A Holly Lee and Lee Ka-sing online magazine
Published on Fridays since January 2019
Writings/ Photographs/ Poetry/ Archives
(Books and e-books) A Life in Publication
written by Holly Lee
The irrepressible love of publishing: a long path
If we start counting the years we were involved in publishing, it would have been over thirty five years, typically half of our lifetime. We started publishing QIU YÍNG 秋螢 in the mid-eighties; DISLOCATION 女那禾多 and DIGI 秩智 from the early to late nineties, and after we relocated to Canada, in the following decades, publishing, in one form or the other, still occupies a large part of our lives. As soon as we settled down in Toronto, even at a beginner’s stage, we began to install our server and build websites; on top of that, we made progress in finding a new way of working - to sell photographs online. Considering a fledgling, immature venture, our online business went quite well in the beginning. But with the exploding growth of the Internet, came the flooding and the drowning, and only the biggest and fittest can survive. We gradually sank and lost our voice.
From Desktop publishing to Electronic publishing
Since the late nineties, we had begun to use computers to do desktop publishing (DTP). By that we mean, to create documents using page layout software on a desktop computer. A goodbye to the era of paste-up days; DTP was, and still is, used almost exclusively for print publications. We began to do our first electronic publications in 2000. We worked on the design and page layouts on the desktop computer, converted and finished them in the PDF format. Portable document format (PDF) is a popular platform for both Apple and PC; it can be viewed on the computer screen, or printed out either with a black-and-white or colour printer. But most importantly, it retains the original design and layout; whereas a website cannot, and the design will vary from monitor to monitor. For the good half of 2000 to 2006, we had in fact, dealt with electronic publishing (primitively), the e-books, e-zines etc. using basically the PDF format.
Detail of a promotional card for LIGHTREADINGS.COM showing eighteen photography e-books we published in early 2000.
Going back to 2001, the first e-book we published was Araki Nobuyoshi’s Erotos. It was for an exhibition we mounted that same year. For that matter, we acquired the domain name LIGHTREADINGS.COM as the brand identity for our line of e-book publications. In a few years time, we've published over twenty titles. Among the publications we produced, most notably was the e-book "China Avant-Garde 1993-98". It featured 100 photographs by Xing Danwen from the series “Wo-Men”, which has documented, through a personal diary, the Chinese Avant-garde art of the 1990s. In this e-book we invited Christopher Phillips (Curator, International Center of Photography, New York) to write an introduction. Another important e-book was "Citizen of the World", which also served as the catalog for an exhibition held for the New York-based photographer Tseng Kwong Chi. Coupling e-book and exhibition at Lee Ka-sing Gallery, we've published for Canadian artists Diana Thorneycroft; P. Elaine Sharpe; Balint Zsako, as well as the Japanese artist Hideo Suzuki.
Our enthusiasm and faith in electronic publishing abounds; the economy, easy circulation of the medium means that we have more freedom (and power) to create. For a year (2004-5), Ka-sing contributed a monthly column in PHOTO PICTORIAL, which focused on the e-books we were publishing. He used the pen-name 閱光本部, which literally means the house of reading light.
From our archive, hard copies of some of the e-books we published from 2000 to 2005. We might say it is a primitive version of the Print-on-demand (POD) books. The pages were printed out from PDF files, and spiral-bound at Kinko.
E-books and E-zines
When DISLOCATION ceased to be published around 2000, we already had the idea of publishing it as an e-zine. The making of an e-zine is exactly the same as producing an e-book, except the former has to be published periodically. It was until 2004 that we had the first DISLOCATION e-zine (Issue 14) published, followed by two unpublished issues of 15 and 16. Before that, we had published two e-zine: FOTO POST (2003) and ARTPOST TORONTO (2004-2005). When our gallery moved to Gladstone Avenue, it was renamed INDEXG. It had two floors with four exhibition spaces. We began to publish GZINE (2006). It was an electronic publication created to document and promote our exhibitions. All the while we'd been employing the PDF format, thus these e-zines were viewable on screen, or printed out on paper to be bound in a book form.
From 2003 to 2004 we had been publishing FOTO POST, a semi-monthly e-newsletter in PDF format. In the first year, there were mostly two to three pages in one issue, subsequently, when the contents grew more pages were added. Twenty three issues were published before we ceased production in September 2004. FOTO POST was at that time available for free download.
