Rotterdam Experiences: Off the Press: Electronic Publishing in the Arts and DEAF

Last week the Institute for Network Cultures and Digital Publishing Toolkit brought us to Rotterdam to speak about The People’s E-book.  The conference brought together an interesting mix of academics, students, artists, practitioners, and a few other designers and publishers.  There was a focus on what are artists producing in terms of e-books, what different production workflows look like, and what the future for libraries looks like.  They did a great job documenting most of the conference, so I thought I would continue that trend.

program for the conference

You can view many of the presentations here:

You can see images of the days here:

There are re-caps of most of the presentations here and here


Making Epubs Easy with The People’s E-book: 

Oliver did a demo of the tool, explained pe-epub (the open source epub generator that we built for People’s E-book), and talked about Streambooks, our Tumblr to epub conversion tool.

Off the Press – Oliver Wise: Making ePubs Easy with the People’s E-book from network cultures on Vimeo.

As you’ll see in the video, we had a little trouble with the slides, but you can see them below!


Publishing Constitutes a Public

There aren’t photos or video from the Arts and Crafts Session organized by Silvio Lorusso, but our slides are below and you can read the full text of our presentation here.  Oliver and I spoke about our thoughts about publishers as a support structure for a public, our past work that relates to digital publishing, and how and why we focused on artists when building The People’s E-book.


DEAF: The Progress Trap

We also were honored to be a part of the DEAF (the Biennial Dutch Electronic Arts Festival) at the Het Niewe Institute in their TV Lunch Program.  It was more of a casual conversation about our practice as well as the others’ who were also a part of the conversation.

The exhibition at Het Niewe Institute to go along with the festival, whose theme this year was “The Progress Trap” was pretty great. I especially loved Revital Cohen and Tuur van Balen‘s work: 75 Watt.  They designed an object whose primary function was to choreograph its creation.

75 Watt – trailer from Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen on Vimeo.

Another favorite was also a video installation, by Gabriela Golder, entitled “Conversation Piece” which showed the artist’s mother – a militant in the Argentine Communist Party – reading the Communist Manifesto with her two young granddaughters.

CONVERSATION PIECE (the installation) from Gabriela Golder on Vimeo.

And Rotterdam has a pretty interesting mix of architecture. It was fun to be around.

What we learned while making YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES’ “Pacific Limn”: a free e-book for ipads


Since early last spring, we’ve been working with the renowned artist duo YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES and the Kadist Art Foundation in San Francisco to produce a new, free e-book for ipads that exists simultaneously as an original artist book and exhibition catalogue for those who missed their residency and exhibition at Kadist this spring.

The artist duo wanted to play with the idea of a book and the funny straddling of digital and physical that e-books are. Jeff Canham and Devon Bella worked to photograph a real book complete with a hidden compartment for a handgun that the book reveals on browsing.  Touching the gun brings up an original video by YHCHI that deals with Americanism, the problem of homelessness, and questions of how to or not to interact with people living on the street.

You can download the free book here>>

In the process of making this book, we learned a lot of things about the somewhat arcane world of e-pubs and ibooks.

1. You can’t have a full screen video (on touch) in a fixed format e-pub if you’re horizontally locking the pages and showing two pages at once.

2. You can change the cover size of an ibooks author book, but you have to open up the file and replace the asset. (takes about 20 steps)

3. You can’t have a transparent background for covers – it will turn the transparency black

4. It’s pretty much not worth it to mess around with javascript in epubs, except for really simple things.

5. HTML5/EPUB3 support is still pretty bad in ibooks.

6. You can’t have a external links on the same page as a video in iBooks Author.

7. You can’t have hidden videos or linked-to videos in iBooks Author.  But you can make a poster image for video that matches a background image, so that the viewer can’t really see it.  We matched a poster image to the page background color and put text on top and then styled the text to match the style of the links. Tricky.

8. You can’t hide the TOC or go directly into e-books that are made with iBooks Author.

9. Apple is sort of arbitrary an their approvals and rejections.  If you get tickets that you can’t fix – call them up and argue with them. Maybe a few times.  In the end, it’s a person who is making the decision so you have to get a middleman to write down your arguments that the Approver/Dissapprover will understand.

10. There are no page turning animations in e-books made with iBooks Author.


We, of course, could be wrong on some of these fronts. If anyone knows otherwise, prove us wrong in the comments!

