It’s all geek to me

When asked to detail the Small Bore Books production process – not that often to be honest – we sometimes refer to ourselves as post-digital digital publishers. We use domestic computer technology to produce those most quintessentially analogue of objects – limited edition books.

The SBB workflow is quite straightforward. All of the published texts to date have come to us as print manuscripts – letterpress, laser printer and Gestetner documents. Via manual transcription or translation of PDF documents they have been converted into text files for editing and proof reading. We use a somewhat outdated version of Apple’s Pages (Pages 09) for page layout because of its pagination and type features – still unmatched by the latest versions – and appropriately enough we run it on a comfortably middle-aged Mac Mini. The production team dread the day when some part of this combo becomes too ancient to maintain and we will have to indenture ourselves to InDesign or some other Adobe product.

The real heart of the printery is the Fuji Xerox SC 2020 printer. Its manufacturers think of it as an office workhorse, or in the words of the brochure, “a multifunction printer targeted at the Small to Medium-scale Enterprise (SME) market” but it has some hidden qualities. Thanks to something called a Current Confinement Self-Scanning Light Emitting Device (based on another Xerox technology called the Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser) it produces very high resolution type (2400×1200 dpi) at a respectable speed (up to 20ppm) on both sides of paper weighing up to 250 grammes per square metre. It also scans documents quite nicely and possibly sends faxes in its spare time.

The printery

For Black and / or White and Julian Dashper: Untitled CV the SC2020 was also used to produce the covers on A3 card. A more ambitious design brief for New Zealand Potter: a partial archive led to a relationship with Whanganui designer Joseph Salmon. His cover, with a selection of images referencing the original publication and a woodblock rendering of the title, was produced by Perry Print who have also been responsible for the binding of all our books. In the first two, the original typefaces and layouts were reproduced digitally – a kind of reconstructed facsimile. For NZ Potter, which featured a mixture of typewriter fonts in its early years, a new style was developed using a combination of Univers and Gill Sans on the entirely unscientific basis that if you like Bernard Leech, you probably like Eric Gill. In no way can Joe be blamed for that choice or any other aspects of the book’s interior design. We are excited by the Great Leap Forward in shelf appeal brought about by his cover.

New Zealand Potter wood-cut by Joseph Salmon

New Zealand Potter is also the first SBB title to use the SC2020’s colour capability. Aside from the sharp increase in costs for the four-colour toner and a significant slowing of output, the results have passed quality control. On review, it is possible that the accounts department will determine that this is an area for budgetary caution. Nevertheless, as with all three SBB publications to date, the book demonstrates that in limited editions our particular medium-tech, low-rent approach to publishing actually works.

New Zealand Potter: a partial archive

Over the last two decades, the disruptive proliferation of low-cost digital tools has all but wiped out formerly lucrative enterprises like recording studios, photographic laboratories, typesetters and video post-production houses. At the same time the expectation has grown that the world wide web and electronic books would do the same to publishing. But it turns out that books and Kindles are not the same thing. Just as people find value in vinyl pressings of music recorded on ProTools or in movies edited on laptops, it seems they are going to fill their coffee tables and shelves with books made of paper for years yet.

Frank Stark, SBB Editor