleasant
surprise because I thought like, this is going to be all over the place, which would've been
fine. But I think in terms of reading this book and making it easier to handle, it's a very nice
surprise.
Lotte: No, but the text and just with these simple...like, this simple grid that's just there, it
made it so if you flip through it, and I don't know if anyone in the audience has seen the
book, but yeah, and also, of course, this black and white kind of filter that's been put over it,
yeah, also gives it kind of like a big flowy feel to it.
Pia: Yeah, because we really try to also...in the choice of paper, try to have this feeling of
collage and of accessibility. And I think that...without tooting our own horn too much, I think
it came out pretty well. But maybe to dive into the content of the book a little bit more, what
I said, I think, just at the beginning is that sort of this reflecting on publishing and reflecting
on the role of books in the present and in the future is something that's really at the core of
our practice at Valiz. And it's not that we sit down every day and say, "Oh, what's the future
of publishing?" But it's something that really, sort of, guides us in the way that we do. And
sometimes we do sit down and really explicitly talk about it.
But as the contributions started pouring in, I was just super pleasantly surprised to see how
much individuality was in the contributions, but at the same time, there were a couple of core
elements that a lot of people apparently had at the forefront of their mind. And one of these is
sort of the tactility of the book and what paper means, and what accessibility is, and what
working together is. And that's also one of the reasons why I've invited Jesse Muller to be
part of this conversation because she wrote a sort of future story if I can...a fictional future
story if I summarize that correctly. Yes, which to me was both funny and dystopian, if that's
at all possible. And I thought it was really interesting considering you also have such a strong
background in both bookselling and distributing and publishing. So, maybe Jesse, you can
talk a little bit more about your contribution, like give a brief introduction into what it was
and how you got to it.
Jesse Muller: Yeah. Hi, everyone. I'm Jesse Muller. Yeah, so it's funny you say that that is a
kind of a funny story but also dystopian, and it definitely is like a fictional short story. And I
was also very happy to see that it was categorized in the sci-fi section of the book, which I
really loved. But, yeah, when the open call came from Valiz, I was really thinking about
what should I write. And I was really thinking about, yeah, what do I want to write about the
future of publishing and the future of the book? And I also remember, like, what Pia said
before that Astrid from Valiz, that she also said something like, you know, just start with
something that's really close to you. And I just really had to think about also my time.
So, I'm working as a representative for several art book publishers at the moment, also Valiz,
and also as a distributor and a publisher. But I started my book career, so to say, about 15 or
16 years ago as a bookseller in a bookshop. And so I really had to think about that time. And
so I kind of was drawing from that experience as a bookseller and working in a team and
collaborating together but also just having a lot of fun working in a bookshop. At first, I was
thinking, like, oh, I'll write this very wild story that's taking place 72 years from now. And
then when I started writing, I felt, like, no, this is just too far away. It'll be 20 years. And in
the end, I was thinking, like, this is actually what I've written more something that is possible
already in the future in about five years.
So it's more about this team that is working in a bookshop, which has a new trend and that is
making books from paper that they're manufacturing themselves within the store. So you can,
yeah, bring your old books or your old clothes to the bookshop and they will make it into a
new book. They have this warehouse where they make paper and, yeah, it ended up being a
very almost satirical short story about this team going wild making paper. And, yeah, on the
one hand, kind of close to my background as a bookseller, but also very far away from what
I'm doing now. So, it was a very fun open call and assignment from Valiz, I think, and in
contributing to this book. So, yeah.
Pia: Well, I'm very glad to hear that it wasn't a strenuous task for you to undertake. And I
think my biggest takeaway, not only from your contribution but from a lot of the
contributions that we received, was just the amount of attention that people paid to it, which
was truly, truly a gift to receive. But maybe to dive into the subject of the book a little bit
more, of course, it would be great to say, with making this book, we now have an idea of
what the future of publishing or art book publishing is going to look like, that it answers all
of our questions that I think everybody who is working with books is trying to answer, and I
don't think it does that.
But what it does do is give you all these points and directions in which you can think. And
what I mentioned before also is that there's such an overlap between the way people think
about it, and we identified the themes, of course, which is how the book is ordered. But I
think even between that you see a lot of things that really make me hopeful, and I think that's
great. I think for years and years...and also it's something that I'm interested in myself. We've
said like, "Oh, with the rise of the digital, eBooks are going to take over. The place for the
paper book is diminishing. How will we deal with this?" And this is something that a lot of
people also touched on.
And I think what's very interesting is that in this book that I think maybe 85% of people are
advocating for the paper book. They are saying, like, this tactility, the experience of the
object, the timelessness that a paper book has is something that we value and that we cherish
forever. And of course, that's something that we've been talking about a lot in terms of what
will happen in the next few years within the book business. And now we've asked people to,
like, speculate on what will happen in the book business in 75 years. So, sometimes the
stories that people have come up with are a little bit out there or would fall in the category of
sci-fi. But I think the basic idea of the paper book still being extremely important was
something that Asrid and I felt and feel very strongly about, but that also resonated with a lot
of people who handed in contributions.
And it's not so that everyone is preaching to their own choir, if that's how you say that, that
everybody is in the business of making books. So it's natural that all of us would say...or it's
logical that all of us would say, "Yeah, the paper book needs to survive, because what else
will we do?" But it was also people who were a little bit further outside of that core group
that's in bookmaking that are really appreciating the paper book as the future of the book.
And I think that's a shift from maybe 10, 12 years ago when people in the book industry were
really, I wouldn't call it scared, but hesitant about if there would be a place for the paper
book.
And I think over and over and over during these last few years, and this book is very much
proving that, is that that space will be there, and the appreciation for the book will be there
and will continue to be there. And the paper book is not being replaced by its digital version.
And not to say that there is not space for this digital book, but it's something else. And that's
something that I also want to invite Lotte and Jesse maybe to reflect upon with me, is that as
a publisher that we notice that indeed the depreciation for the paper book is not diminished at
all, When we go to fairs, young students come up and they want these books, they want these
paper books. And it's almost only from the world of academia that people are asking for
digital versions. And maybe Jesse, because you, of course, deal with a lot of different
publishers and have dealt with the distribution channels of books, can you reflect on that a
little bit, what's your experience?
Jesse: Yeah. So I also...like you say, I see it a lot on book fairs as well. Just people are so
excited to see books that we publish, that you publish. And, yeah, I think this appreciation, it
will definitely...yeah, it's already here, but it will definitely stay as well. And I also see it
with, sort of, representation work that I do when I go around to bookshops and talk to buyers
and presenting your books and books from other publishers that they usually already know
how to place a book. Oh, I have customers that will definitely be interested in this. But also
just really about the quality of the books themselves, how it's designed, and just paper. And I
think also now we're at a place that there's so much possible with publishing and, yeah,
working with different papers and this...I also see at book fairs and talking to buyers that this
tactility of the book, it's very important still. And I think, yeah, it'll continue like that as well,
this interest in it.
