Speaking of photography books, Christopher Anderson has just released “Capitolio” which he claims is the first authored monograph photography book for the iPhone and iPad (here). I asked him a couple questions about it.

APE: I believe there are photobooks available as apps already so this is not the first is it?

CA: There are “photobooks” but they are all either collections of stock photography or something along the lines of a slide show that was put together for the ipad. The distinction I make is that it is the first authored monograph that was made for print and now has been translated to an “I” version. It may seem like a technicality outside the world of photo books, but it is a big difference for collectors, authors, and fans in general of photography books.

APE: Much of the value of a book comes from the printing, binding, paper and quantity that are made, essentially the cost to produce it. An app has none of this and in fact once you make one, the reproductions are free. Why would someone value the app over a book or in addition to the book?

CA: A book is the ultimate expression of the work, and obviously I count the original print version as the ideal original form of the book. But the technology got me thinking about how only a finite audience could see that end product where only 3,000 copies are printed and the price is out of reach for many people. By introducing the app version, I am democratizing the experience of the work by making it available to an infinite audience. And at 4.99 it is not a thing just for a certain elite. There are other implications as well such as the way that the book could now be used in an academic or educational setting. Perhaps the book could be used in a curriculum for photo students or, in the case of this book in particular, political science students for example. Yes, the print form is the consummate form, but now a wider audience can see it and understand the work how it was intended rather than just as a slide show on the web. Also, the app allows for added features such as a video interview that gives a deeper understanding of the work and a director’s cut of extra pictures.

APE: How does an app fit into the future of photobooks?

CA: As far as the future of photo books, I don’t really know, this is an experiment. But I imagine that the app version could ultimately drive sales of the print version…making it more valuable. It also might change the path of bringing a print version into existence. I could imagine a time where the existence of an ipad book might create a market for the print version. In other words, the app might become a successful self publishing model that could lead to a publisher making it into an actual printed book.


There’s another interview with Chris (here).

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  1. This is spot on.

    So obvious it begs the question why it has not been done before. Well done Christopher Anderson. I own the book already – one of my favourites.

    Democratising the medium and offering different value propositions to different audience types is exactly what is needed… oh some viral PR guru’s and a wider take up of iPads!!!

    Well done Chris Anderson and A Photo Editor.

    At $4.99 compared to the charity give away like Emphas.is, Christopher Anderson have given us a glimpse of a much better future.

    • excuse the typo’s :-( sorry!

  2. As someone who buys and collects printed photo books it doesn’t appeal to me. I would buy the printed book for $75 but I wouldn’t download it unless it was 99 cents.

    I have trouble with using “democratizing” when “more sales” is the goal, which is absolutely fine with my capitalist heart.

    • @Victor John Penner

      What is not democratic at $4.99?

      You might be able to afford $75 and good for you. CA has democratised access to his beauty with intelligence for $4.99. So he can make more people happy!

      This is great and “more sales” equals better investment equals more people see the work equals democratisation!!!

      It is not about appealing to your version of “me”, it is about as many people as possible!

      • @iamnotasuperstarphot,

        Yes, call it what it is, sales. It is a “luxury item” not a means of survival. Democracy is about making available something for the betterment of humankind. If it was free I would say that it was democratic.

        It is about more sales, not more views.

        I like the authors work, but it is commerce not benevolence.

        • @Victor John Penner

          Democracy is not benevolence – just look at the US democratic system and one can see the two party finance orientated state!

          Capitalism has given more people individual choices in how they want to live their lives. $4.99 gives access to more people enabling more choices than $75.

          So much better than agency models. So much better than crowd funding models relying on a few rich people to get to 100%.

          I applaud this $75 x 3000 print run = $225,000 versus $5 x 45,000 with artist retaining 70%?

          In a world where photographs are infinitely reproducible, 45,000 people knowing your work is better than 3,000 in my book (pun intended!)

          This is wonderful. Thanks Chris Anderson and Tim Hetherington’s support says a huge amount.

          • @iamnotasupertarphoto,

            I applaud any artist that can make some money, so I sincerely wish him luck.

            My point is that it is NOT a book. You can call it “democracy” to rationalize it, but using that argument would make McDonalds democratic also.

            Why the rush to abandon the traditional mediums,the craft? It is new, it is different, but it is not a victory.

            • @Victor John Penner

              Who cares if the App is not a “book”?
              The minority who do can buy one for $75!

              Call it anything you want but everyone can be happy.

              Photography has a transformative potential culturally no other “craft” can match to my mind. At $4.99, it is simple. More people can be influenced at that price point compared to $75 and photography can regain some of the lost cultural ground of the digital age.

              I mean handwriting was once an amazing craft. Then came the typewriter that liberated people with books. The net came after that and information went global?

              Photography can be an amazing craft AND continue to innovate to keep up with society.

              Photography, quality photojournalism can do so much than it is doing so today so in my single unqualified subjective opinion, Christopher Anderson is leading the way.

              I am very excited and off to buy a Big Mac now too :-)

  3. Great book, great work adapting for iPad (just got my copy today).

    One issue with the premise of the 2nd question is the idea that app reproduction is free to the publisher once it has been created. While the publisher isn’t taking on the costs of printing up front, they are bearing the costs for each app that is sold, with Apple’s 30% cut.

