Slowbook is a testament to slow social media in the twenty-teens, consisting of 64 A4 pages (8.5 x 11.5), hand bound in hard covers by Irene Lazzarin of Slowbook (Italy), with adhesive-backed, digitally printed content scrapbooked on every page. Slowbook is published as a limited edition of 21 copies. 2 copies remain for sale at the time of this posting.
Contributors include Deborah Mitchell, Musta Fior, Emily Sytsma, Brandon S. Graham, Juliet McAra, Jennifer Rauch, Lisa Chun, William Cody, Jeanne Mettner, Lori Chilefone, Jennifer Mikulay, Eric Widi, and Tim Vermeulen.
How and why there is a Slowbook
I used to have a Facebook account. I enjoyed it for many years. I met a lot of new people, became aware of a lot of new issues, and saw a lot of funny things. But eventually it got the best of me. I hated myself for the amount of time I spent in front of the screen, for waking up and going directly to my computer to check my Facebook feed, and for publicly carrying on in pointless ephemeral threads. I was a Facebook addict and I felt I needed to go cold turkey.
To document a conscious shift away from online social media at the close of 2012, and to compare the value of time spent surfing social media to time spent engaged in the physical world around me and old school creative production, I put out a call for postal “status updates,” in the form of text, photograph, artwork, or link to an article published online, before closing my account. I promised to create a limited edition book, comprised of reproductions of the contributions, and send one copy to each contributor upon completion, if I received at least ten submissions by the end of 2013.
My original limit for submissions was set at 420 characters, because I once received an error message on Facebook telling me their character limit was 420. The first submission I received was plenty over 420 characters and four pages long, so I dropped any restrictions on contributions, and accepted everything that came to me.
As it turned out, a flood of four submissions in October and November brought the total number of contributors to thirteen. Lucky me.
Some of the contributions came in the form of artwork, some in handwriting, photographs, or inkjet printed, Word-formatted text. Word-formatted contributions were scribed by hand, in the style of The Sphere, the grocery zine that established this press in 1993 at Koppa’s Farwell Foods (no longer in the family).
Everything was scanned, digitized, printed, trimmed, and adhered, scrapbook-style, into books handmade in Italy, by Irene Lazzarin (whom I met when I googled “slowbook” and found her Etsy store, aptly named Slowbook, in February 2013).
And here we are, three years later.
A little narrative about the process
14 December 2015
It’s off to the post office I go, after a long and very pleasurable few weeks of putting these books together. Here’s a short photo documentary:
After organizing the layout of the book on the computer, everything was transferred to 11 x 17 pages, packed tight to maximize the paper and make trimming as efficient as possible. This meant the first order of business, after picking up the printed paper from the local business printer, was to cut everything down.
Most of the material was printed on label stock with adhesive backing already on it, but I had this adhesive applicator machine (Xyron) and 150 feet of adhesive to use up, so some of it was printed on plain paper and needed to have the adhesive applied. This turned out to be a little tricky and explains why some of the stuff in the books is a mite wrinkly. But most of the wrinkles came out with the plastic squeegee, which in this case was my UW Union lifetime membership card.
Finally, I had to face the daunting task of pasting 64 pages of content into 21 books. I generally went at it 4 pages and all 21 books at a time, which was roughly a 45-minute process. Each time I went into the basement to work on it, I’d light a stick of Nag Champa and hit play on the same shuffle of classical music off my ipod. Great thing about this experience was getting familiar with my very limited classical catalog, which I hardly knew I had. It was very soothing…oboe and Bach and organ concertos…and I grew to like it very much. The process turned into a wonderful ritual and offered a lot of time to reflect on everything that was going into the book, allowing an awareness of beautiful subtleties and serendipitous harmonies within the random content. There is plenty to think about within the covers of these books.
What seemed like an impossible journey ended sweetly, without much fanfare, and the books were then signed and numbered, and the covers rubber stamped. Fourteen copies were carefully wrapped and stuffed in mailers, to be sent to each of the contributors later this morning.
A great experience, but I’m glad it’s over.
29 November 2015
I’m workin’ on it, I’M WORKIN’ ON IT!
Things are progressing…slowly. I had hoped to finish this project by Black Friday, but domestic priorities prevailed, and that’s not only okay, it’s the way we like it around here. The good news is that completing this book is top priority and I don’t think I’ve ever felt better about finishing anything.
This is/was a good project. I hope you will like it, too.
8 October 2015
Blank books in transit from Italy, to arrive on Monday. Contents on display at 1900 Park Creative Space, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. Re-posting the prospectus here, if you are interested in reserving one of the 5 copies available for sale.
29 September 2015
Received an email from Irene this morning to inform me that she is shipping the books today. All of the original content will be included in an exhibit of my collage and book work at 1900 Park Creative Space in St. Louis, Missouri, during the months of October and November. It is looking like the finished books will be completed and ready for shipment by Black Friday, 2015, three years after the project’s inception.
10 May 2015
Irene Lazarin is manufacturing the books in Italy, to be shipped to Viroqua this summer. This title is now top priority, with intentions to publish on Black Friday, three years after the project’s inception.
24 November 2014
Read an article a while ago about how maybe we are designed to take a 2-hour sleeping break in the middle of the night. Couldn’t sleep from 1 to 2, after going to bed at 10, and decided to get up and lay out the content for the Slowbook. Did just that and now going back to bed at 4:15. Kids get up for school at around 6:45. Should have just got up at 1.
