Sunday, 27 July 2014

reflecting on deep things



i had an email this morning from someone who required to know whether my books were printed on recycled stock.
she wrote :

"I am curious. Are your books printed on recycled paper and with other eco-friendly materials? I have Eco Colour but borrowed Second Skin from the library. They look like they were expensive productions. Please tell me they are produced with recycled paper and earth friendly inks and materials."

i wrote back and explained that the Australian edition of Eco Colour and the first edition of Second Skin were indeed printed on recycled stock and with vegetable inks but that the United States edition of Eco Colour wasn't [it was out of my control along with the advertising that appeared in the back of the book much to my surprise : for the record i do not endorse any of the advertised products] and that the second edition of Second Skin wasn't either [due to management changes at Murdoch Books]

but afterward i wondered whether she was typing her message on a computer made from recycled parts and using only earth-friendly energy? hmm.

and is there a reason why a book made from recycled paper should not look sumptuous?

that would imply that those of us who choose to wear environmentally 'friendly' clothing should perhaps dress in sackcloth so that we don't look too elegant. [admittedly my family too frequently observes that i look as if i am wearing a sack but that is another matter. entirely.]

the Blurb books are not printed on recycled stock. nor are the inks made from plants. i accept this is a drawback. on the bright side, though, the "print on demand" platform means that there will not be warehouses full of remaindered books rotting away because nobody wants them.

i've had that problem before, having overestimated the catalogue numbers for the exhibition 'watermarks' back in 2008. fortunately they were printed on recycled stock with vegetable inks so the box of extras [which nobody wanted at the time] made environmentally friendly [if expensive] weed suppressants in the garden.

i was hoping that 'shapeshifter', the handbook about clothing that i am preparing to publish in the Australian spring could be printed using as environmentally responsible means as possible.
that it would be a limited edition available by direct subscription, even if that meant i had to package them all personally [unlike Blurb which has printing houses dotted around the whirled and does all the packaging and mailing]

i'm still debating whether i will be able to fund it myself or whether to dive into something like Kickstarter. or whether i should go that road at all.

the cold hard fact is that though it's really exciting for me each time some kindly person buys a book, total sales [of all titles] through Blurb so far this month number only 352 and 30% of those were 'e' books or PDFs.  in order to keep the unit cost reasonable [so that with postage it is affordable as well as returning something on the investment of my time] i would need to have at least 1000 printed. and there wouldn't be an 'e' version. the thought of investing it what may become yet another pile of unwanted weed suppressant is somewhat dispiriting, so in the interests of market research...

what are your thoughts, oh gentle readers?

make a huge financial investment in eco-sustainable printing the hope of breaking even?

or stick with Blurb?

neither way is perfect. neither am i. but as i wrote to the correspondent above, i'm doing the best i can.



+

don't forget folks, those of you who have bought the Bundle Book still have until August 3 to enter that lucky dip for one of three ecoprint tsunobukuro bags, details
 here


 PS this dam was constructed by bulldozing legend Sam White for my father back in 1997. the bulldozer is not, in all honesty, and environmentally friendly tool, but in the hands of those above it created a very beautiful place for quiet reflection...even if that goat insists on coming along for a walk.





47 comments:

  1. India, I would love a real, hold in your hand, book- I know that investing in self publishing is a huge commitment, but I for one would love it if you went down that road. The blurb books are lovely, but feel more like a magazine. I treasure Eco Colour and Second Skin - they are well thumbed copies and, after showing them to numerous people I know they have generated more sales- most people peeping into their depths want their own copies. I don't envy your decision but know that whatever it is I will be holding a copy of your new book in my little hand - smile.

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    1. Thank you Jane, it's actually a five figure commitment to have it printed and bound - and it's going to be under 100 pages so not really in the league of the two that Murdoch Books produced, especially not with a "serviceable plain brown cover"

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  2. Well, sometimes I make decisions on how much anxiety each option will generate, and I think there would be a lot of worry generated by the 1000 copies that were waiting to be sold, and needed to be sold because they had cost a lot to print...so I would stick with Blurb for now, because maybe the delight factor of each one as it sells and then is produced, is bigger than the potential anxiety produced by the other option. And who knows, some new solution might come along any moment. I love them all.

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    1. the anxiety factor is a serious consideration and may well tip the balance!

