Sunday, March 15, 2009


I recently spent the week in Washington DC and then New York City.  These are such crazy times, with publishers, directors, managers being laid off right and left.  And yet at the same time, it seems to me that people are starting to focus on what comes next. Whether that means honing in on That One Special Talent or Market, or trying something completely different. Maybe we are all starting to come to grips with the complete shock of seeing friends and colleagues and respected mentors get laid off - and beginning to focus our energies on what each of us can do to keep business moving.

Some people are focusing in on their specialty. John, a packager I know who combines incredible good taste with charm and good looks, is overwhelmed with work at the moment, all of it celebrity-driven. "These clients are so high maintenance" he sighs, "but it seems to be the work I'm known for".  Doesn't sound too bad, being the book packager to the stars!  

Others are exploiting a niche. My friend Steve is doing incredibly well selling something called components: those items like book jackets and covers for bestselling books and kids books, that have all the fancy foil stamped type and special sparkly varnishes.

Other people I know in the printing business are taking a look at some of the non-traditional applications of their technology. A friend of mine at Toppan showed me samples of a new, high-grade lenticular printing, which made me think of William Gibson's holographic rock diva in Idoru...

And some people are just completely re-thinking what they want to do next. Mary, a friend who worked for one of my biggest customers, just got laid off and is thinking of starting her own "green" publishing company, something she's had in mind for a while. This change in employment status is the motivation she needs to take a serious look at this idea. Her friends have rallied to help her: "I've got a lot of contacts, and people have been incredibly helpful with introductions and support."

And then there are the entrepreneurs like Bahar, who see this time as an opportunity to experiment with and exploit new forms of communication, through his podcasting company Sonibyte. I think Bahar is determined to turn everything in print into a podcast! Books, magazines, even blogs, are all possible sources for this new audio tool.

In the world of traditional book printing and publishing, it is definitely a challenge trying to cajole clients to spend the extra money to print in Italy. Then, once the job is printed, the next challenge is getting paid! Just in time, Mondadori's director of Sales and Marketing flew in from Italy last week to spend quality time with some of our best customers,  administering a combination of arm twisting and good old Italian charm. We are nearly out of ammunition at this point, so let's hope this works!

By the end of the week I am trying to nail down my schedule for the London Book Fair. But who is going to the London Book Fair in April? Is anyone going to the London Book Fair in April?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Carved in Stone

For six years, William Wylie photographed the changing landscape of the Carrara marble quarry. His images capture the intense physical scale of the site, the dramatic setting, and the character of the stone cutters - caravatori - whose families have worked the quarries for generations.

Wylie has worked extensively on the subject of place - from the American West to Europe. His photographs have been widely exhibited, and may be found in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Yale University Art Museum and others.

Bill Wylie was on press recently at Mondadori for his latest project, CARRARA, which celebrates the legendary Cava di Gioia quarry in Carrara, the source of the luminous white marble used by Michelangelo, Bernini, and Henry Moore. It is a beautifully printed project in duotone and four-color. I just received my advance copy and I confess, it definitely took my mind off the daily drone of economic disasters.

Which stone supports the bridge, Kublai Khan asks? The bridge is not supported by one stone or another, Marco answers, but by the line of the arch that they form. Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds: Why to you speak to me of stones? It is only the arch that matters. Polo answers: Because without the stones there is no arch. (Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities).

These questions from Kublai Khan are all quite interesting. But I wonder if Marco Polo could also tell me why these Carrara stone cutters are so darn stylish and good-looking?

Sartorialist, perhaps you would know ....