Pia: And how is that for you, Lotte, from the design perspective? I know you personally have
a fondness of paper, but do you see any shifts towards a more digital practice for yourself, or
can you reflect on that?
Lotte: No, I mean, this is almost a bit, like, common knowledge, right, that first the music
industry, when everything became this, like, digital thing and people were, like, downloading
music, it was the scare, but, of course, vinyl is, like, outta control, it's, like, bigger than ever
almost. And people wanna have a physical object because the moment something becomes,
like, a physical thing that manifests itself in your reality, it's something that you can, yeah,
touch, react upon, like, interact with. And when things stay digital, I think they feel maybe
also more anonymous. Like, people hide...I mean, they share their thoughts on the internet,
but there is a lack of physicality, which makes them maybe feel anonymous or invincible or
invisible. And that goes both ways.
So it's, like, you know, like, people are not seen, some people are more seen, but there is,
like, this lack of interaction and I think maybe also, especially after the whole COVID thing,
that people are so happy to be out and about and to meet with people again, and that, yeah,
like, books and also going to a book fair, to, like, a bookshop that there is a...I mean, yeah,
the experience of also discovering something, it's...yeah, I mean, your body, it's a...yeah,
these sensations happen, like, in real time and I think, yeah, the online world is not really
there yet. I don't know. I think the next step, right, is going to be wearing, like, your crazy
glasses and reading, like, through a book and things like popping up and all this shit that's
ever going to, like, take away the experience of, yeah, just being in reality. I don't know.
Sorry. It's very fake for me. As a designer, it's not not something I'm extremely busy with. I
think in terms of accessibility, yes, it can be really nice if all the books would be available
digitally that you could, like, buy them for, like, a smaller fee, because also still for some
people, like, the most of the Valiz books are between let's say, like, €20 and €30. Translating
that to currency in some countries that's, like, quite a lot of money. So, you know, making
them, like, yeah, available for a cheaper price or that is nice to also, yeah, spread that
information in a different way, I think could be cool. I think audiobooks are also big thing.
I'm also really curious how we could work on that, like, with all the Valiz books that are
being made. I mean, there's still, like, a lot to explore and...
Pia: Yeah, I think I agree. I think there's a lot left to explore and I've curiously never
considered an audiobook. I don't know if our books would necessarily be suitable for this
because I think some can be quite dense. So if you would listen to them back to back, it
might be difficult, but it's definitely...
Lotte: But maybe, like, a short version or, I dunno, like, for me, there can be music or, like, a
soundtrack, or I think sometimes it's nice to think how to make it, like, even more, alive or
really then not to make it, like, just a straightforward audiobook, but then it becomes, like, a
new work. And I don't know, something...
Pia: I think that's really interesting. And also tying in what I see somebody in the audience
saying, like the idea of a sort of multi-layered book where a physical book has a digital
companion. And that's something that, at Valiz, we have been experimenting with a little bit.
We have this series book "Making Public" that's specifically about this. Like, how do you
reach a public, what is the digital realm? How do you go about that? And the subject matter
discussing that is wide. But what we've decided to do for this series is make a physical book.
That's the starting point, that's the collection. But very often because these subjects that are
dealt with in these books is so explicitly digital, it feels really weird to somehow ignore it or
try to desperately translate that into a paper as much as I love the paper.
So, what we do is have a sort of digital counterpart, and it's not a direct translation of the
book, it's not the eBook, it's not a PDF, it's not something you can download. But for
example, the first recent edition we did was called "Curating Digital Art." We made a
timeline. So, there's a digital timeline on a website that sort of refers to the book and the book
refers to the timeline and vice versa. So, there's an exchange between the digital and the
paper book. And for me, I feel like this is where the future is, that we see readers looking for
more content themselves and why not, as publishers, try and curate that a little bit and see
what can we offer that's a little bit extra to all the information that's in the book?
And it's, of course, great that, I mean, I can't show video in a book yet. So, I love it if I can
do it in a different way. But at the same time, from a publishing perspective, it's new. How
do you deal with it? How do you deal with all the copyright issues that come with this? How
do you make sure that something is durable? And, yeah, how does it fit in sort of the ecology
of the book trade, I suppose? So, that's something that we're still trying to figure out, but it's
definitely a lot of fun to experiment with. But I feel like it's still, at this point...and of course,
there's exceptions because I've seen some really, really great projects out there. But for us,
it's still a little baby that needs to be fed and comes a little bit to the side of our core business,
which is developing these books and developing these projects.
But to see how we can integrate it is something that I think is really interesting. And also
something that we saw in the contribution to "Future Book(s)" where people were
speculating about this and whether that be some, like, VR stuff or, you know, if you're
speculating about the far future that it's something that's somehow projected into your head
that people were talking about. And that's very fun to think about. And I think in the near
future, you know, this digital component is probably going to be very important. And then at
the same time, there's also this development of all these new tools that are working with, and
that's also something which I did not expect to happen with this book. But what actually was
apparently on a lot of people's mind was this development of AI.
So I think we have five or six contributions of people who are either about AI, which have
been written with ChatGPT, or imagery that has been generated with AI. And even one of the
designers of the choir used AI to make her design. And we've printed the entire conversation
that she had to get to the point where she was. And I think it's super interesting, but also a
little bit where...for me, it's very speculative to see where that's going. And I don't know,
Lotte, if you've ever considered using any of those tools or is that something that you can
imagine will be integrated in your practice as a designer, or no?
Lotte: Maybe. Yeah, there is nothing that I'm doing that I would not want to do myself. I
don't see it as, like, an obstacle or something I would wanna...yeah. You know, I like to do
all the laborist work as well. I think for me, sometimes that's even more fun to do. But, yeah,
I mean, I get it, but I also think, like, it's something that, yeah, it's on your mind and you see
it and you see people using it, but maybe it's also fine, it's not for everyone. And if also Valiz
is just, like, sticking to a thing that's proven time and time again, then it's just a very
meaningful and very useful vessel, you know, that anyone can, kind of, print and you can
ship it around and, yeah, I don't know.
It's such a...yeah, that you get a book from an artist that lives on the other side of the planet
and, yeah, it's a very different interaction than seeing somebody's Instagram where they post,
like, their work. You feel that you can also, kind of, keep it. And also that's how I look at my
own bookshelves. These are things that I also wanna, kind of, treasure. And sometimes some
books go, and sometimes this is like, no, this is with you already for like 20 years because
you also feel that there is, like, value to treasuring it. Yeah, because that's just what we do,
right? It's just this, yeah, endless accumulation of things that we appreciate. And then this is
going to be my...not my legacy, but, like, my inheritance, I don't know, something like that.
Pia: Yeah. Understood. I agree for the most part, and maybe to summarize this a little bit
before we go to questions is that, for us, it was...and I know I can speak for my colleague,
Astrid, who was super deeply involved in developing this book and, of course, starting Valiz,
is that it was such a joy to see everything come together and that we wrote the epilogue and
the closing words for this book and, sort of, our feelings really came true where we thought,
okay, the art book is a place where ideas are consolidated. The art gives people a space to
experiment, and this book really brings it together for us. So we are thrilled with the results.