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  3. I love real books best of all and if it wasn't available as an ebook I would buy a copy. Even though at the moment I am trying not to buy real books as It makes me too sad when I have to leave them at home while I am on the road, I would still buy this one. x te

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  4. I think the blurb concept of printing-as-wanted possibly outweighs the other issues. I am not a mathematician, but in the balance using only what you need is as good a principle as any. I would suggest that if blurb had an eco-friendly printing option it would at this stage cost a lot more to produce, but perhaps if readers tell them directly that it is important to them, change may occur. In the meantime, will be looking out for the 'shapeshifters' later this year, in whatever form it takes- would be happy to chip in for eco-friendly publishing, but maybe that's a bridge too far. Cheers from a fellow sack-dresser (albeit coloured with nature's gifts!)

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    1. sacks...beautifully comfortable and hiding a multitude of sins [well, mine do]

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    2. trying not o think too much about what sins might be going on under your sack!!!!

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  5. I say this because it is my honest response, not because its an attack: whilst you, and others, continue to fly around the world, the damage done to the environment is so huge that whether your books are printed in an environmentally friendly manner is neither here nor there.

    On another note, these days, unless I can buy a book second hand I only buy ebooks or POD. This is due to simple storage issues!

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    1. you're quite right. flying does do damage.

      I should stay at home instead of flying around the world to teach.
      and possibly not offer any workshops at all because otherwise people might fly here to attend them.

      and give away the computer because it takes energy to make them and to use them.

      i suspect i'm not the sole cause of the problem though...other things travel by plane too such as fresh out-of-season cherries, cut flowers and drawings purchased on ETSY sites to name but a few. at least i don't buy any of those.

      frankly the only way for us all to stop ruining the planet is if we each dig a nice vertical hole, hop in and put a period to our lives.

      but then who's going to feed the cats?

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  6. Dear India, whether you fly or stay home by the dam, exploiters and spoilers will still whizz across the skies. I love your work and sharing it surely is more important than not.

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    1. thank you, Elizabeth, for the calm voice of reason.

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    2. Pretty sure you had neither a hand in the current Government nor the impending massive coal mine so you is probably small tatties.

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  7. Oh dear, you can't win. I wonder if people who criticise are scrupulous in all areas of their life.
    I love books. You can't beat getting one down off the shelf and gazing at the pictures.
    May be you could "crowd source" the funds? There is a company who came up with a watch for the blind. Buying "shares" entitled you to a watch when they got going. A huge success.

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  8. It’s very sad that you can’t make more of an income from these blurb books. I think they are a good solution, being print on demand in the same country as ordered from. And how sad too that you had to compost all those catalogues.
    As for not flying versus flying, well, I think we need to go forwards, not backwards, and put money into devising ways of getting around that just don’t do that sort of damage. Unfortunately big business and government are not interested in thinking forwards, and they are rapidly getting us into a position where we will go backwards very fast.
    Personally I try to balance things – at home I use sustainable electricity, more expensive, but it balances out the fact that my business has no other way of being eco. My cashmeres are very un-eco in their manufacture – but they are not throw-away, and people keep them for decades, so they are tens of times more eco than cheap fast fashion.
    And yes, it’s easy to be critical – but which of us is not guilty? The internet uses horrible amounts of electricity, by buying my iphone I contributed to the world’s misery, Brooke Bond’s workers in Kenya will lose their jobs if we boycott the company for its awful employment practices … once you start, I agree, India, you might as well jump down a hole and end it all.
    I for one will be very happy to continue to buy your books from blurb ☺

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    1. thank you Jane. there aren't any easy solutions but i'll keep on planting trees here on the farm to account for the flight emissions.
      and as you say, garments made with care and treasured for decades are certainly much more sustainable than trash fashion.

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  9. the original editions of the amazing two are absolutely beautiful books. they are large, they demand the reader to become involved in reading. they are puzzles, though they are organized, you really need to read (and reread) them to really know them. your road into print on demand has resulted with the latest one, the bundle book, being the most well written and designed. you've got it down. since murdoch or a like minded print firm doesn't seem to exist, i must say that this seems like a good option. of course, a hand made edition would be lovely...

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    1. ideally i would love to be able to pay Toyoko [the designer of Second Skin] to do the layouts for me...especially as i don't seem to have mastered the additions of page numbers, index and such...but i don't think that will happen this year.

      it would be lovely to have my pix and text together with her design, in an edition that allowed for some hand-dyed bits to be tipped in. for now, i'll keep dreaming.

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    2. india, this would be wonderful, really. and it could compliment your other edition...

