The photography book market has been steadily expanding, and people know it. As far as I know, most photo books were always printed in small editions (a few thousand maybe), simply because the demand for them was so small. But interest in photo books appears to be increasing, just like interest in fine-art photography. And then there are the collectors, whose number also must have gone up: We now have books about photo books, with the photo books discussed in those now being even more desirable; and we also have, say, a book by photographers who get a book published under fake names, marketed heavily as limited edition (and strictly divided by the two big markets Europe and America), and everybody makes sure people know who the photographers are - as if we weren’t able to tell from the photos.
I love and collect photography books, but I don’t get quite as excited about their monetary value - present of future - as some other people. I mostly treasure them for their photography. For example, I own a first-edition copy of Alec Soth’s “Sleeping by the Mississippi”, and the main reason why I like that book so much is not because it’s sold out and supposedly has become somewhat valuable, but because of the photography.
A little while ago, I was at The Strand, and a friend of mine told me about a book, which he was certain to be very desirable in a few years. I was intrigued by that - simply because I don’t know enough about the market to know such things. But then I thought with money not being overly abundant I shouldn’t really buy a book solely based on whether it might be expensive later, so I didn’t buy it. But of course, a couple of days later, I went to Amazon.com and ordered two copies of the book (that was actually quite an interesting experience, since the physical absence of other books - many of which I probably would have preferred to buy in an actual book shop - removed some psychological obstacles). I should probably tell everybody which book I’m talking about to make sure the book will sell out, but I won’t - since that would take away some of the fun (and I will be sure to learn something either way!).
And then there are self-published books. Book making has become one of those skills that you don’t have to have any longer to be able to produce your own book. Needless to say, what you get if you use one of the many on-demand services is not necessarily what you would get if you printed your own pages and then assembled them into a book; but the quality usually is quite presentable. Because of the generosity of some of this blog’s readers I do own some self-published books, and I have come to enjoy their charms very much. There is something very rewarding about these books, because for the most part, they’re so unique. Even books produced by on-demand services don’t look generic, because their authors make sure to add enough personal touch to them. And sometimes, their sizes are unusual. I own a couple of such books that are barely larger than a pad of Post-It notes.
Now that on-demand book publishing has become so easy it remains to be seen whether the photo book market will become Flickred. I’m sure that some people might argue that that is going to happen, but just in the case of Flickr itself, I fail to see what would be so bad about it. It will be interesting to see how self-publishing is going to evolve. Maybe I should self-publish a book about self-published books.