Friday, 22 January 2010

[292] Bookleteer Workshop With We Are Words + Pictures

On Tuesday I was invited along with a number of creative types from the We Are Words + Pictures gang to a workshop at Proboscis headquarters, in order to check out their Bookleteer project, and to hear about the print-on-demand wonders they are working on there.

Bookleteer is currently in a closed alpha stage, but the thinking behind it is solid and inspiring. Users are invited to upload their own booklets (or storycubes), in PDF or html format, and are presented at the end with a PDF file for printing. Using paper-based magic and a pair of scissors, two or more sheets of A4 can be sliced up, folded and transformed into a handy little A6 eBook that fits in your pocket.

The uses of such a service are manifold: this is print on demand in a cheap, easy-to-understand, intuitive mode, giving the user the opportunity to throw together words, images and design ideas and have a (sturdy, eye-pleasing) tangible product within a very short time frame. As soon as I could, I tried out a couple of ideas. It goes without saying, that I was not the most design-driven of the workshop attendees, but here are my offerings.

The first two were quite straightforward. The cheap eBook format is perfect for publishing online content, so I put together two 'film/crit' booklets that collated some of my writing. The Jar City book closely mirrors what you would find in a DVD insert from cinephile distribution companies like Eureka and Criterion: a mini-monograph on the film, collecting both my essay 'Genre, Culture and Identity in Jar City' and my Den of Geek review. On the other hand, the Easy Rider booklet was a mixture of learning materials from a seminar on the film I gave back in 2008, and my recent Den of Geek review. Simple stuff, for sure, but it was quite thrilling to see these digital bits in print.

The third idea was something a little more narcissistic. One of the questions I'm always asked is regarding where my writing is published - so I thought the pocket-sized eBook format would be perfect for a sort of amalgamation of a portfolio and business card. So, I ended up with 'Places I've Written For: A Portfolio Booklet'. Something I can shove under the noses of new acquaintances, as opposed to mumbling something about 'niche websites that you've never heard of'.

But what was fantastic about the workshop was seeing the We Are Words + Pictures crew in full flight, testing the waters of the service from an image-led, comics-creating point of view. The ideas that trickled out were quite promising, with even the test prototypes coming out very well.


There was a lot of interest in the Storycube format, for the potential it gives for non-linear storytelling, and for its essence as an eye-catching art object - with Julia Scheele fleshing out a three-dimensional cube version of the logo design for WAW+P (picture stolen from Matt Sheret's Flickr).

WAW+P Shareables

Likewise, it was a delight to see Solipsistic Pop editor Tom Humberstone running off a quick booklet of material from the My Fellow Americans project (a political blog co-created with Dan Hancox). As the book of My Fellow Americans is out of print, and is likely to stay that way, the eBook format offers a nice way of creating a cheap, physical run of such small press properties for those who are late to the party (picture stolen from Giles Lane's Flickr).

Bookleteer is certainly an exciting service, and it was a pleasure and a privilege to hear the team talk through their ideas and ambitions for the project. Thanks must go to Paper Science boffin Matt Sheret for helping organise the workshop and inviting me along, and to Giles Lane, Karen Martin and Stefan Kueppers for their hospitality and generosity.

For more information on Bookleteer, visit or

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