The Future of the Art Book Christopher Lyon The Monacelli Press
Art Books in Print
13.5 in. 23 in.
What is an “art book”? <ul><li>The oversize art book, extensively illustrated with large color illustrations, is a distinc...
Definition <ul><li>DEFINITION: The category of &quot;art books,&quot; as publishers and retailers employ the term: </li></...
Art book publishing <ul><li>Three related environments: </li></ul><ul><li>the supply side, consisting of authors, image pr...
Content providers <ul><li>Authors—very few professional writers; agents rarely involved; rely on academics, critics, and s...
How are books supported? <ul><li>Books that lack enough inherent appeal or extraneous sales boost like a popular exhibitio...
Distribution <ul><li>New volumes reach wider audience through: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>sales at exhibition venues  </li></ul...
Pricing Pressures <ul><li>price resistance—customer resistance to higher-priced books; $60 book a good value, but hard to ...
Audience <ul><li>Must appeal to the core audience for the subject—but number of potential buyers in that audience usually ...
Measuring the market <ul><li>Sales figures vary widely depending on: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>amount of publicity </li></ul><...
Trends <ul><li>The past two decades have witnessed the consolidation of commercial art book publishing under increasingly ...
Electronic Future <ul><li>Feb 2011: Florrie Kichler, president of the Independent Book Publishers Association, said: “What...
<ul><li>Two of the probably thousands of articles announcing the on-rush of e-publications in mainstream publishing: </li>...
How does an art publisher respond to the electronic option? <ul><li>Make an e-pub that imitates a printed book? </li></ul>
<ul><li>Or modify the e-pub format to add bells and whistles? </li></ul>
What then? <ul><li>Leave behind the metaphor of the codex </li></ul><ul><li>Adopt a spatial metaphor—for example, a virtua...
The medium of the art book has reached a fundamental turning point: the transition from print to electronic platforms.  Th...
Who Is the Audience? <ul><li>Identifying the market </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gift book market would be gone </li></ul></ul><u...
How do we market the e-platform? <ul><li>Social networking? </li></ul><ul><li>Publicity? </li></ul><ul><li>Gift potential?...
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Christopher Lyon - NYC art book

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AIESEC Life New York Hub welcomed Christopher Lyon as guest speaker for the first of its “Industry Focus” events with an exploration of the changing art book publishing business. His career includes stints in writing and editing at several major publishers and The Museum of Modern Art. Chris is currently leading development of an art e-platform aimed at the emerging market for app books on mobile devices.

Five years ago, Chris wrote an in-depth article for Art in America magazine examining the reasons for the widely recognized crisis of trade art publishing. Most art books have required subsidies to be viable, and to some extent have been supplanted by exhibition catalogs. Obtaining rights to reproduce the images became much more difficult in the 1980s. Publishers—increasingly corporate conglomerates—responded by moving away from art books to more-profitable lifestyle and design books.

In April of this year, e-books became the single best-selling category in American publishing for the first time. Most observers would agree that the future is electronic, but exactly what form will dominate for art books remains unclear. Are there ways of going beyond simply re-creating a printed text electronically? Does the ability to change things like font and layout help or hinder the experience of an art book? Or might it be better to leave behind the codex metaphor for a spatial one, more akin to experiencing a museum or gallery?

Chris showed some interesting prototypes of possible future iPad apps. The 15 attendees, several with careers in publishing, were able to provide a lively back-and-forth exchange of ideas, experience, thoughts and feedback, which continued over dinner at a nearby pub. Click here to view Chris’s slide show. NYC-ArtBook

Thanks are due to Standard Chartered Bank, global partner of AIESEC, for providing its board room and fine art collection as the backdrop to the event.

