{ “Cool Pastoral Splendor” kicks off a new series of rural field guides }

April 23, 2015 § 1 Comment

M12, an international rural arts collective, just published two cool little books. From a publications standpoint, they’re really interesting: small “field guides” of ephemera, published as a series. Like erudite zines. Here’s what M12 said about the project in an email, sent yesterday:

The Center Pivot Series is produced by Last Chance Press (M12) in collaboration with Jap Sam Books. Each of the volumes is produced in a limited edition of 250 copies and formatted as a small field guide. Through interdisciplinary approaches, this series explores and connects the changing realities of rural landscapes and communities around the world. The books present an array of curated notes, documents, and research ephemera combined with images, poetry, and more formal visual and written works. Each volume is assembled and edited by M12 Studio. M12 is pleased to be working closely with publisher Jap Sam Books and designer Peter de Kan on these editions. The “spinning horse” logo for the Last Chance Press books and records has been designed by American artist Star Wallowing Bull (Ojibwe-Arapaho, b. 1973).

Cool Pastoral Splendor (No. 01)
“Cool Pastoral Splendor includes a selection of pictures from Richard Saxton’s Rural Research Archive and accompanying writings by Kurt Wagner. Saxton and Wagner are among a rare breed of artists focusing on the non-heroic, psychic and lyrical unfolding of daily events. Both Saxton and Wagner infuse the work with their own rural experiences, but no single genre or culture captures the whole of these intentions. Cool Pastoral Splendor leaves us in search of beauty hidden in plain sight.”  -Kirsten Stoltz

An Equine Anthology (No. 02)
“An Equine Anthology stitches together non-linear histories, testimonies, and interpretations of equine culture from the American Southwest and beyond. Far from representing binaries of the romantic and mundane, of personality and commodity, An Equine Anthology presents the reader with a broad topographical view of the horse, an image that reaches well beyond that of American mythology. M12’s anthology combines poetics with research methodologies that delve into the unseen, hidden, and overlooked to create a work that is greater than the sum of its parts.”  – Sanjit Sethi, Executive Director of the Santa Fe Art Institute

M12 is primarily concerned with art, research, education and outreach, so it makes sense for them to culminate their work into publications. They started with a book chronicling their ten years of work, so now I’m interested to see where the Center Pivot Series goes.

{ Online publishing platforms: is diversity worth it? }

April 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

The internet has so many publishing platforms and concepts. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t think I want to play that game.

Ok, here’s one that sounds cool: Deca. Its (experienced and acclaimed) journalists formed a cooperative to create and sell longform stories for tablets, phones, etc. with subscriptions that cost $3 per story or $15 per year. They’re hosted on Tugboat, a “storefront” website (publisher? platform?), which reminds me a little bit of Beacon, without the crowdfunding emphasis.

Deca’s inspiration, so the story goes, comes from Magnum, a member-owned photo agency formed in the 1950s as photo technology became more accessible. It’s a great inspiration to cite, though Deca is certainly not the first group of writers to strike out together on the internet (see Climate Confidential, for instance). And they almost always sound cool, really.

It would be great if the independent online publishers could make it. It would be great if they find an audience that pays. But there are so many projects out there that are going to start and fail. One acclaimed platform, Byliner, sort of crumbled in September 2014 last year after its launch in 2011. Here’s an obituary for the website, with a subhead that reads, “Longform journalism just isn’t a huge moneymaker.”
“What originally excited me about Byliner was that it wanted to let writers chase those long investigative stories and would pay them to do so,” the author says. “It didn’t work out. That doesn’t necessarily mean such a model can’t work — it just means the expectations have to be different. And by ‘different,’ I primarily mean ‘lower.'”

(Another online publisher, Vook, bought Byliner. Vook appears to market to individual authors and claims Byliner as its “first digital imprint,” though the difference between Byliner stories and other Vook titles seems unclear.)

Ay yi yi, maybe I’m a geezer. But if longform journalism just isn’t a huge money maker, it seems like journalists are working too hard to diversity their platforms for publishing (how to write, edit, get published, get paid), when really we should be working harder to diversity how we’re funded. Some are doing it right, like Texas Tribune with its sponsored events (and angel investors), Rocky Mountain I-News with its journalism training workshops (and foundation sponsors), Belt Magazine with its books and Atavist with its publishing technology that it licenses to other publishers. These multi-pronged approaches combine bold business ventures with quality journalism. That’s true creativity. And that’s a game I think I’d be down to play.

What do you think? Am I being a downer? What platforms/publishers do you think are doing it right? Leave me a comment, I want to talk about it! « Read the rest of this entry »

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