Now is the time for experiments

It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem […] There is one possible answer to the question “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments, each of which will seem as minor at launch as CraigsList did, as Wikipedia did, as Octavo volumes did […] No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need.

– Clay Shirky, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable

With boxes of Solipsistic Pop 1 disappearing before my eyes with each passing week, now seems like a good time to talk about reprints and how I see future editions of Solipsistic Pop surviving beyond their limited printruns of 500. It’s a question I get asked often and, inevitably, it leads to a discussion about internet/digital publishing models – which is something I’d like to address here…

Solipsistic Pop was always conceived as something that makes sense to print as a beautiful, physical artefact. I’ve written about the reasoning behind this before, but never referenced a very important factor of the production. The one, oft-overlooked advantage of digital publishing that had to be addressed was the issue of environmental sustainability – a problem that was solved by using Calverts, FSC paper and bio inks. Every insert, mini-comic and free gift that comes with an edition of Solipsistic Pop has been carefully sourced to ensure it is an environmentally responsible venture.

But the anthology was also created to provide a high quality platform for new and established comic artists based in the UK. With only 500 copies in existence, this may limit their exposure which would be a huge shame and defeat one of Solipsistic Pop’s main objectives. So I intend to – when a volume reaches the end of its printrun – offer potential new readers three options:

  • The main book through a POD service
    I tend to agree with The Beguiling retailer Chris Butcher that POD digital printing offers sub-standard printing when it comes to image-reliant material such as comics. But, like him, I’ll accept it’s a useful and economically viable way to keep back issues in print. The quality of the printing won’t be as good as the original, and it will come without the extra gifts and inserts which give the book such a tactile experience, but the price will obviously reflect this.
  • A PDF emailed or posted on a CD
    Again, this would be the main book only, and come at a very reduced price.
  • An iApplication
    I’m currently looking at the best way to get Solipsistic Pop onto an iPad. I’ll look into other eBook readers when they start offering colour screens to view the work. I can’t envision an iPhone version as the comics were designed to be read in print and iPhone comics need an entirely different – and very specific – approach.

All of which satisfies my desire to keep Solipsistic Pop green. This is not to say I can’t see other delivery systems working at some point in the future but these, to my mind, are the more sustainable and workable right now.

I’d also like to offer up some free, exclusive internet content at some point – but I’m currently concentrating on a couple of extra books that will be released – if all goes to plan – next year alongside the main anthology: Solipsistic Pop Solo will offer up 16 pages of original material from some of the best Solipsistic Pop alumni. A chance to showcase individual artists and spend a little longer in their world. I’ll announce more information about this nearer the time.

That Clay Shirky quote at the top of this blog continues to echo around in my head these days. It did so when I saw Matthew Sheret’s idea for an organic, constantly tweaked “Unzine” last week, or when I first discovered Newspaper Club, or when We Are Words + Pictures organise another comic event, or when Bookleteer launched, or when meta-data gets used to make physical Christmas decorations, or… well, I could go on and on and on

It’s incredibly exciting being in the middle of a revolution. With old systems crumbling and thousands of interesting and inventive ideas rushing to take their place, why would you want to be in any other industry?

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