The premiere issue published in January 2003 had only one page. The last issue released in September 2004 had already grown to 9 pages, with a main focus on Katy McCormick's reportage on Arles Rencontres de la Photographie 2004.
Three issues of GZINE published respectively in July, August and September, 2006. The publications featured exhibitions in LEE KA-SING Gallery, INDEXG and G+. We had uninterrupted exhibitions held at all four gallery spaces then.
The GZINE shown here are from our archive. They are hard copies printed from PDF files. The electronic publication was circulated for free download.
From PDF to a new phase of Electronic publishing
The electronic book technology was advancing quickly. When we were publishing the PDF e-books, we almost wanted to buy the server software designed by Adobe, to manage the distribution of e-book publications. But the program was too expensive and therefore out of our reach. As time goes by, the e-book medium has grown increasingly mature. The technology was pushed further with new developments from Apple and Amazon. They represent e-book publishing in two different directions.
Viewed on iPad (desktop computer as well), Apple focuses on the fixed layout e-books, whereas, Amazon’s Kindle device reads mainly text-based e-books; more advanced on text-flow, and font-select features. Today, after several generations of development (in both file format and device), either picture-based, or text-based e-books have become much more sophisticated. The later version of Kindle was created to read fixed layout e-books as well.
To follow the stream of electronic publishing, Ka-sing bought the early version of the iPad in 2008 to try his hands on the new e-book designed by Apple. An incident occurred, the iPad was stolen by two petty thieves who came into the gallery. The reason that his continuous effort in updating new e-book publishing technology was in suspension, and side-tracked by other important things.
After twelve years of running the gallery on 50 Gladstone, at the end of 2018 we decided to close the operation and move to a new practice. The gallery space is now transformed into a working+living quarter. Moreover, a library and a small art saloon for exhibitions. From the beginning of 2019 to the present we published a web-based zine DOUBLE DOUBLE, which was released on Fridays. We spent time on the archive of work and projects we have been doing in the past forty years, from the late seventies to present. The weekly webzine, in some ways serves as a material vault, a repository for our old and new work.
NINE YEARS marks the beginning of our larger publishing project through the print-on-demand (POD) process.
It was one wintry morning in 2020 I received my first-ever published book: NINE YEARS - my book with a selection of poems from 2010 to 2018. A birthday gift I asked from Ka-sing. NINE YEARS also marks the beginning of our larger publishing project through the print-on-demand (POD) process, which we've been studying and evaluating for years. In the early stages of POD publications, the quality was not ideal. Some looked like print-outs from colour laser machines, and the binding was not comparable to traditional practice. It took another decade for the printing industry to switch operations from traditional off-set to digital. Publications, at last, do not require large print-runs as in the old days. With good marketing and matured technology, some companies, more capable than others, have succeeded in providing a print-on-demand (POD) service efficiently, and almost seamlessly at a global-wide base. It was predicted a long twenty years ago, when we were making PDF e-books, that the future of publishing could be printed on demand. This means that we can do smaller print-runs with a smaller investment (as little as one copy); get rid of the storage; let another party handle production, logistic, distribution, shipping, and so on.
The marriage of on-paper and electronic book publishing
And we have followed this idea! Since 2020, we have already published close to two dozens of books with the digital printing process, all softcover paperbacks POD, with page counts from 40 pages to 480 pages each. These publication titles vary from my poetry book to Ka-sing’s photography monograph, as well as catalogues for exhibition at our art saloon.
Meanwhile, we have made further progress. After a long haul of locking down, in 2021, in September we showed Kai Chan’s new work at 50 Gladstone art saloon. Then, followed by THE DIARY OF WONDERS - Tomio Nitto’s exhibition in October. For both exhibitions, we published a POD exhibition catalogue as planned. Both publications were well received. Along with the POD paper version, we began to publish the e-book version as an optional format. The time is never more ideal than now: The pairing of paperback and e-book, the coexistence of on-paper and electronic book publishing.
Since a POD paperback book is printed at order, it aims at a targeted audience. The print-run can be small, but precise. POD makes alternative book publishing possible, even though it costs a bit more than books published traditionally. It is more relevant than ever to combine publishing a POD version, and make it available also as an e-book edition. For those who still love the touch of a book, and rejoice, seeing the content on paper, can order a physical copy anytime. For others who would be happy to keep an electronic copy, all the e-books we publish are at a flat rate of US$4.99 (even for a thick 480 pages publication such as Ka-sing’s CODA).
