By Paul Smart
The Hudson Valley has long had a special relationship with book publishing. The Maverick Art Colony outside Woodstock ran its own lines of anthologies; the town and region became home to top editors and publishers throughout the 20th century.
These days, as people bemoan the death of books, as well as bookstores, it seems we’re awash in both. And perhaps even hosting a glimpse into how publishing stays alive into new eras ahead.
The region’s long had regional presses, focused on local history and lore. Black Dome Press, Hope Farm Press and Purple Mountain Press have survived for years, providing the creative non-fiction balance for more idiosyncratic publishers working with poetry and art such as Codfish Press, Mayapple, Monkfish, Station Hill, and McPherson & Company. Plus many smaller or more optional publishing concerns, including a growing number of self-publishing authors.
Now we’ve also got an outlet of the truly groundbreaking Publication Studio phenomenon, started as an offshoot of the Occupy ethos and creating books via one person per shop, around the globe, working with a high-end printer, a top shelf paper cutter, and a binding machine. Talk about shades of all those small presses that pushed literature forward with small releases such as Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and James Joyce’s Ulysses, D.H. and T.E. Lawrence, Henry Miller, the Beats, and even the monumental Leo Tolstoy (who all published most of their books in editions of 100 or less, often through presses stashed at the back of enterprising book stores).
What’s modern about Publication Studio, though, is not just its one-book-at-a-time print-on-demand methodology, which is becoming increasingly normal for small presses everywhere (and even many of the biggies, too). It’s the fact that a PS book is available through its single publishers the whole world over. There are a dozen plus Publication Studios in all the continents’ great cities. Talk about reach!
Who are the big names and which items should one be looking for? You have to trust your publishers, look up their materials on line… just as one should do if looking to support any and all local writing. And book publishing.
“I have to get the book to the right people almost one by one,” Kiley has said of his PS work aesthetic. “What we’re trying to prove is that publishing is not just a commercial business but a political act; it’s about the creation of a public for things that one cares about. It’s about using simple tools and your skills as a bookmaker to make a book happen.”
Talk about truly local. Yet simultaneously universal and timeless, like what our art and literature’s always been.