Resolve

A collaborative online community that brings together photographers and creative professionals of every kind to find ways to keep photography relevant, respected, and profitable.

Have an idea for a post?

Want us to find an answer to your question? Interested in becoming a contributor?Email us

‹ Home

January 6th, 2010

Future of Photobooks Discussion: How should photobook CONSUMPTION evolve in this decade?

Posted by liveBooks

This is the second of three moderated discussion posts, part of our Future of Photobooks project, in conjunction with FlakPhoto. It will be moderated by Todd Walker, who has also helped shape this post. As we’ve said, the future is ours to shape, so please help the community by adding your comments and sharing this post on Twitter, Facebook, etc. (You can also receive email updates of future comments by clicking “subscribe.”) To find out more about the Future of Photobooks project, read previous posts, and view the more than 45 blogs that have participated, check out our growing resource page.
Todd_Walker

Todd Walker is a photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His “Gallery Hopper” blog has been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The San Francisco Examiner. Currently he writes at ocularoctopus.com.

******

Multimedia Dreams Dance In Our Heads

Some of the most interesting suggestions from contributing Future of Photobooks bloggers addressed changes in the way photobooks are “consumed” (the best word we could find to encompass “read,” “viewed,” and “watched”).

Here are a few of their predictions for what it might be like to look through a photobook in ten years:

Images accompanied by audio of the photographer describing the work, their personal vision, and the way the images were made. “It will be like a museum tour where you have your own personal guide,” explains Tomas Ovalle at The PhotoOracle.

Jin Zhu at Shooting Wide Open wishes that photobooks could be more like McSweeney’s publications, arriving with physical goodies like pullout posters, photo postcards, and maps, as well as digital goodies like audio interviews with the subject or “making of” videos on an accompanying DVD or USB.

Shane Godfrey and Nick Turpin both suggested a symbiosis between digital, physical, and downloadable versions of a book. From Nick’s post on sevensevennine: “I can see the printed and digital elements of PUBLICATION complimenting each other in this way as we go forward, the printed magazine on sale for six months whilst the essays from previous editions are archived and made available online.”

Expanding Definitions, Expanding Audiences

We can only hope that these models and more will be explored — again, as creative decisions made by artists about how best to convey their work. Todd brought up another question that relates instead to the “consumer” or audience.

As Radius Books co-founder Darius Himes pointed out in his post, the average photobook only has an audience of around 3,000. Can that audience be expanded by expanding the definitions and expectations of a photobook? And what new requirements will photographers need to consider if their audience is a much wider one including a much lower percentage of “photo people.”

One positive change that might be spurred by a larger, more diverse audience for photobooks is that they be treated with more respect by the cultural gatekeepers. As Alec Soth points out, they at least deserve the same kind of attention the New York Times recently bestowed on graphic books. Or, as Larissa Leclair suggests, maybe it will help us to recognize books as an artform in and of themselves, perhaps even prompting “photobook museums.”

Wait, Am I Reading or Watching?

In all our excitement over the idea of a “multimedia photobook” (I hope I’m not the only one who’s excited), we shouldn’t lose site of the possible downsides of this reading experience. As advertising consultant Alan Wolk reprimands at The Toad Stool, “reading” (and I would include still images in that) is an entirely different experience from “watching” something, also highlighted by this brilliant video from the Lens Culture blog forecasting what a digital magazine of the future might look like.

And finally, I don’t think we would call this brilliant multimedia slideshow from Alec Soth a book, but a book was its impetus and a book (and sculpture) are its outcome. What it definitely is, is an enjoyable place to start to stretch our brains about what a photobook could be.


28 Comments

  1. January 6th, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Continuing discussion: Future of PhotoBooks « The PhotoBook

    […] has added his thoughts on How should photobook CONSUMPTION evolve in this decade? found here.  He addresses “consuming”  (his best word to encompass “read,” “viewed,” […]

  2. January 6th, 2010 at 10:26 am

    uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by flakphoto: Future of Photobooks Discussion: How should photobook CONSUMPTION evolve in this decade? Tell us what you think at http://bit.ly/63H1VY

  3. January 6th, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    How should photobook CONSUMPTION evolve in the next decade? | RESOLVE | The Click

    […] Here are a few of their predictions for what it might be like to look through a photobook in ten years […]

  4. January 6th, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    rickuckingumb

    Hi I’d love to thank you for such a great made forum!
    thought this would be a perfect way to make my first post!

    Sincerely,
    Laurence Todd
    if you’re ever bored check out my site!
    mothers day Party Supplies.