Kalpna: That's great. Thank you, guys. I'm sure we could keep on going forever because
there's so many interesting things to talk about, and there's some really great questions in the
chat. I'm gonna be a little bit selfish and ask a question I have first. I'm just wondering, after
putting this work together and reflecting on the last 20 years, obviously as you started the
project, you all had your own thoughts and feelings about the future of books, and I'm
wondering if now that this project is finished and you've spent time with all these other
contributions and thoughts, what sort of has changed for you? And if any of the work that
you engaged with in this process, how has it sort of changed how you feel going into...like,
how does the role of Valiz change? Or what are you excited about? What are you afraid
about? What do you think needs to change? What do you want to change? And it's kind of
directed to all three of you. Like, not only just in a business, kind of, how you're gonna
continue the business of the publishing, but also in your own work and in your own practice.
Pia: I think working on this has kept me hopeful. What I really like is that there's such a...not
only in the process of making this, bringing this ginormous group of people together to work
on this book, but also in terms of subject matter of the contribution is that I feel a very strong
sense of community. And that's also where I think the future lies is within the art world, and
within the art book world specifically, that people are very dependent upon each other. And
reading this book, working on this book really actively made me feel that. That's something
that really filled my heart with joy, as sentimental as it sounds, is to see that there is all these
different people all on their small islands working in the end towards the same goal or with
the same goal in mind. And that was great in working with this, but that's also, I think, the
strength of the future is that we can only continue if we do it together. And that is
consolidated in this book for me.
Jesse: Yeah, I was going to say the same thing as Pia, actually. When reading all the
contributions for "Future Book(s)," I also feel this very strong sense of community and also,
yeah, just very hopeful about how positive everyone is about the future of books and about
there still being bookshops and, just yeah, printed books. And it just makes me even more
motivated or more excited about the future of books and collaborating with other, yeah,
publishers and writers and bookshops.
Kalpna: You don't have to answer.
Lotte: Yeah, sorry, nothing to contribute. Sorry.
Kalpna: No worries. It looks like a lot of the attendees here are intrigued by the design
process. One of the questions was, did the designers see parts that were already designed or
what others were working on, or were they all kind of doing it on their own?
Pia: No, everyone, was basically doing it on their own. And I think, Lotte, you may have
seen some choirs at one point, but no, they...and I don't know, of course, if they secretly
didn't share it with each other, because I'm fairly sure that some of them know each other, but
not through us. We really thought, take it where you want it. Don't feel like you need to be
inspired by the work of others, or don't feel like you need to create a coherent whole, take it
wherever you please. And I'm very happy that we did because they are so different and I feel
like everybody's own voice is represented through their design. So I'm glad that worked out.
Kalpna: A question that could be directed to all of you again as well is, were you surprised
by any of the themes that you saw running through the contributions? Did anything kind of
jump out or give you something to think about that maybe you hadn't before?
Pia: Well, what I mentioned before is that a lot of people seem to have AI on their minds
more than we expected. And also, you know, there were a couple of people I thought, oh
yeah, that's right up your alley, so you might do something with this. But there were other
people who I was like, "I had no idea this was something that was on your mind." And they
did something...that was one of them that really came through. The other thing...What I
found really interesting is that somebody came up with this idea that...I don't know how to
call it in English, but in the Netherlands, we have this system with cans and bottles that if
you pay a certain extra amount when you buy, for example, a can of soda, and then at the
moment you hand it back to the store...
Kalpna: The deposit.
Pia: Yeah, you get your deposit back. And then somebody came up with this idea for books,
and they were like, "You can do this so that we can, sort of, extend the longevity of books
and their lives becomes longer, but there's also a way to tie you to the bookstore a little bit."
And I thought, that's so clever. I never even thought of that. That's just so smart. So that was
really fun. And I think a last one that really stood out to me is, in a very touching way, is
that, from these two publishers who have a publishing house in Ukraine, and, of course, it's
extremely difficult for them now in the worst situation that they're in, and they sent also
photos of a book presentation that they held several months ago, and that was interrupted
because of a bombing and they had to continue it in the shelter. And that really touched me
because it's a group of, I think, 50 people in the midst of a war still going to a lecture about
art books, still deciding that at this time in their lives, it's important enough to take the risk to
attend this, which I thought...and it almost made me cry, it was so beautiful. So that, again,
ties in with that sense of community, but also with the importance that books, taking people's
lives...and that, yeah, I found extremely beautiful to see.
Kalpna: That's awesome. Thank you. Another kind of more, I guess, technical design
question. Lotte, can you speak to maybe the challenge of designing the book, there is a Dutch
and English version, and kind of making sure that they both worked and were cohesive?
Lotte: No, there's just the English version, right? By now...
Kalpna: Oh, okay. Sorry about that.
Lotte: Yeah. And yeah, right, Pia, what did you wanna say?
Kalpna: Or was translation an issue?
Pia: No, both Dutch and English in the same book.
Kalpna: Sorry, that's what I meant. Sorry, a bilingual book, right.
Lotte: Oh, yeah. I was not really confronted with that. Like, I dunno, I cannot really speak on
behalf of all the other designers, but I think at least half of them, they speak Dutch or, I
mean, like, all of them, they've been living here for quite long time, so it's not an unfamiliar
language to them, but I kind of...I did really like that, that some contributions kind of stayed
in their original form and maybe language had not so much to do with it. I think all of them,
there was, like, a translated version, like, next to it, or that at least everyone could kind of
read it. But yeah, that's also so that language has just like a form on its own, and then you
don't wanna, like, disrupt that because that's just the way it is, you know? It's just a thing in
itself. And then, like, yeah, but for me there was not...I had nothing...I didn't design one of
the, like, sections of the book, so for me it was just English all the way.
Pia: Except for the cover where you had to put all the titles.
Lotte: Is that...Oh, yes. I'm sorry, I'm a designer that is a little bit language blind. Like, I see
an image, for me, it's really hard. I'm like, "Oh yeah, that's true." Indeed, it's in English and
Dutch. But yeah, see if you ask me this question, I'm like, "Oh yeah, that's it."
Kalpna: That's great. I think we're just about ready to wrap up. Just going through the
questions one more time. Yeah, thank you so much, Pia, Lotte, and Jesse for joining us
today.
Pia: Thank you for having us.
Kalpna: Very inspiring. You were kind enough to share the PDF of this book, and I'm still
requesting a physical copy because I can't wait to see it, which kind of just speaks to what
you've already talked about and that passion for, like, the physical, actual paper books. So,
that's great.
Pia: Well, thank you so much, and thank you everyone who took the time to join us here. It's
much, much appreciated.
Jesse: Yeah, thank you so much.
Lotte: Thank you guys. It was very nice.
Kalpna: Before we go, we'd love it if you could provide feedback on this session, we'll drop
a link to the survey in the chat. Please take a couple of minutes to fill it out. We'll also be
emailing you a link to a recording of this session as soon as it's available. Lastly, we'd like to
thank the Department of Canadian Heritage for their support through the Canada Book Fund.