Bio of Christopher Lyon

Chris has worked as an art journalist and critic, and is the author of a widely praised 2010 monograph on the artist Nancy Spero. His most recent book is Couples in Art, to be published this fall by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. As an editor of art books, Chris has worked on the museum side, as a writer and editor for 10 years at The Museum of Modern Art, and on the trade side at major art book publishers including Bulfinch Press (Time Warner), Rizzoli International Publications, and Abbeville Press. Most recently he has served as Editor-in-Chief of Prestel Publishing, the New York office of a Munich-based imprint of Random House Germany.

http://aieseclife.org/blog/2011/09/22/aiesec-life-nyc-hub-hosts-industry-focus-art-books-with-christopher-lyon/

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  • Good evening You catch me in mid-air. I have just completed 6 years at Prestel Publishing, where I was editor-in-chief for the NY office, and am about to join The Monacelli Press, where I will have the same title and responsibility for their art and photography lists and also to develop a new business, publishing art titles on electronic platforms. Tonight I want to enlist your marketing savvy to help me as I look forward into an uncertain future for the art book, which in its print form has reached a kind of crisis: potential sales of new titles, within the time frame demanded by commercial publishers to earn back investment, have sunk so low that only a handful of artists and subjects can still succeed as unsubsidized trade print titles. How do we keep this culturally valuable niche alive? Do we support it as we do for many other kinds of culture, with a not-for-profit foundation? Or do we look to new technologies and forms of distribution? I’m looking forward to your thoughts.
  • Five years ago, I did a long article for Art in America magazine, examining the reasons for the widely recognized crisis of trade art publishing. The potential audiences for art books would seem to have grown in the last 20 years as well. There has been an explosion of &amp;quot;culture workers,&amp;quot; including people who make their livings in art, design and media-related professions. The market for contemporary art is still red-hot, even as the recession double dips. Attendance at museums continues to set records, even as other forms of &amp;quot;high culture&amp;quot; despair of retaining their audiences. Why can&apos;t art books, which arguably helped to create this boom by educating the audience, and which can return serious money on sales of fewer than 10,000 copies, attract a viable readership?
  • This is an interior spread, intended to show how large the book is: almost 2 feet across when it’s sitting in your lap. Like, don’t drop it on your foot.
  • The future of the art book, as for all books, is electronic—that much is clear. But what about the classic printed “art book”? The phrase &amp;quot;coffee-table book,&amp;quot; still a term of distaste and dismissal, perfectly captures the ambivalent attitude of the keepers of high culture toward these often very beautiful books. But we have to admit that they succeeded in bridging the gap between the core audiences for books about art and the general reader, and played a critical role in educating the audiences, or the parents of audiences, who today throng the museums. For most of you, too young to recall, the Modern or the Met was a very sleepy place 40 years ago. You could have a gallery all to yourself. Art books helped to change all of that.
  • Text-driven illustrated books about art, like historical surveys, academic monographs or critical studies, in which most or all of the reproductions play a supporting role, are sometimes produced by art publishers, especially academic ones, and it would be absurd to propose a definition of art books so rigid as to exclude them.
  • Art books have traditionally relied on writers who have in effect an ulterior motive: the book becomes their badge of authority; helps them get speaking engagements, offers of lucrative gallery catalogues if they are freelance critics. My authors are my most treasured resource. Picture rights and permissions are perhaps the single biggest obstacle to art book publishers. A key problem here is the assertion of ownership rights for images of artworks when the underlying work is long out of copyright. Museums are the big offenders; and although a crucial court case a dozen years ago undermined their case, publishers and authors have been understandably reluctant to challenge the big museums on whom they depend for content and sales.
  • The number of trade publishers focused on fine art, architecture, and photography has shrunk to a small handful, most of which supplement their art publishing with illustrated books in areas like travel, lifestyle, and cooking. They continue to publish in art with the help of subventions and, occasionally foreign editions.
  • Each of these distribution channels has negative aspects: when the exhibition is over, museum sales plummet, and museums have little incentive to keep exhibition books in print when the show is over; big box stores are in trouble financially (Borders is in Chapter 11 with last remaining stores expected to close this month); this comes on the heels of the big box stores killing the independent stores, which have declined to below 10% of the market; that leaves Amazon and B&amp;N online and others; but keep in mind that art books are large beautiful objects, many of them, and that curb appeal is lost in the thumbnail representation online.