  5. January 8th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Joe

    i like photobooks, i buy photobooks, i’m proud of the books that lie around my flat when people come over, i consider them just as much part of the furniture as my old cameras and the coffee table they both sit on.

    i bring photobooks with me to pubs when I meet friends knowing it will get passed around and enjoyed in the context of socialising and drinking.

    i think photobooks will go away; actually re-invented maybe, or maybe not, actually not, i’ll finish with that.

    when i went on holiday to Greece a few years back a diver introduced me to sea urchin, my favourite sushi morsel for over a decade, and no doubt the honey-bee of the sea. He introduced me to the process of using the knife to open them up and i learned how much effort went into collecting such a small amount of benefit, and i figured out why it’s the most expensive offering in any sushi restaurant.

  6. January 8th, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Joe

    now enter the ease of creating photobooks, enter the opportunity for us all to be authors, enter the opportunity for photobooks and photo albums to begin to collide (i love that idea), enter the growing aptitude and talent of photographers from the ease of producing images that suck and then getting better, without cost, due to digital cycle vs film cycle and enter the growing amount of feedback you can get from all the image sharing options that are out there.. Should we not experience a new golden age of photo-books?

  7. January 8th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Joe

    that’s what i thought a couple of months ago, that’s what i thought before handing my iphone over to people i’ve met to show them some images of my son, then of some of my work. Even at this ridiculous size and rendering they got a ‘margin’ of benefit. Now i’m starting to think that it’s not about photo books, even if the images to populate them are going to blossom, i think it’s about tablet pc’s, i think the future of photobooks is going to be gobbled up by the tablets, i will essentially be buying quality images for my tablet and passing around my tablet at the pub, instead of iTunes, i've got iPhotoBooks. If this is the case we've got a totally different economic, consumption, distribution dynamic.

  8. January 8th, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    @OcularOctopus

    Getting most of our visual arts digitally? I can't imagine getting much out of Richard Serra's sculptures as represented on a monitor, even a really good one circa 2019. But it seems you're saying the physical book will be completely superseded by digital publishing. This seems to presuppose that the photograph is the content and subject, not the physical object. How then, do the smaller prints in a book and their sequential order match to the ordering of larger prints on a gallery wall? Is the difference inconsequential? If so, are we destined for a Flickr-like experience where most photography is just a semi-random stream of images in a database?

  9. January 8th, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    @NouvellesImages

    Joe, I would not be so extremist as you are and I feel there is an appeal for material things, that some photographs need wide format to express themselves, that screens, even if of good quality, will not necessarily give accurate colors (just because of calibration problems). Anyhow I strongly believe there is something to do in publishing iphotobooks and I'm now working around a concept of that kind. Reading what you say, I think you could be interesting in looking at the concept and maybe comment it. You can find it here

  10. January 8th, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    @NouvellesImages

    Joe, I would not be so extremist as you are and I feel there is an appeal for material things, that some photographs need wide format to express themselves, that screens, even if of good quality, will not necessarily give accurate colors (just because of calibration problems). Anyhow I strongly believe there is something to do in publishing iphotobooks and I'm now working around a concept of that kind. Reading what you say, I think you could be interesting in looking at the concept and maybe comment it. You can find it here

  11. January 8th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Joe

    why do i describe this? Well if i was stranded on an island and this was the only way i could live, live by having the patience and tenacity and the resource to do this, then i would get two benefits, the most ideal eating experience matched with no other alternative for satisfying my digestive needs.

    Why is this relevant? Well i think photo books, before monitors (and soon to be tablets), were exactly like being stranded on an island with no other alternatives than sea urchins. I think now how we get so much of our visual fine art diet from the monitor, i think so much so that the margin of benefit we can get from a book (albeit the best experience) has been marginalised.

    much like being stranded on an island and the resource cost of the sea urchin, if i had less expensive / risky resource alternatives (say soft-shell crab or shrimp) and i had to make opportunity/cost decisions, then the immutable drive to optimise would cause me to spend my resources elsewhere and maybe only eat shrimp, which is not that bad, nor is the monitor really.

  12. January 8th, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    @OcularOctopus

    How do you think the ease of purchase and assumedly lowered prices of an "iPhotoBook" like system will impact the volume of work available and its quality? Will anyone be able to devote significant dedicated time to being a photography practitioner? Or will we all just do this as a side project? (Maybe its already that way?)

  13. January 9th, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Joe

    Hmm. Looks like what I’ve offered so far is pretty incoherent based on the order my past posts, but maybe someone can decrypt it.

  14. January 9th, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Joe

    I appreciate that I’m coming across as a heretic when I suggest that we should just put a big R.I.P sign in front of the historical way we consume traditional photo books but:

    We need to realise that photographs are a medium for communication.

    We need to realise that photographs are a two dimensional media

    I'm sorry, but we’re not talking about how we appreciate sculptures, or architecture, or audio media.

    We need to realise that there are alternative ways to communication with two-dimensional art and those ways do not materially reduce the margin of benefit, and do not reduce at all the actual message of the work.