Thank you all for attending.
Lotte: Thank you so much.
Pia: Thanks.
Jesse: Thank you.

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Transcript: Future Book(s): Sharing Ideas on Books and (Art) Publishing - Tech Forum 2023

  • 1. Kalpna Patel: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Tech Forum session. I'm Kalpna Patel, product coordinator at BookNet Canada. Welcome to "Future Book(s): Sharing Ideas on Books and (Art) Publishing." Before we get started, BookNet Canada acknowledges that its operations are remote, and our colleagues contribute their work from the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Ojibwe of Fort William First Nation, the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, the Wyandot, the Mi’kmaq, and the Métis, the original nations and peoples of the lands we now call Beeton, Brampton, Guelph, Halifax, Thunder Bay, Toronto, and Vaughan. BookNet endorses the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and supports an ongoing shift from gatekeeping to space-making in the book industry. The book industry has long been an industry of gatekeeping. Anyone who works at any stage of the book supply chain carries a responsibility to serve readers by publishing, promoting, and supplying works that represent the wide extent of human experiences and identities in all that complicated intersectionality. We at BookNet are committed to working with our partners in the industry as we move towards a framework that supports space-making, which ensures that marginalized creators and professionals all have the opportunity to contribute, work, and lead. For our webinar today, if you're having difficulties with Zoom or have any tech-related questions, please put your questions in the chat, or you can email techforum@booknetcanada.ca. We're providing live ASL in closed captioning for this presentation. To see the captions, please find the show, a subtitle button in the Zoom menu at the bottom of your screen. If during the presentation you have questions for us, please use the Q&A panel found in the bottom menu. Lastly, we'd like to remind attendees of the code of conduct. Please do not harass speakers, hosts, or attendees, or record these sessions. We have a zero-tolerance policy. You can find the entire code of conduct at bnctechforum.ca/codeofconduct. Please do be kind, be inclusive, be respectful of others, including their privacy, be aware of your words and actions, and please report any violations to techforum@booknetcanada.ca. Now I will introduce our speakers. Pia Pol is publisher and co-director at Valiz. She started there in 2008 as a coordinator and editor. She studied English language and culture and American Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her focus is on bottom-up initiatives in cities, urban development, and public space. Pia also explores the possibilities of digital publishing and has co-edited two volumes on the subject. Besides her work at Valiz, she delivers lectures and is a recurring guest teacher at the Royal Academy of Art at The Hague. Lotte Schröder is a designer and image-maker from Amsterdam. Jesse Muller is an Amsterdam-based bookseller with a background in contemporary art. In 2021, she founded Jesse Press, an agency and distributor for independent publishers. And now I'm gonna hand it over to Pia. Pia Pol: Thank you, Kalpna, for that wonderful introduction. And thank you everyone who showed up to be part of this session. Much appreciated. Kalpna said a little bit about my background, but I'd like to introduce myself, and especially Valiz, the company that I work for a little bit more extensively. Valiz is a small independent publishing house located in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. And it was started by my colleague, Astrid Vorstermans, 20 years ago, and I joined it about 15 or 16 years ago. In the meantime, the group that we run
  • 2. Valiz with has grown significantly. Started out just Astrid and I joined, and now we are six in the office. And we work together within an extremely large network of freelancers of up to, I think, 20 or 30 people at the same time. Our subject matter ranges from contemporary art, theory, critique, design, also urban affairs, and all the...how do you call that? All the topics that cross over between those. Our books offer a critical reflection. They aim to have a sort of interdisciplinary inspiration, and we really try to see if we can establish a connection between different cultural disciplines and, sort of, social-cultural questions that are going on. For us, a core value is to try to route the projects that we do into society or into societal issues as much as we can. I think worldwide, we're best known for our titles. "On the Necessity of Gardening: An ABC of Art, Botany, and Cultivation." As the title is sort of self-explanatory, it's about gardening and arts, and how the garden has been an inspiration for artists all throughout the times. Another book that's pretty well known is "Wicked Arts Assignments." "Wicked Arts Assignments" is a collection of the best, or craziest, or most inspirational arts assignments from teachers and students, everyone involved in the teaching of the arts. And the third really well-known one is called "Caps Lock." This is a book by Ruben Pater about the hold that capitalism has on design. We publish anywhere between 10 and 20 new books per year. And what I really want to talk about today is the book that we did on the occasion of our 20-year anniversary called "Future Book(s)." We'll dive into it a little bit more later. Yeah, this book is really important for us because we felt like we needed to do something because we need to mark our 20-year anniversary, and we thought it would be boring or too introverted to make a liber amicorum or just make a book about Valiz and everything that we've done and everybody that we work with, which of course, for us would be really fun, but is not as interesting maybe for people who don't know us or who are not our close friends. So, we thought, okay, what can we do? What is interesting for us to publish? And how can we commemorate this event for ourselves? So what we decided to do instead is make this book called "Future Book(s)," subtitle is "Sharing Ideas on Books and (Art) Publishing," because we wanted to, sort of, extend the discussion that we have here at Valiz where we sit at the table and reflect on our practice and think, okay, what are we doing? Does it make sense what we're doing? What is publishing? What does it mean? How is it evolving, etc., etc.? So what we did is, think, okay, who do we know who can write about this subject, or who has a say or has an idea about this? And then we thought to ourselves, actually, basically our entire network, our entire Valiz network probably has something to say about this. And wouldn't it be fun if we include these people whom we've worked with, or whom we've known, or who have written with us before? So, we sent out an open call to about 500 people. And some we knew really well, and others were maybe a little bit more loose in our network, but we felt that they would have their own unique perspective and hopefully would contribute to this book. So, I think the common denominator between all the people that we sent the open call to was like, "You have a specific relationship to books." And we sent them a single question, and we said, "When you
  • 3. think about the future, try to establish what future you envision in 5 years, in 20 years, or in 72 years. And you can pick one of the three and do with it as you please." And then we thought, okay, well, maybe that is too broad. Will that lead to a sort of coherent book? So, we thought, well, for some additional orientation or direction, we might give them two perspectives."And the first perspective that we gave was, what does this future look like in the short, the medium, or the long term? And what would we need in this future to lead a good life? And then specifically, what could the role of one or several aspects of art books and publishing be, of course? And the second, sort of, guide that we gave was, could you start from a theme that is close to your heart and how this is translated in books or in publishing in the short, medium, or long term? And then we thought, we'll send it out and we'll just wait and see what comes back. And of course, it's super nerve-wracking when you do something like this because we knew that the 20-year anniversary was coming. I think when we sent this, it was in December that we sent this out, and we knew that we were gonna celebrate this in early June, which if you have any familiarity with book publishing is an extremely short time to make an entire book. So, we told everyone, "Okay, you have, sort of, over the Christmas break to come up with a contribution, and then hopefully in the month of January, we'll have all this text." And of course, we were super enthusiastic about the idea, and we thought, "Oh, this is going to be great, but what if, like, nobody sends anything in? Then we end up with, like, a flyer with us saying, "Yeah, book publishing is really important, and here are two other people who also think so." Or what if people don't do what we ask and we get a sort of random array of contributions that really have nothing to do with each other, don't answer any questions, and we won't know what to do with it? But thankfully, this didn't happen at all. In early January, the first contributions started pouring in, and in the end, we received well over a hundred, which for an open call sent to 500 people is a really great response rate. And it was overwhelmingly beautiful and inspirational to see what we got. And in terms of practicality for us, it meant, like, collects everything, read everything. And instantly between the both of us, my colleague, Astrid Vorstermans, and myself, and I have to admit that Astrid really did the gist of work in this, is start editing these texts. And that's normally something that we are involved in, but also use a lot of freelance editors for, but now it was really us saying, "Okay, this text is great, but it needs to be a little bit more of this, or it needs to have a little bit less of that." And we really tried to...and that's also what we ask people. It's like, don't make this about Valiz, but make this about book publishing as a whole, or art book publishing as a whole. So, if a text was really focused on Valiz, we tried to see if we could make it a little bit more broad, or a little bit more abstract, further away from Valiz as a subject. I think there were one or two contributions where we were like, I don't know if this is appropriate for the book, maybe it needs some really heavy editing. But of course, the great thing was that these were all from people that we had some form of relationship, so it was much easier to say like, "Hey, maybe you can do a little bit of this, or you can do a little bit of that." And people were fine with making these edits.