  • RE MARKET SATURATION: E.G. &amp;quot;The first four books on Georgia O&apos;Keeffe are still competing with current books on O&apos;Keeffe. Amazon and other outlets for used books have put tremendous downward pressure on prices for art titles; remember that we are often repackaging familiar art; more about organizing information than delivering entirely new material.
  • For any given project, I generally divide the audience into the “core” readers and a larger general audience. If a book has only a core audience, I would usually pass on it—unless the subject is something like graffiti or graphic design, areas where the core is large enough to sustain a print run. In the U.S., a publisher producing such books must be able to justify the effort and expense of making them and selling them into our large market. Evergreen subjects, like van Gogh or Frank Lloyd Wrights; but watch out for the overpublished subjects … No more Monet books, please!
  • There is no precise way to measure this larger &amp;quot;art book audience”; it is highly elastic, depending on the timing, topic, and curb appeal of the book. Pricing is interesting: adjusted for inflation, the $40 book of 20 years ago should cost at least $75 today—but nearly the opposite is the case. Art books are a tremendous bargain, historically speaking.
  • For art publishers that were components of those conglomerates, this meant a demand for double-digit returns in a business with traditionally low profit margins, and a loss of autonomy for companies such as Abrams or Prestel that were bought by media conglomerates. The Monacelli Press, bought by Random House 3 years ago, this summer bought itself back because the ruinous overhead and bureaucracy of RH was stifling the business. Print runs: There is a threshold, which varies according to the price of a book, below which the cost of production and overhead can&apos;t be recovered, even if the full print run sells through. The overall decline in print quantities thus means that fewer and fewer titles can recover their costs in the marketplace—let alone generate a profit.
  • The future of the art book, as for all books, is electronic—that much is clear. This is an epochal transition, like the invention by Johannes Gutenberg of movable type in about 1440. How do we respond to this? And why should you all care? I want to suggest that our experience in this business—what a colleague has called a microniche of the book business—is in fact a kind of parable of what all of us are facing as we try to come to terms with the new media landscape that many believe will be dominated by what Apple now insists on calling “personal devices,” like the iPad tablet.
  • For example, here is an e-book that my colleagues and I were shown in May at Book Expo, the big annual booksellers’ convention, by the Apple iBookstore people. It has a fixed format, so the reader can see the page layout without the text and images floating apart, but reader must constantly manipulate for texts and captions, for example, to be visible simultaneously, or to make body text large enough to read comfortably.
  • Al Gore’s follow-up to his An Inconvenient Truth , titled Our Choice , has been touted as a model for the book of the future, complete with a flashy TED talk by Mike Matas of Push Pop Press, which created it. At one point in the presentation he blows into the iPad’s microphone and a little wind mill and the blades go around. Whoo-hoo! Well, it’s got a few cool things, like pictures that virtually unfold but really—is it essentially different from a Powerpoint presentation? With the “enhancement” of Al Gore’s droning voice and some You Tube quality videos? A commentator on the TED site agreed: “I think this will result in a few excellent digital books and a lot of glorified power points,” he said.
  • Let’s get back to the art book. Apple says, find a metaphor that’s appropriate to the subject. For art, the obvious metaphor is the gallery or museum.
  • The new market is software-based, so building-block assets—texts, images in a variety of still and motion formats, and audio—are relatively independent of device or software platform. Content takes precedence over technology. The focus of an e-platform for art books must be sophisticated and flexible handling of imagery in a variety of formats; that will be the selling point for clients, such as artists and institutions, and for buyers.
  • The biggest obstacle to moving forward in art e-publications is wariness about the potential market. Everyone remembers publishers’ fatal enthusiasm for CD-ROMS, and the millions that were spent on creating and marketing them. No one wants to make that mistake again.
  • I leave you with this question: how do we locate, find, build an audience for this new kind of art book. We can’t rely on nicely arranged sales tables at Barnes &amp; Noble—the gift potential of an electronic product may be nil. How do we publicize the books? The most powerful tools may be building an audience ahead of publication, via social networking sites; and getting recommended by Apple or other online sales outlets like Amazon. What are the metrics and how do we build in feedback from users, to figure out what is and isn’t working, what parts of the app are being used? And how we can improve them.
  • Christopher Lyon - NYC art book

