De Monsterkamer

The latest development in on-demand printing is hand-made in Hull

In Print on demand, copies of a book are not printed until they have been ordered and paid for. This allows books to be printed per copy, or in small editions. In practise, this means that individuals have the option of publishing physical books by themselves.

Much has been said about the popularity of print on demand and its potential benefits and pitfalls for the graphic industry. Today, it is a valid option for many large and small printing houses as self-publishing has become nearly commonplace. There has been a massive increase in the number of (sometimes very) niche books. At the same time, this often comes with a decrease in quality of the individual books, as well as a distinct, somewhat utilitarian, aesthetic.

Not so with G.F Smith’s newest project, Make Book. The nearly-130-years-old supplier of beautiful papers has started their own print on demand service, but there is nothing plain about what they propose to make. Make Book is hand-made in a bindery in Hull, England. Covers and endpapers are selected from one of 50 colorplan options, with a choice of 8 different embossings. The text block is printed with silver halide technology on photographic paper in gloss or matt. These books promise to be the sweetest of eye-candies.

And then there’s the option to deboss the title. And there is foil blocking in 7 colours. These can be applied to the front, back or spine. Covers may be full, or quarter bound in any combination of colorplan and digitally printed paper, Sizing options are a4, a3 and b5 in landscape or portrait. Oh, and they use a lay-flat binding, so you can print right across the spine if you should like to. It’s all pretty neat.

The launch of Make Book came not long after G.F Smith’s rebrand and new visual identity in which the hand-crafted aspects of G.F Smith’s work are emphasised. G.F Smith says Make Book further underlines the company’s “passion for tailor-made, creative print work.”

One of Make Book‘s minor, yet defining, features is how they decline to put their logo or name anywhere on the finished product. This emphasises their role as printers and craftsmen, and further distinguishes them from other print on demand services. Special Make Book software is available for Mac and PC, while more seasoned clients may use their Indesign templates. Books are delivered within the UK 7-10 days ofter ordering depending on the complexity of the order.

Unfortunately, as of yet, we have not seen any examples of real-life Make Books. The price range of 100-200£ per book does not seem wildly unfair, but might be somewhat prohibitive to the casual customer. I, for one, would love to see a small edition corporate relations gift in the form of a charming foil embossed Make Book. Or a photographer’s portfolio, or an unexpected artist’s book. While the craftsmanship and graphic applications look inspiring in themselves, I wonder how many interesting projects we are going to see come out of Make Book in the coming years. Something tells me it will be the same as with any technique that has become widely and easily available to the public in recent years: some find ways to do interesting things with it, and most don’t. However, any technique that approaches self-publishing with craftsmanship can’t be bad in my book.

How-to information and much more is available on G.F Smith’s lovely and comfortably navigated website, designed by London design office Made Thought.