Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research
  The British Channel Seen from the Dorsetshire Cliffs (detail) 1871

Paul Laidler

Professional Practice

Is it a game, or is it for real?

Medium: Digital Offset
Substrate: off-white text paper 90gsm
Book dimensions: Width 13.5cm x Length 21cm x Depth 2cm
Pages: 220 Perfect bound
Edition size: Limited

In Collections: V & A

The POD (Print on demand) facility is a relatively new addition to the artist’s possibilities for producing printed artworks via digital means. The development of the technology is a product of the digital revolution that has democratised the opportunity to self-publish. The democratisation has been possible because of the technology’s economic potential to reduce the costs previously incurred through mechanical printing processes such as offset printing. A large percentage of the POD industry caters for book publishing, although there are a growing number of POD facilities that specialise in fine art, digital prints for both artists and publishers.

From the self-publishing artist's perspective, the process follows a system-based procedure through a set number of options for printing a digital image. These options often include a choice in scale and substrate before remotely uploading the digital image (via the Internet) to a POD facility server. Once stored on the server, the digital image is then downloaded and printed to the previously established print options. Because the digital file can be reproduced and stored indefinitely, the edition size may be left open allowing for further renderings of the digital file at the client’s request – hence print on demand.

The book work above, produced via the POD facility Blurb in 2009, is a reinterpretation of David Bischoff's Penguin published book War Games. In this instance the book work is developed from a later edition of the Penguin published novel that uses the 1983 film adaptation of Bischoff's novel as the cover image. The visual reference of the film as a printed cover image is employed by publishers as marketing tool to sell more copies of adapted novels. Marcella Edwards, senior commissioning editor at Penguin Classics sees the films influence as a way to tap into new markets. The film image appears to make some classic texts more approachable for these new audiences. Edwards describes this phenomena where the text “becomes less classic, less difficult. You don’t need a PhD to read this stuff - it’s readable”.

The book work is a digitally recorded version of the Penguin publication although the transition from physical to digital becomes pronounced through the flatbed scanning of the books three dimensional form and the pixellated appearance of both text and image. The book has been recorded using the different resolution sizes of 12, 32, 42 and 52ppi (pixels per inch). These resolution settings assigned to the recording of the book are purposely set below the standard amount of pixel information required for reading digital images on screen (72ppi) and in print (300ppi). Here the ‘readability’ of a text and an image become integrated within the designing and rendering of the book as a visual metaphor for the novels dystopian undercurrents concerning digital technology and our trust in its utopian design.