Is Self-Publishing and Open Access Viable for Art Publishing?

In Discussion by Joy Hawley

By Joy Hawley

WilliBaumeisterIn the United States, Blurb has become a favored self-publishing platform for photographers and artists. But the phenomenon of self-published art books is rare in Germany — it’s rarer still for a high profile art foundation to self-publish a book and then offer it free to the public. But that’s just what’s happening with the “Willi Baumeister” open access art book project.

Introduced last month at the Frankfurt Book Fair, this new initiative has delivered a new volume highlighting the work of Willi Baumeister, a high-profile German modernist painter, in a traditional EPUB version, a POD edition, as well as an open access ebook available on the Willi Baumeister Stiftung’s website. All the high-resolution images of all the photographs in the book are available under a Creative Commons license.

The foundation, which worked with German self-publishing platform epubli to produce the book, chose to make the ebook open access in order to reach the widest audience possible. The aim, in particular, was to make it available school and university students, as the Willi Baumeister Stiftung often collaborates with educational institutes to support art education.

According to Markus Neuschäfer of epubli, the editorial coordinator who spearheaded the project, the Baumeister project is a perfect example of how arts foundations can take advantage of self-publishing services to produce quality art books at low cost. “We [also] want to demonstrate that institutes can also make high-quality art books on their own,” foregoing a traditional art book publisher,  said Neuschäfer.

While epubli assisted in developing and editing the volume, the foundation commissioned some services, such as the book design and writing, from other publishing professionals — some of whom epubli recommends on their list of trusted service providers.

As one of the first of its kind, the Willi Baumeister Stiftung hopes to lead by example in encouraging other foundations to open up their wide-ranging collections to  educational institutions and the public at large.

Could this be the start of a new trend in art book publishing? Or is it merely an isolated incident of altruism by a public-minded institution? Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Joy Hawley

A California native, I currently live in Berlin, where I translate from the German, edit English writing and attempt to bridge the German and English-speaking worlds because, in the words of Lyn Hejinian, “language is a medium for experiencing experience”.