  15. January 9th, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Joe

    Show me someone that thinks that communication can’t be done with a monitor; or soon to be tablet, and I’ll show you someone that cares more about tonality and colour verse message and motive.

    Yes, even a non-flat page, a photo in a book is twice as good as an image on a desk monitor for a number of reason now (reasons that will dissolve as tablets become more sensory),

    but a non-flat page in a book is no where the same a real live silver print hanging flat on a wall, hanging well lit, and well framed and with a nice sense of spatial harmony with the other images that are in the installation.

    Basically, Yes, Real-Live-Exhibition prints are alive and well, but if you think a book print is anywhere near this then you’re disillusioned.

    The twice as good, verses 'ten times as good' when talking about book verses exhibition print is why a a book print is going to be the next victim to Darwinistic behaviour in the fight for the biggest bang-for-our-buck.

  16. January 9th, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Joe

    The simple fact of the matter is that an audience can experience a massive benefit of the total benefit of a photograph as a medium for communication.

    The simple fact is that the gallery exhibit photographs will provide enough margin of benefit to warrant their existence, but the photo book is going to get relegated to the library.

    And all this book borrowing nonsense. Get effffing Real!!! What planet is this really going to work on?

    The way it can exist economically, It already does exists, it’s called a library, F.F.S. you can even check it out if you want to sit on your couch and view it. I got a funny feeling that the people championing book borrowing as an innovation never spent time in a library.

  17. January 9th, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Joe

    What I’m really excited about with the future is that access to photography can actually get even better for ‘works’ of photography and the path of compensation for photographers is going to get even better from what I can only describe as Indie photographers (indie in that they will be about art verses a photo book on Paris or a book of big boobs)

    The way I see it we will get a tablet that hit’s a stage of maturity that it’s like the mac monitors that we’re all processing our images to be viewed on or printed from anyway. Calibration is going to be a menu setting like selecting Adobe RGB or something, not an expensive device.

    The way I see it, soon we will be able to pay what seems like a token amount (say £0.79) for a quality iPhotoEssay and because it seems so trivial in cost, maybe 100,000 people will purchase it.

    Photographer need to take a simple lesson in economics, they need to understand production curves like production and price curves; specically produce until marginal cost equals marginal revenue.

    If they do this they will suddenly see there’s no shame in selling a stellar work like Alec Soth’s Sleeping by the Mississippi for £0.99, because more people will become infected by it and possible buy a second work and it's better to sell 100,000 copies at £0.99 than 1,000 at some unapproachable price.

    The model is alive and well in music and the barriers to entry are even smaller for photographers as artist. It's there to lose for photographers.

  18. January 9th, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Joe

    My hope is that this iPhotobook genration will kick-start a revival of ‘let’s make a tape’ generation where people think about sequence and song rather than just a bunch of killer images to present on your website to evidence photographic talent. I think iPhotobooks could be the catalyst for such a revival.

    But this is probably all a pipe dream because all the so called ‘thought-leaders’ are too busy trying to re-invent the library or don’t realise that if you want a photograph that is ‘art’ then buy a ‘real’ print, get it properly framed so it lays flat and put it on your wall with good lighting and nice spatial harmony with the rest of your art and the rest of your living area.

  19. January 9th, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Joe

    As far a moving the digital experience along, personally we're trying to move this 'past' theory. we're working with some like-minded individuals over at http://www.LunaticMag.com to embrace reality.

    Core to the strategy at Lunatic Magazine is appreciating the economics of an on-line magazine over a print magazine. Core to the strategy is an appreciation that Photography is a Communicative Medium First (and an artefact last) and therefore its message can be delivered without it being published on paper at a great cost and if published on paper only available to a fraction of the people it could be.

    Core to the strategy is deal with this Darwinist constraint and improve the experience you can get from offering other than print.

    I don't know where the future is heading, but i must admit i think you can divide the camps up between:

    those that care about the communicative qualities of the medium and the desire to manage the quality of the medium and the desire to infect as many people as they can with the medium through the greatest access.

    and

    The current thought-leaders on the topic, those that think the book as an artefact is more important than the things i just mentioned.

    By the way, i will still use film and i will still buy photobooks until they cease to be available, but my pitiful support won't keep kodachrome in business nor will it support the plight of the traditional quality photobook.

  20. January 10th, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Joe

    I think this is exactly where we are going.

    Stefan has done a great job on this front and i can't wait to get this download on some soon-to-be tablet as it's a pleasing experience even on my iphone.

    I've shown this to my non-photography friends and they were entertained and that's the goal, no?

    http://www.stefan-rohner.net/blog/?p=461

    Is it so crazy to think something as simple as this doesn't lead to a purchased print that will lay flat in a frame on a wall somewhere? Is it so crazy to thing what's not purchased is still enjoyed for it's communicative value?