    Furthermore, the actual printing of paper books only accounts for about 10% of its cost to the publisher (probably a bit more for photography books), so if you figure in the work a publisher does when releasing a traditional print book (design, layout, editing, promotion, etc.), the costs for an ebook aren’t that different. A brief look at Amazon’s bestsellers shows that the hardcover editions of books are usually only a dollar or two more than the Kindle versions.

    With that said, I think there’s a real perception about the “free”-ness of electronic books and it’s going to be difficult to overcome this, which is why I think the pricing on Chris’s book is savvy (hopefully he’ll sell a ton), but also realistic.

  4. I’d buy a copy of the electronic version, but I don’t have an iPad and won’t be getting one anytime soon…

    • @Thomas Pickard,

      I agree. Also, I would not want to vanquish a work such as this to the tiny screen of a mobile such as an iPhone. I guess that still puts me squarely in the print book category of consumers.

      I do applaud the pioneering spirit, and hope that if this project is a success in this type of format it will open a door for others as well.

  5. $4.99 might seem cheap, but it is actually considered expensive in the paid App world, which is dominated by $1 games. My images are the subject of a kind of photobook (which I assume Christopher Anderson may consider a collection of stock photography) which was originally released at that price. The publisher has substantial online clout, yet they concluded that they had to lower the price.

    The general public doesn’t care that much about authored monographs (which is why their print run is generally small). They would hardly notice them amongst the hundreds of thousands already existing apps. On the other hand, the collectors and gallery-going folks probably prefer printed books.

    It would be interesting to have an update in a year to see how many copies of the iPad version of Capitolio sold, but I am betting less than the book.

      • You’re of course right, however the book is sold on the “App Store” TM :-). By the way, don’t get me wrong, I think this is a wonderful work and a great way to find a new audience. I’m simply saying that generating a wide interest may be more difficult than one would assume based on price alone, although this blog, and some other press for being the “1st” iPad photobook may help.

  6. We are living in a time of “projects looking for a home”. Every time someone like Christopher throws something up on ” the wall”, we get a bit closer to that “something” that’s gonna stick. Bring it on! (forgive the awkward sentence structure)

  7. I think this is brilliant. Often I’ll make trips to the MOMA book store to thumb thru books that I’d love to look at but choose not to buy. At 5 bucks its a no brainer. Cheaper than parking downtown.

  8. Great idea. Not bad in the way it looks and works (but horrible, horrible use of whte space… and it needs to be a bit stable – several crashes).

    Most 99c apps look, feel and work like they only cost 99c… Quality “apps” tend to cost a bit more. In fact I’ve happily paid $16.00+ for the likes of the “Elements” and “Solar System” apps from Touch Press and Stephen Wolfram because they are so much better than the rest of the pack

    tim a

    p.s. In terms of being of or for the people in general or demonstrating a certain level of social equality, Macdonalds is actually pretty democratic, as is photography as a medium on the whole – especially over the last ten years or so.

    (I recall first coming to N. America from the UK 20 or so years ago, travelling through various airports and being struck by how democratic Macdonalds was – everyone from kids in ball caps to mothers with babies to businessmen in suits to little old grannies were plonked down eating a Big Mac and fries…)

  9. I must say agree with others on this one.. it’s a very good idea!

  10. As a photographer I see a great opportunity in self-publishing. I spent a couple of weeks/months learning how to create iPad/iPhone application for future publishing of my work. The best thing is that people are not able to make copies or share your application – it means you should be able to make money from your work.

    I do not have a problem with publishing my work this way. You can always make a printed book as well for collectors and people who like your work.

    If anyone is interested I would be more than happy to cooperate with other photographers and help them to publish their work.

  11. Sorry, the link above does not work …

  12. I have sentiments both pro and con about this. Yes, it is innovative and may open people’s eyes about the freshness and impact of top-notch photography. Good price point.

    OTOH, I’m also somewhat of a book person as well, and while I’m always pulling some sort of photo book off the shelf to look at, some more than 50 years old, I doubt any iPad book will be read (or useful) five years from now. The technology will probably have moved on yet again…

  13. I think some of you are missing a major point: heavy photo book = doomed to sit on shelf; iPad = globetrotter.

    If I can share it, I’m more likely to buy it.

  14. No one has addressed the point of how difficult it is to get a “real” book published by a bonafide publishing company, or the high expense – even now – of self-publishing.

    One person here made the point that maybe by publishing as an app – if it was a hit – you could get a hard copy published by somebody.

    As someone who is presently starting to shop a project – it’s almost impossible to get anyone to even look at your baby – without paying them to do it – see the spate of portfolio review programs that have popped up – Lucie, Santa Fe, et al – it’ll cost you around $500 to $750 to have a panel of gatekeepers consent to look at your stinky wares. Not including airfare, hotel, meals, rental car, plus production cost to have the immaculate set of prints you are expected to show. And that’s even if you get in! You have to pay $50 to $75 even to be considered!

    It seems like, for all that dough, you could poot out your app, as this dude has done, promote the heck out of it using social media, email, telling your mom, etc. – and bypass the gatekeepers. That’s punk rock baby.

  15. […] Aqui uma entrevista onde Anderson debate algumas questões que envolvem a publicação digital do fotolivro para Ipad. “As far as the future of photo books, I don’t really know, this is an experiment. But I imagine that the app version could ultimately drive sales of the print version…making it more valuable. It also might change the path of bringing a print version into existence. I could imagine a time where the existence of an ipad book might create a market for the print version. In other words, the app might become a successful self publishing model that could lead to a publisher making it into an actual printed book.”- Christopher Anderson (Aphotoeditor blog) […]

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