  • 4. So in the end, yeah, we had a really beautiful stack of contributions, and we were going back and forth and back and forth in editing these. And then, of course, came the step, how do we translate this into an actual book? And that's something where we also thought, okay, it would be great to actually involve our network and honour the people that we work with as much as we can. And we decided that it would be really cool to ask actually a group of designers who are not usually working together, but ask each of them to maybe design a choir and, do it in their own way. And we would have, sort of, these master pages. And of course, the size of the book was set, and we knew that most of it was going to be in black and white. But really try to see if the sort of thematic lines that we were identifying in the contribution would also be translated into maybe the design a little bit more. And maybe that's a good time to also invite Lotte Schroder, who is actually one of the designers of the book, she wrote a contribution for it as well and she designed the cover, to explain a little bit more about what that process was like for her and, yeah, what it was like working with such a maybe un- standard assignment. Lotte, can I give the floor to you? Lotte Schröder: Sure, of course. Hi. Hi, all. I'm Lotte. Thank you, Pia. Hi, Jesse. Hi, everyone. Yeah, let me start at the beginning because it was a 20-year anniversary, but Valiz has been around for 20 years, so there has been a 5-year, a 10-year, and as you can see, a 12- and-a-half-year anniversary, which for the 12 and a half years, I gave them a copy of a Philip K. Dick book that's actually titled "Valis," but it's with an S at the end. But I thought it was a nice re-appropriation of an existing book, rewriting the existing text, but then to celebrate the publishing house. So that's been lying around the office for a really long time. And then when the 20-year anniversary book came up, they asked me if I could reinterpret, yeah, this hand-drawn collage-y cover that I made. So that's what I did, of course, lacking all the skills that all these beautiful classic sci-fi novels have. But yeah, trying to just, like, stay true to what the original book was. I started sketching, as NSPS said, you know, it's a short time, so being on the road trying to fit in somewhere sometime to work on it. So yeah, it's a mix of, yeah, like, hand-drawn kind of, like, weird landscape-y images that, yeah, maybe have no real connection to publishing, but, like, are about the future or about, like, dreaming away a little bit. And, yeah, the book is designed by...I have to now check my notes if it's seven people, so it's seven different designers that all got asked to do a section. So, I did the cover and some, like, of the introduction notes. But, so these are all spreads all designed by different designers. Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to really maybe, like, work on it together or, yeah, exercise actually what it would mean to assemble this book as a group of designers. Because that's something I've never...I mean, experienced, of course, working together one-on-one, but what if you have to, like, work with a group of seven people? But there's another book coming up by Valiz that deals with this. So, there's a chance to experience that still. But, yeah, so for me, it's just a continuation of my own imagery and, like, using hand-drawn typography and, yeah, just, like, creating a bit more of a maybe open atmosphere to what, like, future books is.
  • 5. Also for me as a designer, I'm more interested in maybe image-making or, like, yeah, creating more of an atmosphere than really literally reacting on the subject. So, also my contribution, I'm sorry, I don't have it in front of me, is also more about work ethics, and work relationships and, yeah, how they change and how I would like to see them improved in the future. And not so necessarily about books or book designing, or about what that practice kind of means. But, yeah, I don't know what to say more about it. It's pretty straightforward. Pia: Maybe I can ask you a question about it, Lotte because maybe to explain a little bit further, when we received all the contributions, we started, of course, thinking about, how should we order these things because they are from people with such different backgrounds. I think the youngest person contributing was 4 at the time, and I think the eldest was probably, like, 90 or 89 or something in this range. So, it was so diverse and we really started looking, like, what are themes that we can recognize? And I'll dive more into the content of that later. But in terms of ordering, we found all these themes that were maybe, now that I look back at it sometimes, a little bit vague, but felt very clear at the time. Is that something that you incorporated in your design thinking also, or because you have a very, I think, particular style and you work a lot with drawings, is that something that you did something with? Or is it more that you think, "okay, this is the size, I have to do something? How does that go for you? Lotte: Yeah, because I think when we started, or when you guys asked me, it was not really clear actually what the content was going to be. It was really at the beginning, so it was almost like a blank book, and there was an intent, of course, and there is a title, and there was, of course, already the kind of, like, previously established kind of dummy or, you know, something to build further on. But I think there was no content yet to react upon. And also for me, in these cases, yeah, I mean, that's going to be, like, a hundred different types of input or, like, points of view, which are, like, impossible to all, like, fit into one, kind of, overarching design. So no, yeah, it started a bit like a blank page, so just to be...which was also nice. I've never experienced this, that you just do the cover. And then it was also for all the designers, like a real big, like, "Oh my God, what's going to look like, how everything is also going to work together?" We were very curious how each individual contribution was going to kind of...how much are they going to distinguish from each other, or is there actually some similarities? You know, are we all, like, in from the same bubble, or do we have some, like, you know, authentic inputs? But, yeah, no, so yeah, I just started with not very little, but yeah, it's a book about the future. Pia: That's very true. I think for us, of course, receiving them was, again, a sort of extra second layer of gifting, after all these contributions, then seeing what everyone did to them. And I thought it was really funny because I feel like there's a very strong relation between every single choir and every single, sort of, individually designed section. But in terms of technicality, it was very different where I thought, okay, just looking at the InDesign files and how everybody builds their InDesign is clearly very, very different. That was really fun to see, but I thought it was really surprising how well everything in the end fitted together. Of course, partially because there's this strict grid of, it has to fit in this, and it has to adhere to these rules such as, you know, that there was gonna be these strip tags on the sides of the
  • 6. pages. And saying, "Well, this is..." yeah, like, you see on the sides of the pages here, and that there needs to be a navigational line at the bottom. So everyone had to adhere to that. But then whatever happens on the pages, it was completely up to each individual designer. And still somehow when I go through the book, it has a little bit of a book within a book feel at times but there's definitely a sort of coherent line in it, which was, to me, a very pleasant surprise because I thought like, this is going to be all over the place, which would've been fine. But I think in terms of reading this book and making it easier to handle, it's a very nice surprise. Lotte: No, but the text and just with these simple...like, this simple grid that's just there, it made it so if you flip through it, and I don't know if anyone in the audience has seen the book, but yeah, and also, of course, this black and white kind of filter that's been put over it, yeah, also gives it kind of like a big flowy feel to it. Pia: Yeah, because we really try to also...in the choice of paper, try to have this feeling of collage and of accessibility. And I think that...without tooting our own horn too much, I think it came out pretty well. But maybe to dive into the content of the book a little bit more, what I said, I think, just at the beginning is that sort of this reflecting on publishing and reflecting on the role of books in the present and in the future is something that's really at the core of our practice at Valiz. And it's not that we sit down every day and say, "Oh, what's the future of publishing?" But it's something that really, sort of, guides us in the way that we do. And sometimes we do sit down and