Shoreditch House 21 January 2015
Recently I attended a panel discussion at Shoreditch House headed up by David Jenkins, Trevor Johnston and James Bell on the subject of movie book publishing and what its future is. If it even has a future at all. As so much information and previously published content is widely available on the internet, is there still a place for traditional books, such as the Halliwell’s Film Guide or the Radio Times Film Guide? Has our relationship with physical objects changed? Do film books and publications need to evolve in order to survive?
As a designer, having grown up relying on books for information, but now working in the digital industry this poses an interesting question. Is the book vs online digital content the equivalent of the vinyl vs MP3 divide? Has traditional publishing really become that niche already?
When you’re watching a movie and you can’t quite place… the lead actress for example… what do you do? My instant reaction would be to head to IMDB.com. Where the answer is just a few clicks away. 10+ years ago it would be found in the pages of those aforementioned publications. Film guides, such as Halliwell’s and the Radio Times, were published annually and contained basic information about every movie. Finding the answer in a book gives you the opportunity to discover additional related content. Looking for it online means you're just as likely to end up looking at videos of cats instead. The sheer number of films that are made each year, however, makes this an unfeasible model to continue to publish.
It was mentioned that the viewing experience for online content generally isn’t particularly good, especially on smaller devices. This is an interesting issue for those working in the digital industry. How do you make the digital version of published work, an e-book for example, more exciting than a PDF or endlessly scrolling text? Can the digital version and the published version co-exist and complement each other? One example given was Little White Lies. This is a cult magazine published bi-monthly. Every issue is redesigned based on a newly released movie. It's so beautifully designed that each issue is collectable and extremely covetable. Movies are released all the time though so how do they reconcile that with their bi-monthly publishing schedule? Recently they launched a weekly version of the magazine as an app. This showcases more amazing illustrators and designers while keeping readers up to date with film news in between printed issues. All of the content produced for the app is exclusive to the app so they can generate revenue from new subscribers.
For the second part of the evening the panelists discussed their favourite movie books. The new Wes Anderson compendium was discussed at length. Is this what a movie book needs to be in order to be successful? Beautifully designed coffee table books by the likes of Taschen and Rizzoli? Do books need to be covetable, not just informative? The Stanley Kubrick tome published by Taschen has to be the bench mark for covetable movie books, but is there another director who inspires such extended curiosity? Is there anyone alive who has the same mystique? Suggestions from the audience included David Lynch and Terry Gilliam.
Below are images of a new movie design book from Criterion that I own. It is exactly the kind of beautifully designed coffee table book that the panel discussed as being the ideal model to appeal to a more and more digitally inclined audience.
David Jenkins; Editor Little White Lies
Trevor Johnston; Film Critic Time Out, Radio Times, Sight & Sound
James Bell; Features Editor Sight & Sound