    1. 1. The Future of the Art Book Christopher Lyon The Monacelli Press
    2. 2. Art Books in Print
    3. 3. 13.5 in. 23 in.
    4. 4. What is an “art book”? <ul><li>The oversize art book, extensively illustrated with large color illustrations, is a distinctive feature of post-World War II culture in the U.S. </li></ul><ul><li>The illustrations are either the dominant element or as important as the text. </li></ul><ul><li>Their purpose was to reach beyond the specialized audiences of scholars, collectors and others with a financial or professional interest in art to engage a new readership hungry for culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Hardcover large-format volumes (the &quot;classic&quot; trim size would be something over 9 by 12 inches) </li></ul><ul><li>Heavily illustrated with color plates (or with duotone or tritone reproductions of black-and-white photography) </li></ul><ul><li>Usually a text by an authority in the field, an expert author. </li></ul>
    5. 5. Definition <ul><li>DEFINITION: The category of &quot;art books,&quot; as publishers and retailers employ the term: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A volume, usually in a large format, in which the illustrations are either the dominant element or as important as the text. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Large format and high-quality reproductions allow it to simulate the visual experience of many kinds of art, architecture and design, even sometimes at the scale of an original object. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Susan Rossen, the former head of publications at the Art Institute of Chicago: &quot;Art books are important because they carry the experience of art wherever you are. They give you the time to look at things. They extend the time and space of the experience of art.&quot; </li></ul>
    6. 6. Art book publishing <ul><li>Three related environments: </li></ul><ul><li>the supply side, consisting of authors, image providers and publishers </li></ul><ul><li>the distribution network, including brick-and-mortar booksellers, on-line retailers and the distributors who feed them </li></ul><ul><li>consumers. </li></ul><ul><li>The most significant changes in the past 20 years have occurred in the middle, where constriction of the channels of distribution—as independent bookstores have closed and museums have backed away from selling books other than their own publications—making art books inaccessible to a broad audience. </li></ul>
    7. 7. Content providers <ul><li>Authors—very few professional writers; agents rarely involved; rely on academics, critics, and specialists using book to establish reputation </li></ul><ul><li>Images—preferred are museums and galleries, or artists and estates, able to provide at no cost; agencies prohibitively expensive (Art Resource, VAGA) </li></ul>
    8. 8. How are books supported? <ul><li>Books that lack enough inherent appeal or extraneous sales boost like a popular exhibition must be subsidized in some way for a commercial publisher to take them on. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Artist, dealer or architect pays for a monograph (avoided by mainstream trade publishers) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collector, gallery or museum agrees, as a form of subsidy, to buy a quantity of books </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Book is taken on by a subsidized publisher (often a university press); another option: a not-for-profit foundation (e.g., Aperture Fdn for photography) </li></ul><ul><li>Foreign co-editions: used to help extend print runs to reduce unit costs; difficult to arrange because of the continuing decline of the dollar and the spread of English as an international language </li></ul>
    9. 9. Distribution <ul><li>New volumes reach wider audience through: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>sales at exhibition venues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>big box stores </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>few remaining independent bookstores </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>online sales </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Pricing Pressures <ul><li>price resistance—customer resistance to higher-priced books; $60 book a good value, but hard to sell </li></ul><ul><li>price deflation--book priced at $75 in 1980 might now be priced at $60 but really ought to be $50 to be readily salable </li></ul><ul><li>market saturation—books aren't &quot;consumed&quot; in the way that other merchandise is; even if out of print, they continue to circulate. </li></ul>