really explicitly talk about it. But as the contributions started pouring in, I was just super pleasantly surprised to see how much individuality was in the contributions, but at the same time, there were a couple of core elements that a lot of people apparently had at the forefront of their mind. And one of these is sort of the tactility of the book and what paper means, and what accessibility is, and what working together is. And that's also one of the reasons why I've invited Jesse Muller to be part of this conversation because she wrote a sort of future story if I can...a fictional future story if I summarize that correctly. Yes, which to me was both funny and dystopian, if that's at all possible. And I thought it was really interesting considering you also have such a strong background in both bookselling and distributing and publishing. So, maybe Jesse, you can talk a little bit more about your contribution, like give a brief introduction into what it was and how you got to it. Jesse Muller: Yeah. Hi, everyone. I'm Jesse Muller. Yeah, so it's funny you say that that is a kind of a funny story but also dystopian, and it definitely is like a fictional short story. And I was also very happy to see that it was categorized in the sci-fi section of the book, which I really loved. But, yeah, when the open call came from Valiz, I was really thinking about what should I write. And I was really thinking about, yeah, what do I want to write about the future of publishing and the future of the book? And I also remember, like, what Pia said before that Astrid from Valiz, that she also said something like, you know, just start with something that's really close to you. And I just really had to think about also my time. So, I'm working as a representative for several art book publishers at the moment, also Valiz, and also as a distributor and a publisher. But I started my book career, so to say, about 15 or
  • 7. 16 years ago as a bookseller in a bookshop. And so I really had to think about that time. And so I kind of was drawing from that experience as a bookseller and working in a team and collaborating together but also just having a lot of fun working in a bookshop. At first, I was thinking, like, oh, I'll write this very wild story that's taking place 72 years from now. And then when I started writing, I felt, like, no, this is just too far away. It'll be 20 years. And in the end, I was thinking, like, this is actually what I've written more something that is possible already in the future in about five years. So it's more about this team that is working in a bookshop, which has a new trend and that is making books from paper that they're manufacturing themselves within the store. So you can, yeah, bring your old books or your old clothes to the bookshop and they will make it into a new book. They have this warehouse where they make paper and, yeah, it ended up being a very almost satirical short story about this team going wild making paper. And, yeah, on the one hand, kind of close to my background as a bookseller, but also very far away from what I'm doing now. So, it was a very fun open call and assignment from Valiz, I think, and in contributing to this book. So, yeah. Pia: Well, I'm very glad to hear that it wasn't a strenuous task for you to undertake. And I think my biggest takeaway, not only from your contribution but from a lot of the contributions that we received, was just the amount of attention that people paid to it, which was truly, truly a gift to receive. But maybe to dive into the subject of the book a little bit more, of course, it would be great to say, with making this book, we now have an idea of what the future of publishing or art book publishing is going to look like, that it answers all of our questions that I think everybody who is working with books is trying to answer, and I don't think it does that. But what it does do is give you all these points and directions in which you can think. And what I mentioned before also is that there's such an overlap between the way people think about it, and we identified the themes, of course, which is how the book is ordered. But I think even between that you see a lot of things that really make me hopeful, and I think that's great. I think for years and years...and also it's something that I'm interested in myself. We've said like, "Oh, with the rise of the digital, eBooks are going to take over. The place for the paper book is diminishing. How will we deal with this?" And this is something that a lot of people also touched on. And I think what's very interesting is that in this book that I think maybe 85% of people are advocating for the paper book. They are saying, like, this tactility, the experience of the object, the timelessness that a paper book has is something that we value and that we cherish forever. And of course, that's something that we've been talking about a lot in terms of what will happen in the next few years within the book business. And now we've asked people to, like, speculate on what will happen in the book business in 75 years. So, sometimes the stories that people have come up with are a little bit out there or would fall in the category of sci-fi. But I think the basic idea of the paper book still being extremely important was something that Asrid and I felt and feel very strongly about, but that also resonated with a lot of people who handed in contributions.
  • 8. And it's not so that everyone is preaching to their own choir, if that's how you say that, that everybody is in the business of making books. So it's natural that all of us would say...or it's logical that all of us would say, "Yeah, the paper book needs to survive, because what else will we do?" But it was also people who were a little bit further outside of that core group that's in bookmaking that are really appreciating the paper book as the future of the book. And I think that's a shift from maybe 10, 12 years ago when people in the book industry were really, I wouldn't call it scared, but hesitant about if there would be a place for the paper book. And I think over and over and over during these last few years, and this book is very much proving that, is that that space will be there, and the appreciation for the book will be there and will continue to be there. And the paper book is not being replaced by its digital version. And not to say that there is not space for this digital book, but it's something else. And that's something that I also want to invite Lotte and Jesse maybe to reflect upon with me, is that as a publisher that we notice that indeed the depreciation for the paper book is not diminished at all, When we go to fairs, young students come up and they want these books, they want these paper books. And it's almost only from the world of academia that people are asking for digital versions. And maybe Jesse, because you, of course, deal with a lot of different publishers and have dealt with the distribution channels of books, can you reflect on that a little bit, what's your experience? Jesse: Yeah. So I also...like you say, I see it a lot on book fairs as well. Just people are so excited to see books that we publish, that you publish. And, yeah, I think this appreciation, it will definitely...yeah, it's already here, but it will definitely stay as well. And I also see it with, sort of, representation work that I do when I go around to bookshops and talk to buyers and presenting your books and books from other publishers that they usually already know how to place a book. Oh, I have customers that will definitely be interested in this. But also just really about the quality of the books themselves, how it's designed, and just paper. And I think also now we're at a place that there's so much possible with publishing and, yeah, working with different papers and this...I also see at book fairs and talking to buyers that this tactility of the book, it's very important still. And I think, yeah, it'll continue like that as well, this interest in it. Pia: And how is that for you, Lotte, from the design perspective? I know you personally have a fondness of paper, but do you see any shifts towards a more digital practice for yourself, or can you reflect on that? Lotte: No, I mean, this is almost a bit, like, common knowledge, right, that first the music industry, when everything became this, like, digital thing and people were, like, downloading music, it was the scare, but, of course, vinyl is, like, outta control, it's, like, bigger than ever almost. And people wanna have a physical object because the moment something becomes, like, a physical thing that manifests itself in your reality, it's something that you can, yeah, touch, react upon, like, interact with. And when things stay digital, I think they feel maybe also more anonymous. Like, people hide...I mean, they share their thoughts on the internet, but there is a lack of physicality, which makes them maybe feel anonymous or invincible or invisible. And that goes both ways.
