Saturday, January 14, 2012

Postscript to The Bonefolder

In the days since the last issue of The Bonefolder, Vol 8, 2012, many readers have shared their thoughts and regrets on Book_Arts-L, Facebook, Twitter, and their blogs. Please know that this was a very difficult decision, one not made lightly.

Gary Frost wrote in the January 13th post of his Futureofthebook blog:
"We now have the last issue of Bonefolder and it is a wonderful example of the series. This journal has provided an Ellis island of all the cultures that would make-up a nation. The relations of the diversity of features would still be difficult to chart as it required the whole sequence even to appreciate their scope. It is larger than book arts. The scope is closer to the qualities of physical books as depicted on-line.
Qualities of physical books depicted on-line is some kind of editorial paradox but the staff and Peter grappled directly with the challenges. The clean design and attractive two-column layout provided the perfect, conflicted, visual experience. We can also be appreciative of the energy and production of the authors.
Bonefolder is in the league of Fine Print and BookWays but it also enlarged the legacy. Now the momentum is handed off to the forthcoming journal of the Collegiate Book Arts Association. That larger organization will probably take more possession of its journal. Perhaps it will wish to take possession of the discipline of artists’ use of book formats. PDF?"
A day later Betty Bright wrote on Book_Arts-L:
"Let me add my congratulations to Peter and his able collaborators who have brought us Bonefolder since 2004. When writing or speaking about the history of our field, I always note Peter's key role in launching this listserv in 1994, followed by our first online journal in 2004. It isn't just that Bonefolder added a well-edited voice to the field, it's that Peter demonstrated how to do it, and how to do it in an elegant design and with an even-handed editorial voice that will inspire others to step up. With its free residence on the Internet, we have grown used to the amazing fact that each edition appears simultaneously everywhere and open to everyone. That is powerful work for the greater good. Peter and his collaborators have set a high bar, but we wouldn't want it any other way.
Vision and action, much energy and a quality product, that's service to the field of a high order. We owe you much, Peter and colleagues, and I know that Bonefolder will continue to inform us as we move forward and refer back to articles, reviews and interviews that have filled its pages.
Kudos all around, Betty"
To both (and all others out there), thank you for your thoughts regarding The Bonefolder and kudos to Gary for recognizing the conflicted nature of the publication, that of describing the physical book in a very disembodied way online.

As to the future. I very much hope that something else comes along that will build upon The Bonefolder and (hopefully) take the idea in other as of yet undiscovered or unimagined directions. When we started 8 years ago, the very idea of open access was still relatively new and discussion mostly limited to the academy and scholarly publishing circles. Those journals in the book arts that existed were print only and either restricted to the membership of the organizations that sponsored them, or available for subscription at cost as in the case of the Journal of Artist's Books. Lest we be seen as skinflints out for a free ride, all those working on The Bonefolder were (and still are) members of many of these organizations and/or subscribers, and are not opposed to paying for these.

However we were also very attracted to the idea of a freely accessible online journal with universal access to all classes of readers. Since we started,  some centers and organizations have started online journals, but none open access - The Bonefolder remained the only one of its kind.

Another unique aspect of The Bonefolder was to actively engage with our readers through our Bind-O-Rama. These showcased techniques or other aspects of our publication and invited exploration, the results being shown in the following issue and online. While The Bonefolder may be no more, the Bind-O-Rama will continue on as a part of the Book Arts Web. I'll announce the theme later this spring, but expect something traditional and codex-like...

However, to Gary's point about College Book Arts Association (CBAA) or other fine organizations with membership oriented publications filling this void, I don't see that happening. What set the Bonefolder apart was that from the outset it was designed to be open access and freely available to any and all online. It was the online only nature that allowed us to reach the audience we did with over 250,000 downloads over our 8 years, and a presence in just about every library's catalog through our participation in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). I may be a librarian/geek in this respect, but the results speak for themselves and will ensure that The Bonefolder remains available beyond us thanks to participation in digital preservation initiatives such as LOCKSS.

Membership publications are highly unlikely to provide this level of access for obvious reasons that have to do with their being benefits of membership. While the support of an organization can have sustaining benefits for a publication (and I agree with Gary on this point), it can also restrict activities and responsiveness due to organizational structure and bureaucracy that ultimately make it difficult to respond to paradigm shifts, especially in fields as traditional as the book arts. Looking at the online presence of most membership organizations (not just in the book arts) does not encourage me with lackluster results in keeping things up-to-date much less actively promoting the organization and its activities. I see this on Book_Arts-L, after 18 years still the most active list by far (someone please create the next great thing to replace it so I can retire ;-) ) and elsewhere online. Doing this work I get how ongoing care and feeding can fall off the radar, it is hard work and and never ends, but it is essential for growing and maintaining ones audience.

I'd love to be wrong about all this and challenge any of the membership organizations, or a dedicated and diverse group of individuals to take up the challenge of a serious open access publication in this discipline. To those energetic enough to try to create their own open access I am happy to share of our experiences.

The past 8 years have been amazing and we are thankful for the terrific support we have had from our readers and authors with whom we would have achieved nothing.


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