    I think this is the future and the early adopters are just going to be better off. This is no longer the bleeding edge, this is the cutting edge with what you're proposing.

    Wedding photographers are making a killing off this feature.
    ..

  21. January 10th, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    @NouvellesImages

    I have really enjoyed discovering LunaticMag. A strong demonstration of what you write. Thanks.
    Increasing access to a wider audience is the key of iphotobooks or iphotomagazines projects. It's a nonsense to me that a paperphotobook reaches an audience of 3000 at best. At this level of distribution, the PhotoBook is something important only for the Photographer – He has his work published as a book. But it is not important for the audience (out of the 3000 happy fews). Most of the potential audience will never experience the book because of access barriers.
    wr to the concept of smaller benefits of photobooks on tablets or iphone rather than on paper: a much bigger, easier, risk lesser accessibility compensates largely. MP3 music brings less audio benefit than CD or Vinyl music. But in this case accessibility won over perfect benefit.

  22. January 11th, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Joe

    Hi, i tried to address this below.

    The economics actually work in favour of an iPhotobook. This is all about producing until marginal cost equals marginal revenue. (marginal cost is much much much higher in hard-printed work)

    Economics show that the lower the price, the lower the purchase friction, the lower the price the higher the sales, the higher the sales the higher the total revenue, the higher the 'total revenue' the more likely a photographer will hit a break-even on the project and start to generate revenues that exceed cost.

    What's missing from photography is an appreciation that you can lower the cost of offering your work without ‘cheapening’ your work. Do you think Pearl Jam has suddenly become ‘cheap’ because you can buy a lifetime of blood bundled into a single song for £0.79? Does it sound massivly inferieior if i didn't buy the CD? Photographers need to grasp this concept or just keep whinging about the old days.

  23. January 12th, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    @OcularOctopus

    Very few products follow a straight line relationship between price and demand. Its usually more of a curve and there's a point at which lowering prices are decreasingly effective at driving demand. I think in art photography, the total audience size is restrained by something other than the availability of cheap photo books. Visiting a gallery is near zero cost for the consumer, but attendance has yet to outstrip movie or concert ticket sales.

    A major cause of concern regarding digitization and near-free pricing is that this will make devoting sizable amounts of time to photography nearly impossible. It's already pretty damn hard to make a living as a photographer, especially of the fine art variety. To use your Pearl Jam analogy, the expectation is for PJ to make up their sales revenue through performance. What would you suggest is the analog for this for photographers?

  24. January 13th, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    @bengolik

    Thanks for the link to LunaticMag. Some really lovely work by some great photographers. But for me what lets it down is the obsession with recreating a 'print experience' … online. Pages you 'flick', the familiar contents page, and a totally linear approach to the presentation and perusal of photos. For me, this format doesn't move the digital experience along. Surely there are more dynamic and interactive ways to present photography electronically? Anyone know of any good examples?

  25. January 13th, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    The Future of Photobooks « Katherine Rondina Photography

    […] How should photobook CONSUMPTION evolve in this decade? Moderated by Todd Walker. […]

  26. March 5th, 2010 at 11:54 am

    The Future of Photobooks « APA San Francisco

    […] should photobook CREATION evolve in next decade? Mediated by Marc Feustel, creator of eyecurious How should photobook CONSUMPTION evolve in next decade? Mediated by Todd Walker, creator of Gallery Hopper and Ocular Octopus How should photobook FUNDING […]

  27. May 10th, 2010 at 10:08 am

    MaryAnn

    I think in this age photo books are more meaningful than most other things (especially as gifts). There are options to print them or to publish them online but regardless of whichever method the fact remains that they are an excellent way of preserving precious memories.

    A few decades ago the idea of a mobile phone was not even born which illustrates how dynamic the world of technology is. My guess will probably be the evolving of the photo book in ways we wouldn't even begin to fathom today

  28. August 26th, 2012 at 12:50 am

    Kidsada

    cheap wedding phhotgrapoy is not something we promote. You must look at your wedding phhotgrapoy as an investment and you do get what you pay for. Also always remember that your not just paying for one days work and a wedding may be 2 or even 3 weeks work for your photographer. When you look at it that way you can see why a full time professional simply cant work for a3250. Saying that i do not believe you have to spend thousands and with our packages starting at only a3700 we offer great value.I hope you find your photographer. Please do lots of research before booking to make sure your getting a true pro. Andy

Leave a reply




 

READY TO GET STARTED?

Pick your package. Pick your design.
No credit card required.

Start 14-day Free Trial
Compare packages

FREE EBOOK

Learn how to engage your audience and
build brand recognition across social
channels. Learn more...

Free eBook

Search Resolve

Search