All artwork shown is from the aptly titled Beautiful Birds produced by Imago for Flying Eye Books







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The rise of the beautiful book 

As the publishing market continues to evolve, Imago's Erik Pordes, comments on the changing perceptions of what it really means to own a book:

"I have long felt, that whilst the ‘mass market paperback’ particularly for fiction and popular reading is in a long-term slow decline, due to the obvious advantages of accessing content through downloadable e-books or indeed through on-line access, this is not true of the illustrated book or for novelty and hand-worked items. Often, such products are either given as gifts to others by those who buy them, or the physical product itself is a cherished item that people wish to own or possess.

As a result, publishers are having to try harder to produce better and more attractive products, which are worthy of being owned, loved and enjoyed. More and more creative thinking, experience and knowledge are required to produce products that really stand out but are still affordable in the real world.

For the same reason, I have always felt a little bit sorry for manufacturers in the music industry, where content is paramount and the ‘carrier’ seems unimportant – the point being that people generally don’t care if the music comes on an LP, a cassette, a CD or as a download.  So I was quite surprised to see an article in the UK Guardian newspaper about the growing appeal of ‘vinyl’ i.e. the old LP record.

The LP business is small, of course, but it is growing hugely. Three years ago, the total UK market was worth GBP3 million and this year it will be worth GBP20 million. And the reason? Simply the appeal of the physical product, i.e. the carrier, rather than the content (though there are some who claim to prefer the sound of vinyl records). So even in the music industry, the physicality of products has a place in people’s lifestyles. I thought this point was summed up very well in the following quotation in the Guardian article:  

“Rough Trade has witnessed sales of vinyl, which account for approximately half of all its sales, increase by 49% in the past year, according to director Stephen Godfroy. He said vinyl had been helped, perhaps surprisingly, by the rise in digital sales and the fall in CDs sales.

The growth, Godfroy added, is not driven by the more mature listener indulging in nostalgia, but younger listeners looking for a physical product to complement their digital music collection: “While the digital download is instantaneous and portable, the vinyl has a sensory quality. I think we are moving into a post-digital age where people do value something that is real – there is a value in its ownership, it is not just a piece of binary code on a mobile phone.”

I could not have put it better myself!

In our experience here at Imago, working closely with Publishers big and small from all over the world, we have certainly seen a shift in the type of products we are producing. There is more and more call for unusual materials that complement and reflect the most beautiful of designs. Deluxe and collectors editions are becoming more and more popular and are sometimes even shipped in their own special mailing cartons. Interestingly the Graphic novel is one genre that continues to thrive for all the reasons above. The books are beautiful physical products, packed full of creative design ideas and produced lovingly to high standards and hence a real pleasure to own. Keeping it simple is often the key and consequently, they do not have to cost the earth to achieve this goal.

Erik Pordes, Chairman, Imago