22 October 2014
The prototype binding from Irene Lazzarin mentioned in previous post arrived about a week ago and looks especially excellent. Just finished editing all scans of all content to be included in the book (another about 2 1/2 hours) and am very excited to get down to business with layout. Once the prototype is complete, 24 more blank books will be made and shipped from Italy, then “scrapbooked.” After each contributor receives his or her copy, about 10 copies will be available for sale. Prospectus soon.
11 October 2014
The prototype binding from Irene Lazzarin is on its way from Italy. Should be here any day now. Next step will be to layout the content like a scrap book, and to do that I needed to scan every last piece of the content into the computer. I just did that. 39 scans, about 2 1/2 hours. That’s progress.
18 August 2014
It’s been a busy summer with the real money-making work in the cemeteries, but I am just back from a relaxing vacation and have had some time to catch up on personal correspondence. This led me to an envelope on my desk posted in Ubino, Italy, from Irene Lazzarin, regarding her involvement with the Slowbook project. Long, long ago, I found she had a small hand bound book for sale in her Etsy store, which is named Slowbook. I tried to engage her in this project, not sure how it would work, exactly, and the correspondence began, both electronically and through the post.
Today I am writing a response to that letter and will continue to seek the right solution to this slow moving project. At the moment, the previously considered digital layout and printing seems all wrong. More soon, relatively speaking.
20 February 2014
All contributions received in the form of desk-top printed Word documents have been rewritten, or maybe we can say redrawn, by hand, in the same manner as The Sphere, the grocery fanzine that launched this enterprise 20 years ago. Next step is to mount those pages on boards so they will scan nicely for laying out the book digitally. I am thinking this can still be done before 1 April, and I’m not kidding. At this time, I am expecting to turn into a 30-something-page zine format. Thank you for your patience.
5 October 2013
11 contributions received. Layout and design to commence (such a professional sounding word) middle-November.
20 April 2013
Contributions for this project continue to trickle into the mailbox. Without taking the time to count, the current total is something like 7, with a requirement of 10 contributions before committing to making it into a book or zine. (More likely more like a zine.) Reached out to a powerblogger, Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slowness, and he responded by plugging the project on his website and Facebook page (ironically). The result was a grand spike in traffic to this page, but so far nothing has come in the mailbox as a result of it. I remain hopeful that the necessary 3 or 4 contributions will come before the year is over. To repeat…this is an open invitation to everyone in the world. Read the details below (and do not request further instruction, please, because there is none).
14 February 2013
Your computer, like mine, is like a magnet. It doesn’t seem to bother everyone, but for some of us, the excessive screen time stirs up anxiety and a longing for pen and paper in a less electronic world. This past November, after a fairly active 3½-year stint on Facebook, I finally decided I had had enough. I deactivated my Facebook account on Black Friday 2012. That same week, I left LinkedIn and abandoned my idle Flickr account.
I am a creative artist, with a past history of working in the realm of self-publishing, the book arts, and collage. Toward the end of 2012, I came to realize that I used to be much more creatively productive. Maybe it was the task of raising two little girls with my wife, which began about the same time we relocated, almost nine years ago. Maybe it was the full-time job I took as a professional graphic designer at that same time. Maybe it was all the focus on running the stone lettering business I purchased a year and a half ago. And maybe it had something to do with getting sucked into the internet while all those things were happening.
It really started to bother me that the things I like to do most—the things that make me ME— like making books and zines and collages, haven’t been happening as much as they used to happen. The only variable that changed was the time I put into it. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I don’t do much research—I’ve always been motivated by and trusted my intuition.
So I’m leaving social networking behind, for now, to open up more time for creative production. About a week before I officially deactivated my Facebook account, I had an idea about how I could leave Facebook and begin a new book project at the same time. In one final Facebook note, I offered up an invitation to over 700 friends to participate in something Facebook-like, but more in keeping with my interest in slow media. I promised to create a physical book out of the first ten “status updates” I received in my postal mailbox, and gave the project a working title of SLOWBOOK.
As of February 14, 2013, I have received 3 submissions in the mailbox. None of them are from my Facebook friends. Rather than give up on the idea, I decided I’d post it here and give it a chance to be seen and shared by anyone in the world. Fat chance, maybe, but better than no chance at all.
Dec 2012: The Slowbook Prospectus
To document my conscious shift away from online social media at the close of 2012, I intend to create a physical book of “status updates” from whoever chooses to send me one in by U.S. post. When I receive ten “status updates” in the mail (which may be accompanied by a photograph, artwork, or link to an article published online), I will create a book, in the form of a zine, comprised of those first ten submissions (which will include the contributor’s name and postal contact information).
My original limit for submissions was set at 420 characters because I once received an error message on Facebook telling me their character limit was 420, but I have since rationalized that anything that will fit on one 8½” x 11” page will be acceptable. The first submission I received was way over 420 characters AND four pages long, so really…I guess anything goes, within reason. Please consider the audience could be multi-generational, with ages ranging from 12 to 82 (or something like that), and I reserve the right to reject any submission based on whether or not I feel it is appropriate for a general audience. I sincerely hope I don’t have to exercise that right.
If it turns out that I don’t receive ten submissions by the end of 2013, I’ll cancel the project. But if I DO get those ten submissions, we have something. We could be generating a new network of slow media activists. We could be starting the SLOWBOOK revolution!
SLOWBOOK will be published as a limited edition of 21 copies; one for each of the contributors at no charge, one for me, and the remaining 10 for sale to standing order subscribers to The Heavy Duty Press (of which there are three), other libraries’ special collections, and private collectors, at a price to be determined by time and materials (to cover all publication costs). Persons interested in receiving a printed prospectus in their postal mailbox (if this project matures to completion), please write to the address below to make your request known. Thank you.
107 S. Dunlap Ave.