November 2017 | Barbara Basbanes Richter

Volume Brings Online Publishing to Art Book World


Digital publishing has made enormous strides in recent years, upending the traditional book industry while also democratizing the process of book creation. According to an Amazon representative interviewed by New York Times reporter Alexandra Alter, nearly one third of all bestselling e-books on Amazon are self-published (though what "bestselling" means these days is nebulous and doesn't necessarily translate into authors striking it rich).

In any event, the digital medium is here and has forever changed the way readers consume books. Until now, the domain of art books has remained relatively unscathed by the revolution. That appears to be changing: London-based startup Volume recently partnered up with independent UK publisher Thames & Hudson to create the first online publishing platform for high-quality illustrated physical books. Volume's co-founder, Lucas Dietrich, is also the international editorial director at Thames & Hudson.

To fund each project, Volume hosts campaigns similar to Kickstarter. If the pledge goal is met on time, the project moves forward, and pledges are refunded if the project does not meet its fundraising target. Like other crowdsourcing ventures, Volume is offering rewards for backers at various monetary levels.

Appropriately, Volume's inaugural title, a journey through the world of printed matter, is Look & See by master designer and letterpress expert Anthony Burrill. As of today, the project has 103 backers who have raised nearly $5,000 towards their ultimate goal of $50,000. A minimum pledge of $20 nets the investor a copy of the book, while $650 gets you a day in the studio with Burrill, plus other typographic goodies.

Considering that many art books on Thames & Hudson's website range from $25 and up, crowdfunding an art book is not exactly a bargain, though that doesn't seem to be Volume's intention, either. Co-founder Darren Wall says that, "The flexibility and reach Volume will offer authors is unprecedented, from interaction with communities established around single book projects to exciting new production methods that would simply be beyond the capacity of most publishers." Future projects include a reissue of an art book on Brutalism, work by designers John Maeda and Takenobu Igarashi, and a retrospective on video games.