  • 9. So it's, like, you know, like, people are not seen, some people are more seen, but there is, like, this lack of interaction and I think maybe also, especially after the whole COVID thing, that people are so happy to be out and about and to meet with people again, and that, yeah, like, books and also going to a book fair, to, like, a bookshop that there is a...I mean, yeah, the experience of also discovering something, it's...yeah, I mean, your body, it's a...yeah, these sensations happen, like, in real time and I think, yeah, the online world is not really there yet. I don't know. I think the next step, right, is going to be wearing, like, your crazy glasses and reading, like, through a book and things like popping up and all this shit that's ever going to, like, take away the experience of, yeah, just being in reality. I don't know. Sorry. It's very fake for me. As a designer, it's not not something I'm extremely busy with. I think in terms of accessibility, yes, it can be really nice if all the books would be available digitally that you could, like, buy them for, like, a smaller fee, because also still for some people, like, the most of the Valiz books are between let's say, like, €20 and €30. Translating that to currency in some countries that's, like, quite a lot of money. So, you know, making them, like, yeah, available for a cheaper price or that is nice to also, yeah, spread that information in a different way, I think could be cool. I think audiobooks are also big thing. I'm also really curious how we could work on that, like, with all the Valiz books that are being made. I mean, there's still, like, a lot to explore and... Pia: Yeah, I think I agree. I think there's a lot left to explore and I've curiously never considered an audiobook. I don't know if our books would necessarily be suitable for this because I think some can be quite dense. So if you would listen to them back to back, it might be difficult, but it's definitely... Lotte: But maybe, like, a short version or, I dunno, like, for me, there can be music or, like, a soundtrack, or I think sometimes it's nice to think how to make it, like, even more, alive or really then not to make it, like, just a straightforward audiobook, but then it becomes, like, a new work. And I don't know, something... Pia: I think that's really interesting. And also tying in what I see somebody in the audience saying, like the idea of a sort of multi-layered book where a physical book has a digital companion. And that's something that, at Valiz, we have been experimenting with a little bit. We have this series book "Making Public" that's specifically about this. Like, how do you reach a public, what is the digital realm? How do you go about that? And the subject matter discussing that is wide. But what we've decided to do for this series is make a physical book. That's the starting point, that's the collection. But very often because these subjects that are dealt with in these books is so explicitly digital, it feels really weird to somehow ignore it or try to desperately translate that into a paper as much as I love the paper. So, what we do is have a sort of digital counterpart, and it's not a direct translation of the book, it's not the eBook, it's not a PDF, it's not something you can download. But for example, the first recent edition we did was called "Curating Digital Art." We made a timeline. So, there's a digital timeline on a website that sort of refers to the book and the book refers to the timeline and vice versa. So, there's an exchange between the digital and the paper book. And for me, I feel like this is where the future is, that we see readers looking for
  • 10. more content themselves and why not, as publishers, try and curate that a little bit and see what can we offer that's a little bit extra to all the information that's in the book? And it's, of course, great that, I mean, I can't show video in a book yet. So, I love it if I can do it in a different way. But at the same time, from a publishing perspective, it's new. How do you deal with it? How do you deal with all the copyright issues that come with this? How do you make sure that something is durable? And, yeah, how does it fit in sort of the ecology of the book trade, I suppose? So, that's something that we're still trying to figure out, but it's definitely a lot of fun to experiment with. But I feel like it's still, at this point...and of course, there's exceptions because I've seen some really, really great projects out there. But for us, it's still a little baby that needs to be fed and comes a little bit to the side of our core business, which is developing these books and developing these projects. But to see how we can integrate it is something that I think is really interesting. And also something that we saw in the contribution to "Future Book(s)" where people were speculating about this and whether that be some, like, VR stuff or, you know, if you're speculating about the far future that it's something that's somehow projected into your head that people were talking about. And that's very fun to think about. And I think in the near future, you know, this digital component is probably going to be very important. And then at the same time, there's also this development of all these new tools that are working with, and that's also something which I did not expect to happen with this book. But what actually was apparently on a lot of people's mind was this development of AI. So I think we have five or six contributions of people who are either about AI, which have been written with ChatGPT, or imagery that has been generated with AI. And even one of the designers of the choir used AI to make her design. And we've printed the entire conversation that she had to get to the point where she was. And I think it's super interesting, but also a little bit where...for me, it's very speculative to see where that's going. And I don't know, Lotte, if you've ever considered using any of those tools or is that something that you can imagine will be integrated in your practice as a designer, or no? Lotte: Maybe. Yeah, there is nothing that I'm doing that I would not want to do myself. I don't see it as, like, an obstacle or something I would wanna...yeah. You know, I like to do all the laborist work as well. I think for me, sometimes that's even more fun to do. But, yeah, I mean, I get it, but I also think, like, it's something that, yeah, it's on your mind and you see it and you see people using it, but maybe it's also fine, it's not for everyone. And if also Valiz is just, like, sticking to a thing that's proven time and time again, then it's just a very meaningful and very useful vessel, you know, that anyone can, kind of, print and you can ship it around and, yeah, I don't know. It's such a...yeah, that you get a book from an artist that lives on the other side of the planet and, yeah, it's a very different interaction than seeing somebody's Instagram where they post, like, their work. You feel that you can also, kind of, keep it. And also that's how I look at my own bookshelves. These are things that I also wanna, kind of, treasure. And sometimes some books go, and sometimes this is like, no, this is with you already for like 20 years because you also feel that there is, like, value to treasuring it. Yeah, because that's just what we do,
  • 11. right? It's just this, yeah, endless accumulation of things that we appreciate. And then this is going to be my...not my legacy, but, like, my inheritance, I don't know, something like that. Pia: Yeah. Understood. I agree for the most part, and maybe to summarize this a little bit before we go to questions is that, for us, it was...and I know I can speak for my colleague, Astrid, who was super deeply involved in developing this book and, of course, starting Valiz, is that it was such a joy to see everything come together and that we wrote the epilogue and the closing words for this book and, sort of, our feelings really came true where we thought, okay, the art book is a place where ideas are consolidated. The art gives people a space to experiment, and this book really brings it together for us. So we are thrilled with the results. Kalpna: That's great. Thank you, guys. I'm sure we could keep on going forever because there's so many interesting things to talk about, and there's some really great questions in the chat. I'm gonna be a little bit selfish and ask a question I have first. I'm just wondering, after putting this work together and reflecting on the last 20 years, obviously as you started the project, you all had your own thoughts and feelings about the future of books, and I'm wondering if now that this project is finished and you've spent time with all these other contributions and thoughts, what sort of has changed for you? And if any of the work that you engaged with in this process, how has it sort of changed how you feel going into...like, how does the role of Valiz change? Or what are you excited about? What are you afraid about? What do you think needs to change? What do you want to change? And it's kind of directed to all three of you. Like, not only just in a business, kind of, how you're gonna continue the business of the publishing, but also in your own work and in your own practice. Pia: I think working on this has kept me hopeful. What I really like is that there's such a...not only in the process of making this, bringing this ginormous group of people together to work on this book, but also in terms of subject matter of the contribution is that I feel a very strong sense of community. And that's also where I think the future lies is within the art world, and within the art book world specifically, that people are very dependent upon each other. And reading this book, working on this book really actively made me feel that. That's something that really filled my heart with joy, as sentimental as it sounds, is to see that there is all these different people all on their small islands working in the end towards the same goal or with the same goal in mind. And that was great in working with this, but that's also, I think, the strength of the future is that we can only continue if we do it together. And that is consolidated in this book for me. Jesse: Yeah, I was going to say the same thing as Pia, actually. When reading all the contributions for "Future Book(s)," I also feel this very strong sense of community and also, yeah, just very hopeful about how positive everyone is about the future of books and about there still being bookshops and, just yeah, printed books. And it just makes me even more motivated or more excited about the future of books and collaborating with other, yeah, publishers and writers and bookshops. Kalpna: You don't have to answer. Lotte: Yeah, sorry, nothing to contribute. Sorry.