A Modest Occupation

Photo: Luminary Center for the Arts

Right now we’re part of a little show in St.Louis, at The Luminary Center for the Arts, that focuses on the recent boom of art subscriptions and art CSA’s and takes a look at the work that is being produced through this model.  It is curated by Abigail Satinsky from threewalls.  The exhibition is part of The Luminary Center for the Arts’ How to Build a World That Won’t Fall Apart  Exhibition Series, a year-long exploration of the ways that artists and alternative spaces sustain their practice in times of social and economic uncertainty. The series, a product of an institution examining itself in a time of transition, resonates pretty strongly with us right now as they are exploring of the role of alternative spaces within a broader ecosystem and the collective identity that arises through collaboration.

The show features works from Alula Editions (Bay Area, CA) Art Practical Mail Art Subscription (San Francisco, CA), Community Supported Art ChicagoCommunity Supported Art Philadelphia,Community Supported Art MinneapolisThe Drop/NOLA (New Orleans), The Present Group (Oakland, CA), Regional Relationships (Chicago), and The Thing Quarterly (San Francisco, CA), along with a special reading room in the window space by Silver Galleon Press (Chicago).

Photo: Luminary Center for the Arts

If you aren’t in St. Louis between March 15 – April 12, 2013, you can still catch the show in other locations as it travels around the country:
June 28 – August 3:  Threewalls, Chicago, IL
September 14 – October 26:  Transformer Gallery in Washington, DC
possibly then to New Orleans hosted by The Drop

Abby also worked with projects included in the show along with designer Working Knowledge to create a publication featuring essays and profiles from participating art subscription services.  A physical copy of this publication can be ordered for $3 from Luminary Arts or you can download a pdf version by clicking on the image below.

Photo: Luminary Center for the Arts


New Project: The People’s E-book

Last fall, we went to a conference in Seattle and presented on a panel called Moving Forwards by Looking Sideways: Creative Thinking in Museum Digital Strategy.  This was a great opportunity for us because one of the things we’ve been thinking about a lot is ways that we might partner or work with museums to do projects that would benefit larger communities.   One of our co-panelists, Greg from Hol Art Books, brought up the idea of Museums employing and/or creating space for artists and startups in residence allowing the museum to not have the responsibility for “crazy” stuff they might do, but also gain the rewards of the programming, energy, and community building that these small groups might generate.  The artists or startups on the other hand get a little time and money to activate collections and larger audiences that are normally beyond their reach.  There are some examples already in place for this.  We love this idea and have been talking it up a bit, but something we’ve learned is that museums move slowly and in order for something like this to get implemented, it will likely take years, not months.

Live Museum Soundtrack, Machine Project at the Hammer Museum, 2010-11

Meanwhile, little guys like us and Hol Art Books can move pretty fast.  We hung out a lot with Greg while we were at the conference and spoke a lot about e-books – what they are, how they’re programmed, and why artists aren’t making more of them.  We quickly realized that they really are an untapped medium and started thinking of all the e-books that we should start making.  One great thing about them is that there is already a funding mechanism built in.  People are used to paying for books and e-books and inherently understand that transaction.  Yet they are built on html and the structure is open enough that there is room for a good amount of play, as long as you allow for the fact that the different readers, just like different browsers, each have their own set of rules.

Greg has had an idea floating around for an e-book builder that would allow many more people to start to play with creating, publishing, and selling e-books.  It would make creating an e-book as easy as writing a blog post. But he needed a partner to build it, and as this project fits nicely with our mission of creating systems and tools that facilitate the funding and distribution of artist projects, we offered to be that partner.

Tonight, we launch our very first Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of that project, The People’s E-book.  Help us realize this dream. There are some nice rewards that will encourage further learning, collaboration, and publishing of e-books at all levels.  E-books for everyone!

Web hosting that supports artists.


  • TPG21
  • TPG20
  • TPG19
  • TPG18
  • TPG17
  • TPG16
  • TPG15
  • TPG14
  • TPG13
  • TPG12
  • TPG11
  • TPG10
  • TPG9
  • TPG8
  • TPG7
  • TPG6
  • TPG5
  • TPG4
  • TPG3
  • TPG2
  • TPG1

Lego Hello World
I wish all my printers were made of legos.

LIFE photo archive hosted by Google
Images from Life Magazine going back to 1860′s, hosted by Google

Coming Face To Face With The President
Well crafted story about an under-heard point of view.

In California, Pot Is Now an Art Patron
A new funding source for the arts – reaping big rewards and funding many projects.  It’s pot.

Notes on Portraiture in the Facebook Age

Celebrity Book Club: A List to End All Lists
Because, well, it’s sortof awesome.

Are "Artists' Statements" Really Necessary?
The pros and cons about that nemesis for most artists.

This to That
You tell it what you’ve got and it’ll tell you what to glue them together with.

Work of art: Online store for buyers, sellers
Not the TV show!  Kelly Lynn Jones from Little Paper Planes is interviewed on her project, gives us a cheat sheet to local affordable art resources.

How to make a Daft Punk helmet in 17 months