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  10. Stick with Blurb. It is far less stressful financially. What you impart is far more important than how you impart it. I love Eco-Colour and have returned to it many times. Just the other day, as I looked at the Hypericum perforatum you located in the far field, I reviewed your pages. Keep doing it all, and make it work for you! We'll be out here for you.

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    1. thank you. glad to have been useful...and happy to act as plant spotter any time!

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  11. I wrote a long and philosophical response to your post, you will have to take my word for it as blogger just decided not to publish it. I am lookinf forward to your book in whichever form you decide. Reminder warehouses are the graveyards of many an author's hopes and dreams, sad places.
    As to flying if we didn't have planes I wouldn't be able to leave my island, I get horribly ill on boats. We can't go backwards we just have to do the best we can in this mad, bad world we have made for ourselves.

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  13. Everyone has a carbon footprint. We all damage the earth in some way in the process of working and living. Your teaching and writing promote caring for the earth, so that balances out the use of printing materials. I suggest Blurb, and admit some self-interest: On a Wandering Wind softcover is $92.24 US, and the ebook is $13.36. I prefer real books, and love my copies of your books. However, affordable access really matters so as many people as possible can learn what you can teach. Also, less stress on the author is important for the same reason. Thanks for asking for opinions!

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  14. To the person questioning your decision to fly around the world to teach classes, I would say it is well worth whatever environmental impact your presence on said airplane would have. Each student you teach will take home some of your wisdom - not just about how to color cloth, or how to stitch a garment by hand, but even more importantly how to live a gentle and sustainable life, using what you have rather than consume new things, how to choose wisely and leave as few traces behind as possible. For me, meeting you in class was life changing, and I am convinced I am a better person for it. I in turn am now trying to teach whoever I interact with the importance of sustainability what impact our choices have on our earth. So for each trip you take on an fuel gulping and exhaust spewing airplane, your ideas will spread to more and more people. And the more people become aware the better off our planet is.

    As for the books - I too love the first two books. But I would make the more financially sound choice and go with the blurb books. Worrying about money and profit is never a good thing.

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    1. i'm figuring that the books i put on Blurb will, for many people, replace attendance at a workshop. viewed from that perspective that has the potential to save pennies AND airmiles. but of course there's nothing quite like a convivial and congenial gathering around a dyepot to really imprint things on the memory [let alone cloth]. i love what you're doing with the technique. beautiful.

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  15. Go with your gut. Blurb is a convenient and least costly option allowing for control over your content and design. The dirty little fact about recycled paper is that it is not an environmentally-friendly process to make recycled paper. Caustic chemicals including bleach is used to clean the ‘old’ paper. It is not an earth-friendly process. Much as I know you, I cannot recall that you profess to live as a hermit, or as a strict nun, slapping our wrists with a wooden pointer when we misbehave and use chemicals. You have instructed us to know our plants, use them wisely so as to do no harm to ourselves. For me, you are a beacon for how we can create art while being less of a pain in the ass on to the earth and to ourselves. More precisely, how we can dye fabric without doing harm to the environment. The result is that you serve as a reminder to me to be aware of life itself, and “Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is." Mark Twain.

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    1. good point about the paper. and blessed be Mark Twain. wisdom that persists.

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  16. I am counting the minutes for shapeshifter; I really am, and hope that it is a version that I can hold in my hands (write on, fold corners over, attach fabric swatches..). And if possible, could you include the instructions to make the 'tea bag' bag that you showed us in osoyoos? All I can remember is the colour of the sunshine, x and y, and klaudia's voice. Whatever you choose, it will be perfect for me, will annoy someone else, and there will be lots who fall in the middle. Besos.

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    1. it will indeed include the explanation of the x's and the y's. and that sunshine was glorious. a wonderful place to have been...

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  17. your books are beautiful and full up with great information and know how. personally i like to hold a book in my hand, tag the pages, leave notes between pages. books are a treasure. you will never please everyone so best to please yourself...and people will follow, or not. like annie, i am anxious for the next book that you spoke of in osoyoos - shapeshifter is it? you are doing your part to make this world a better place, to be a responsible artist and model that for others. do your thing india and all will be well!!
    xo

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  18. your decision will be the best one for you, I think its pretty obvious from your blog that you consider environmental things carefully in your everyday life. I agree with bc above - do your thing!

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  19. Many or us are doing the best we can... without retreating entirely to a cave with spear and flintstones. I recently was hired to sing at a gathering of high-powered women - artists, philosophers, authors, scientists, Buddhist Lamas, and academics who gathered to dialogue about climate change. They had flown from all over the united states, one from Hawaii. They were quite aware of the contradiction... its surely a tough time to make choices.

