|How long will it be possible to print books traditionally?|
In the last few weeks we’ve been learning how to create “e-books”, and now have a few titles available for download. There should be more available over the coming months, allowing for the constraints of rights and permissions. Please be assured, however, that there is no intention for Tartarus to move away from the publication of old-fashioned, traditionally-made “tree-books”, but it would be perverse of us not to explore the new technology and make great literature available to those who would rather read on their Kindle, ipad etc.
E-books are frustrating, and not just because the process of conversion is fiddly and time-consuming (we have updated our first attempts at e-book design as we have refined our skills.) When we design our physically-published books we take a great deal of time and effort to make sure that the font is just right and the proportions of the text, word-spacing, leading, margins etc are harmonious and pleasing to the eye. With e-books, however, all of this has to be stripped-out to make sure that the text will flow easily in a device where we have no control over the way it looks. Presenting classic supernatural fiction in the “arial” font, with bright blue hyperlinks for chapters, goes against the grain, but we tell ourselves that ultimately the text is the most important thing. We are not complete Luddites. However…
The one aspect of the new technology that does disturb us is that the nature of traditional book production and printing is changing as a result of the popular move to e-books. For the last few years our books have been printed and bound by Biddles in King’s Lynn and we have had a very good working relationship with them. Yesterday, however, they told us that they will be replacing their Litho presses with new ink-jet presses. They offered to send us samples, confident that the quality of this new, untested technology would be just as good as traditional lithographic printing. They hoped that we would be happy to accept this compromise, but then added that none of the paper we specify can be used. We would have to accept either staring-white, smooth paper, or very poor-quality high-acid cream paper.
And so, with regret, we start the search for new printers. We called Antony Rowe, their main competitors, who we have used in the past, and were told that they still have their Litho presses--at the moment. They admitted, however, that the days of long-runs are over and even Penguin print their books in very low-numbers because demand has dropped and they don’t want to pay warehousing costs. Mainstream, high-volume publishers are turning more and more to digital printing.If we decide to work with Antony Rowe, it may not be for long…
So, while we are not going to rail against the rise of e-books, what they are doing to the traditional print industry is potentially very sad. As Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changin’”.
Tartarus press e-books currently available direct from the publisher, or via Amazon:
The Doll Maker and other Tales of the Uncanny by Sarban
amazon.co.uk amazon.com direct from Tartarus
The Old Knowledge by Rosalie Parker