The Artist Book Foundation, based in New York, works in a tradition whose productions aren’t likely to fall victim to ebook competition any time soon – though their producers might. And it has a financial model and donation structure which might help it get round the worst woes of the print book sector.
As the Foundation’s site explains, ‘Artist books, primarily artist monographs and catalogues raisonnés, are greatly valued by artists, galleries, collectors, art historians and students and many others. However, these books are being published less and less because they rarely are profitable for trade publishers.”
Needless to say, ebook economics are only going to make it harder for trade book publishers to justify the economics of art book publishing, so the Artist Book Foundation “ will generate a good portion of its annual budget through the sale of artist books, and is raising money from individuals and foundations. In addition, subventions and donated artwork will be used to fund specific projects.” The Foundation seeks for donations from as little as $1, but its highest donor category, the Collectors Circle, are expected to provide at least $25,000.
According to the Foundation’s website, its founder is “Leslie Pell van Breen, one of the most highly regarded and accomplished art book publishers working today. Prior to co-founding The Artist Book Foundation, Leslie was publisher and executive director of Hudson Hills Press for more than a decade, building that company into the premier American publisher of fine art books.” The Foundation also operates a Library Donation Program, where up to 10 percent of each print run will be given to public, art, and university libraries in the U.S. and abroad.
So far there are only three titles in print, but to a high standard that promises well for future editions. A younger artist series also offers opportunities for exposure to highly talented artists under 50 whose work deserves publication.
Whether the whole initiative manages to survive in spite of broader publishing trends remains to be seen, but it’s certainly an interesting and an attractive exercise.