  • 12. Kalpna: No worries. It looks like a lot of the attendees here are intrigued by the design process. One of the questions was, did the designers see parts that were already designed or what others were working on, or were they all kind of doing it on their own? Pia: No, everyone, was basically doing it on their own. And I think, Lotte, you may have seen some choirs at one point, but no, they...and I don't know, of course, if they secretly didn't share it with each other, because I'm fairly sure that some of them know each other, but not through us. We really thought, take it where you want it. Don't feel like you need to be inspired by the work of others, or don't feel like you need to create a coherent whole, take it wherever you please. And I'm very happy that we did because they are so different and I feel like everybody's own voice is represented through their design. So I'm glad that worked out. Kalpna: A question that could be directed to all of you again as well is, were you surprised by any of the themes that you saw running through the contributions? Did anything kind of jump out or give you something to think about that maybe you hadn't before? Pia: Well, what I mentioned before is that a lot of people seem to have AI on their minds more than we expected. And also, you know, there were a couple of people I thought, oh yeah, that's right up your alley, so you might do something with this. But there were other people who I was like, "I had no idea this was something that was on your mind." And they did something...that was one of them that really came through. The other thing...What I found really interesting is that somebody came up with this idea that...I don't know how to call it in English, but in the Netherlands, we have this system with cans and bottles that if you pay a certain extra amount when you buy, for example, a can of soda, and then at the moment you hand it back to the store... Kalpna: The deposit. Pia: Yeah, you get your deposit back. And then somebody came up with this idea for books, and they were like, "You can do this so that we can, sort of, extend the longevity of books and their lives becomes longer, but there's also a way to tie you to the bookstore a little bit." And I thought, that's so clever. I never even thought of that. That's just so smart. So that was really fun. And I think a last one that really stood out to me is, in a very touching way, is that, from these two publishers who have a publishing house in Ukraine, and, of course, it's extremely difficult for them now in the worst situation that they're in, and they sent also photos of a book presentation that they held several months ago, and that was interrupted because of a bombing and they had to continue it in the shelter. And that really touched me because it's a group of, I think, 50 people in the midst of a war still going to a lecture about art books, still deciding that at this time in their lives, it's important enough to take the risk to attend this, which I thought...and it almost made me cry, it was so beautiful. So that, again, ties in with that sense of community, but also with the importance that books, taking people's lives...and that, yeah, I found extremely beautiful to see. Kalpna: That's awesome. Thank you. Another kind of more, I guess, technical design question. Lotte, can you speak to maybe the challenge of designing the book, there is a Dutch and English version, and kind of making sure that they both worked and were cohesive? Lotte: No, there's just the English version, right? By now...
  • 13. Kalpna: Oh, okay. Sorry about that. Lotte: Yeah. And yeah, right, Pia, what did you wanna say? Kalpna: Or was translation an issue? Pia: No, both Dutch and English in the same book. Kalpna: Sorry, that's what I meant. Sorry, a bilingual book, right. Lotte: Oh, yeah. I was not really confronted with that. Like, I dunno, I cannot really speak on behalf of all the other designers, but I think at least half of them, they speak Dutch or, I mean, like, all of them, they've been living here for quite long time, so it's not an unfamiliar language to them, but I kind of...I did really like that, that some contributions kind of stayed in their original form and maybe language had not so much to do with it. I think all of them, there was, like, a translated version, like, next to it, or that at least everyone could kind of read it. But yeah, that's also so that language has just like a form on its own, and then you don't wanna, like, disrupt that because that's just the way it is, you know? It's just a thing in itself. And then, like, yeah, but for me there was not...I had nothing...I didn't design one of the, like, sections of the book, so for me it was just English all the way. Pia: Except for the cover where you had to put all the titles. Lotte: Is that...Oh, yes. I'm sorry, I'm a designer that is a little bit language blind. Like, I see an image, for me, it's really hard. I'm like, "Oh yeah, that's true." Indeed, it's in English and Dutch. But yeah, see if you ask me this question, I'm like, "Oh yeah, that's it." Kalpna: That's great. I think we're just about ready to wrap up. Just going through the questions one more time. Yeah, thank you so much, Pia, Lotte, and Jesse for joining us today. Pia: Thank you for having us. Kalpna: Very inspiring. You were kind enough to share the PDF of this book, and I'm still requesting a physical copy because I can't wait to see it, which kind of just speaks to what you've already talked about and that passion for, like, the physical, actual paper books. So, that's great. Pia: Well, thank you so much, and thank you everyone who took the time to join us here. It's much, much appreciated. Jesse: Yeah, thank you so much. Lotte: Thank you guys. It was very nice. Kalpna: Before we go, we'd love it if you could provide feedback on this session, we'll drop a link to the survey in the chat. Please take a couple of minutes to fill it out. We'll also be emailing you a link to a recording of this session as soon as it's available. Lastly, we'd like to thank the Department of Canadian Heritage for their support through the Canada Book Fund. Thank you all for attending.
  • 14. Lotte: Thank you so much. Pia: Thanks. Jesse: Thank you.