    11. 11. Audience <ul><li>Must appeal to the core audience for the subject—but number of potential buyers in that audience usually too small to support a print run that makes economic sense. </li></ul><ul><li>Beyond the core audience, a publisher considers a number of factors in estimating an initial printing: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>tie-in events to provide publicity (typically an exhibition); </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>appeal of the subject (measured by past sales) balanced against the degree of market saturation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>author's critical reputation and track record of his or her previous books. </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Measuring the market <ul><li>Sales figures vary widely depending on: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>amount of publicity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>timing of book's release </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>attractiveness of the design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>appropriate pricing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Overall, illustration-driven art books—including ones on fine arts, photography, architecture and design—probably less than 2 percent of annual U.S. trade book sales </li></ul>
    13. 13. Trends <ul><li>The past two decades have witnessed the consolidation of commercial art book publishing under increasingly stringent corporate control. In this decade, more than 80 percent of U.S. trade books are produced by 5 or 6 conglomerates. </li></ul><ul><li>Declining print runs--In general, print runs have declined by half: books that once would have had a 10,000-copy first printing now pegged at 5,000 copies, a 6,000-copy run reduced to 3,000, and so on. </li></ul>
    14. 14. Electronic Future <ul><li>Feb 2011: Florrie Kichler, president of the Independent Book Publishers Association, said: “What publishers are facing right now in our industry is that we are retooling our operations from a traditional print operation of the last five or six centuries to all of a sudden to an e-book environment that has exploded in the last decade.” </li></ul>
    15. 15. <ul><li>Two of the probably thousands of articles announcing the on-rush of e-publications in mainstream publishing: </li></ul><ul><li>Ebooks have become the single bestselling category in American publishing for the first time, according to new data released in April. The latest report from the Association of American Publishers, compiling sales data from US publishing houses, shows that total ebook sales in February were $90.3m (£55.2m). This makes digital books the largest single format in the US for the first time ever, the AAP said, overtaking paperbacks at $81.2m. . . . America's ebooks enjoyed a 202.3% growth in sales in February compared with the same month the previous year, the book trade association revealed. Print books fared much worse by contrast, with the combined category of adult hardback and paperback books falling 34.4% to $156.8m in February. </li></ul><ul><li>(Boston Globe) 2011-07-18. Last year, the publishers surveyed by the Association of American Publishers saw 8.3 percent of domestic net sales from e-books. Three months into this year, Simon and Schuster’s e-book sales had climbed to 17 percent of revenue; at Hachette, parent company of Little, Brown, the figure was 22 percent. </li></ul>
    16. 16. How does an art publisher respond to the electronic option? <ul><li>Make an e-pub that imitates a printed book? </li></ul>
    17. 17. <ul><li>Or modify the e-pub format to add bells and whistles? </li></ul>
    18. 18. What then? <ul><li>Leave behind the metaphor of the codex </li></ul><ul><li>Adopt a spatial metaphor—for example, a virtual space to represent the gallery or the museum </li></ul>
    19. 19. The medium of the art book has reached a fundamental turning point: the transition from print to electronic platforms. Three ingredients make an art e-platform market possible: <ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Cloud-sourced content—reducing memory requirements for initial allows reader direct access without being tethered or forced to enter a brick-and-mortar or virtual store </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Multi-megabit broadband networks—able to handle large amounts of downloadable or streaming content </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Mobile connected devices—not just that you can carry it around and read your book but can remain connected in order to stream or download enhanced content, updates, and of course more books </li></ul>
    20. 20. Who Is the Audience? <ul><li>Identifying the market </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gift book market would be gone </li></ul></ul><ul><li>what is the marketplace? app store pros and cons; will the iBookstore and similar online stores be able to sell a kind of hybrid book app? </li></ul>
    21. 21. How do we market the e-platform? <ul><li>Social networking? </li></ul><ul><li>Publicity? </li></ul><ul><li>Gift potential? </li></ul><ul><li>Apple and other recommendations? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the sales “window”? </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback potential </li></ul>

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