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  20. It is only possible to make decisions that are 100% consistent with your ethical position on the environment if you start by denying human impact on the climate and hold a value that it's fine to do whatever we want to this planet we're sharing. Everyone who has any commitment at all to sustainability faces many tough choices about participation in an economy that is global and organised in ways we do not all appreciate. Secession is not one of the options, and all else involves compromise. I am proud to count myself among the people struggling with such decisions rather than feeling able to claim complete consistency because of a committed decision to trash the planet.

    I love books personally. I treasure Second Skin and Eco Colour (and only last month discovered a whole new part of EC that I had not managed to find or perhaps remember on my first several cover-to cover reads)!

    I say this because you've asked what we think. But I recognise that our wishes as readers are only one factor. I imagine Blurb is much less stressful, and the case for it being sustainable because it is on demand and created local to the reader (relatively speaking) is very good, I would have thought. I hope the payment to you for e books is decent, but I am dismayed to hear how few copies have sold. Kickstarter is an amazing concept--but clearly also effort, which might be balanced by working with a designer...

    In short--sorry about the epic--I am delighted that you're working on another book, and view your capacity for ethical decision making on these issues as more informed and practised than most :)

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    1. i am grateful that you've taken the trouble to comment and for the reasoned thoughts offered! thank you.

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  21. I plan to stick around so I can feed my cats. We all leave a carbon footprint. That being said...I love the feel of a real book in my hands even if a tree has to die. Go with Blurb. BTW...loving my copy of The bundle book. I'm gathering, bundling and simmering along...

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  22. I think we should all do the best we can but I personally can't be 100% bio/organic... all the time. I LOVE your books and will cherish them forever so I don't mind saving up for the ultimate and I don't mind having to give up some vegetable ink or other stuff if that is what it takes. Do what feels right in your heart and those of us who love you will be happy for the amazing gifts you offer.

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  23. I really like that you have given us the ebook/pdf option as I am not that excited by the quality of the colour, printing or binding coming out of Blurb especially considering the relatively high cost. China is an option & Cressida Campbell has had a beautiful book printed in Singapore. It is possible to get short runs printed at a better price than Blurb but once again the quality of the printing is not great in CMYK, I am looking forward to the day in the not too distant future when we will get the same quality from commercial printers as we can out of our home printers using RGB and good quality paper.

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    1. the cost of Blurb is high because they are POD. I choose the matte uncoated paper option to date have been quite satisfied with the colour which is true to the images I have included. i have serious reservations about China. it's a cheap option because they cut corners and then things like this happen

      http://www.ecouterre.com/breaking-river-in-china-mysteriously-turns-blood-red-overnight/

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  24. I have read your blog and all the comments. Your funny India. I suspect that there is never a way to please all of the people all of the time, only some of the people some of the time. Having said that .. I got your ebook of the Bundles book .. now I know that there is something really nice about the tactile quality of a printed book but I still love my pdf.. especially I love the immediate gratification of having it available as soon as I purchased it. I still got to devour every word and every beautiful color of your exquisitely beautiful works in the comfort of my home while sitting on my bed with my molly dog, while drinking a cup of coffee. I am grateful to be able to have access to this book in this affordable way .. and I don't think we lose any trees in the process. I would still have a computer even if you didn't have pdf file ebooks. Personally, I wouldn't bother with the huge risk of losing money or sleep over being able to break even on the five figure self publishing book deal. I hope you do what makes you happy .. and live your life just as you wish and keep showing us what your doing. I'll be watching.

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  25. As others have commented, I love my copies of Eco Colour and Second Skin but I agree that Blurb might be the best option for now. It gives us the option of buying a non-physical copy and there are no wasted printings if each book is printed to order. My step-mum self published a book on her backpacking travels 15 years ago and I still have an unopened box of these that never sold. The financial risk and potential stress is not something I think you should have to shoulder.

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  26. i am voting for kickstarter. great way to raise funds for a beautiful book. i'm also not a fan of the quality of the blurb books. i don't thonk they do justice to the loveliness of the material. i treasure my eco colour and second skin books and would happily go without chocolate for the time required to invest in an equally splendid shapeshifter tome...

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  28. Kickstarter, yes. Definitely. :-)

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  29. Thank you everybody for your helpful input. Will admit that I find the notion of project managing and employing others frankly terrifying. There's a reason I fly solo! So I guess it will be blurb for now. Storage would be the other nerve wracking aspect. The more I think about it all the scarier it gets. Sigh.

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