OP Becomes Fine Books & Collections
Fine Books is a substantial visual upgrade of OP.
By Bruce McKinney
Book magazines, like some chemical elements, have half lives that tend to be short. The history of book collecting magazines is littered with high hopes and good intentions, none of which have ever saved a single publication from what Dylan Thomas has called "the dying of the light." Publishers, even those who read their history, are not troubled by the lottery odds of finding success in publishing for they, like Macbeth, have their moments upon the stage and thus achieve a certain immortality. In some sense there is no publisher's failure, only the audience's failure to appreciate. It takes a certain self confidence and bravado to undertake such an endeavor. One such man is Scott Brown, editor of Fine Books & Collections, a transformation of OP, short for Out-of-Print, which he started with Dee Stewart who has recently retired from the field. His new partner, Webb Howell, brings a publishing background, knowledge of the process and a personal interest in books to the next stage of this project.
The publication is much changed. Fine Books & Collections is now in color, the black and white issues under the name OP look a bit pale by comparison. Around the waistline it has gone from 36 to 48 pages giving the magazine added heft. It is an interesting effort well worth supporting.
I spoke with Scott by phone recently about the revised publication. He spoke of his continuing desire to make the publication timely and to be willing to tackle some of the larger issues in the collecting field. And he of late brought Nicholas Basbanes, the Twain, if not the Tolstoy, of book-related writing in as clean-up hitter, adding to what is already a skilled group of contributing writers. The revised publication now has a broader perspective, as the old and new names make clear. Here are some of the articles in the first issue of the revised publication:
Gently Mad by Nicholas Basbanes -- A reflection on the trinity of book collecting;
Fine Presses by Scott Brown -- Peter Koch explores the limits of publishing with ancient Greek texts;
Beyond the Basics by Joel Silver -- Leaf books take a page from history. Now we know about two books the bibliographers missed.
How I got Started -- Bill Fisher, Co-organizer of Pablo Neruda, 1904-2004: A Centennial Exhibition.
OP Becomes Fine Books & Collections
OP in black & white.
The focus continues to be on the collector, albeit a wider variety of they, the toughest people to find in the world of books. Dealers, like cordwood, are stacked-up on Abebooks all the way past 12,000 but nowhere are collectors, who exist in theoretically huge numbers, as visible. This revised publication reaffirms its goal to continue the accumulation of this rare breed that dealers may intersperse their advertised messages to commune with them. This effort seems about right in its goal to connect with traditional collectors. The subscription price is a modest $25, a price that suggests management sees their future more among plebians than patricians. Certainly the numbers are in the plebians. As Scott explained it, "We didn't do a focus group on the price. It just seemed like a reasonable amount." The larger goal is to help and suggest ways in which collectors may creatively collect. In this it undertakes a portion of the essential challenge that this field today confronts: to inspire collectors to the collecting opportunities that are daily being redefined by electronic commerce and huge, searchable databases. It's a lot to make sense of. "Dealers have always," Scott said, "given special attention to the wealthiest collectors. Fine Books & Collections is geared more to those who are on their own."
Scott continues to work from Eureka, California. His partner Webb contributes the business side of the business from Durham, North Carolina, pre-production and design are handled in New York and ink hits paper in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Here is a link to their website: http://www.finebooksmagazine.com
We wish them the best.