Print-on-demand is a relatively new production method based on digital print that has revolutionized the book world. Allowing for very small print runs down to one single copy the availability of book titles no longer requires a physical stock — in contrast to traditional print runs. This has fundamental effects on the production of printed matter and its contents.
Contemporary experimental artists and writers who have adopted print-on-demand publishing praise the method's low financial risk, creative autonomy, and independence from trade publishers. They embrace it as a means of self-empowerment and democratization—although (or, maybe, precisely because) it has been discredited by the literary establishment as a vanity enterprise and by book lovers and designers irritated by its low production values.
Drawing on some of the most notable examples of the genre, this talk investigates how print-on-demand functions as a critical media practice that continues avant-garde, underground, and counterculture traditions and also responds to our post-digital age in compelling us to re-conceptualize our understanding of the book and publishing.
Andreas Bülhoff is an artist and researcher based in Berlin working on the intersections of text and technology. He is about to receive his PhD from Goethe University Frankfurt with a dissertation on concepts of interface in digital and post-digital text art entitled "Textbox. Writing Interfaces" (submitted for publication). Together with Annette Gilbert he is conducting a "Library of Artistic Print on Demand" as part of the research project "Artefacts of the Avant-garde 1885-2015" (FU Berlin / FAU Erlangen). For 2021/2022 he is a media art fellow at Center for Literature / Burg Hülshoff. His recent publications include "sync", a series of 100 zines (2019/2020), and the sound poetry vinyl record "ɅV – A Sound Writing Tool" (Research & Waves 2020, with Marc Matter). > https://abue.io
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