A selection of titles we produced in 2020 and 2021, which served as catalogues for exhibitions held at the 50 Gladstone art saloon. Now, for every upcoming exhibition held at the saloon we plan to produce a book. These publications will be available in both paperback (POD) and e-book versions.
A selection of titles of our work published with the digital printing process. All softcover paperbacks are available as print-on-demand (prices vary from page counts), and e-books are available for download at US$4.99 each.
SWAN HOUSE (348 pages), was originally featured in DOUBLE DOUBLE, in the December 2020 issue. In the coming days, contents from previous issues of DOUBLE DOUBLE will be re-edited, and organized into books.
A full circle and the new DOUBLE DOUBLE
Two decades have gone by since we worked on the first electronic book (Erotos 2001). As the year 2021 soon slips into the shadows, we see ourselves coming full circle, arriving at the same spot - reviving ideas we’ve had twenty years ago, relearning history, readjusting to newer technology, always relentless, always zealous believers in the publishing festivity.
Our DOUBLE DOUBLE was published as a web-based zine since January 2019. As a weekly it came out every Friday, and 158 issues have been published. In January, 2022, a new DOUBLE DOUBLE will emerge as a monthly, in both softcover paperback (POD), as well as an e-book version. It is a publication in the format of 8x10 inch, page-run from 100 to 200 per issue. The contents will include the usual - our new work and archives in both photography and writing. Additional content will be our collections, collaborations, and every issue featuring an invited artist.
Beside the new DOUBLE DOUBLE, and books on our new work and archives, this new publishing project will also include collaborations with a handful of artist friends. We are working with them to organize their lifelong, creative achievement as well as developing new projects. A life in publication, as we see it, is purely a passion; it is not, and significantly more, than a business.
This is the back-cover of the new DOUBLE DOUBLE, January 2022 issue. The new DOUBLE DOUBLE will be published monthly, based on our archives and new work, with additional content on our collection, collaborations and featuring an invited artist in each issue. Available in both paperback (POD) and e-book version.
A list of Print-on-demand publications we produced from 2020 to 2021, some of them are also available in e-books. Some are produced for the purpose of testing, a few are private editions not released to the public.
Nine Years (poems, Holly Lee), 156 pages, Feb 2020
To unlock the heaven with a piece of circular cloud (photography, Lee Ka-sing), 40 pages, Feb 2020
DoubleDouble+, 40 pages, Feb 2020
Poetry #01 (photography, Lee Ka-sing), 40 pages, Feb 2020
Poetry #02 (photography, Lee Ka-sing), 40 pages, March 2020
Calendar Beauty, 40 pages, March 2020
Double Double Box in a Valise (on-site), 64 pages, May 2020
Double Double Box in a Valise (a close-cropped), 40 pages, May 2020
domestic-life-colour-book (photography, Lee Ka-sing), 480 pages, July 2020
Coda (photography, Lee Ka-sing) 480 pages, Sept 2020
Coda, 2nd edition (photography, Lee Ka-sing) 480 pages, Feb 2021
The Air is like a Butterfly (poems, Holly Lee), July 2021
Istanbul Postcards, 60 pages, July 2021
Kew Gardens, 52 pages, July 2021
birthday cake, Mahler, the island at afar (photography, Lee Ka-sing), 60 pages, Sept 2021
Twenty Twenty (Kai Chan), 48 pages, Oct 2021
The Diary of Wonders (Tomio Nitto), 80 pages, Oct 2021
Eighty Two Photographs (Lee Ka-sing), 180 pages, Oct 2021
Time Machine (Lee Ka-sing / Gary Michael Dault), 180 pages, Dec 2021
Swan House, (photography, Lee Ka-sing) 348 pages, Dec 2021
I Hope You Are Well (photography, Lee Ka-sing), 24 pages, Dec 2021
A Holly Lee and Lee Ka-sing online magazine. Published on Fridays since January 2019. Published by OCEAN POUNDS and archived at oceanpounds.com
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Holly and Ka-sing currently live in Toronto with their daughter Iris, and their cat Sukimoto. Contact with email at - email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org