Why We're Crowdsourcing Art for Classic Book Covers

A crowdsourced collection of original cover art for 50 of the greatest works of fiction in the public domain like Moby Dick and Les Miserables.

The idea of the "public domain" goes all the way back to ancient Rome (probably further), where the law prohibited certain things from being owned by citizens because they existed for all to enjoy—like air, sunlight, and the ocean. As societies around the world advanced, copyright laws emerged to protect the interests of the content creators, and soon only work that was too old or uninteresting "fell" into the public domain.

In the United States, the first federal copyright legislation (the 1790 Copyright Act) set the maximum term of ownership for content creators at 14 years, with the ability to renew for another 14. Then Congress doubled that term (several times) before they changed it to the number of years after the life of the creator, then they added more time after that. Protecting copyright for 70 years after the creator's death (as is the standard now) does a great job of protecting the large corporations and media companies with vaults of content to profit from, but this leaves that much less content for the rest of us to watch, remix, and enjoy without paying for it.

It doesn't have to be so all-or-nothing. Content can and should be reasonably available to everyone—and content creators should be reasonably compensated. Luckily, new technologies for the creation and distribution of content are making this process more possible and democratic every day. Our latest project, Recovering The Classics, is an attempt to highlight just a glimpse of what's possible when we embrace the public domain.

Keep Reading

The Food Book Fair: Where Food Systems and Culture Collide

The Food Book Fair hopes to create a scintillating dialogue around what food means in our society.

Food is intertwined with goodness. Our planet is hungry for a better food system. One that is more viable for the future and treats our world more respectfully. Food is also cool. People devour restaurant openings like they bought cassettes in the 80s. And, food is about people. The restaurant industry provides an exceptionally large number of jobs, many of which do not treat their workers adequately. Food is about what it means to be authentic: to cultural roots, to the land, and to our bodies. Food is about home and outside, cultural and technological evolution, art and literature, and the economy. At the risk of sounding grandiose, food is a lens through which we can understand our astoundingly complex and beautiful, yet often callous world.

The Food Book Fair aims to explore all of these ideas, and so many more, from May 2-5. It's an event where food systems and food culture meet, with the hope of creating a scintillating dialogue around what food means in our society. Over three days it will feature over 200 food books in Brooklyn's Wythe Hotel, sixty visionaries from the food space, thirty independent food publications, eight cooking demonstrations, eight panel discussions, a coffee crawl and an entrepreneurial pitch competition. We hope that the Food Book Fair will educate and inspire those who attend, and that those who attend will in turn educate and inspire others. Our hope is that the Food Book Fair will help people think more deeply about where their food comes from, the history of their food traditions, and how food can inspire change.

Keep Reading

Everything is F*cked, Everything is OK: Why Print Is Not Dead

Print as an art form, is well-and-truly OK.

As a Gen X and Y mongrel, I’m often torn between my addiction to digital life and a nostalgic appreciation for a more analog time. Don’t get me wrong: I’m as addicted to Facebook and 25 GIFs You Have To See Or You’ll Spontaneously Combust as the next guy, but I also remember what it felt like to actually talk on the phone or get my LOLs from pieces of paper. OH, HOW QUAINT!

My own journey as a writer, editor, and more recently "digital content producer," has followed a similar arch. Upon finishing my university studies in psychology, I went in search of something more "fun" and decided to write about my other great love—music. After several cold emails to the editor of Melbourne-based magazine Beat, I had my first assignment. In the following days, I hammed together 500 hyperbolic words and voilà... my byline was in print for the first time. The feeling was indescribable. For good or ill, I was now a writer.

Over the next half decade, I moved from print to online with aplomb. As I gained expertise with digital (read: learning about how to make lists of things and boobs in ALL CAPS), my work was awarded and nominated for shiny things. Yet despite these "successes," my yearning for print grew with each soul-crushing photo gallery pandering to the clicks of hopelessly-addicted, gormless web browsers.

Boiling point hit in late 2011. Feeling completely overcome with emptiness for online content and "social media," I decided to stage a protest on paper. My remonstration was to become the aptly-titled 'zine Everything is Fucked, Everything is OK. The concept was intentionally vague: I wanted my friends—all of whom are almost unbearably interesting—to write about things on their mind as they relate to the modern world. With this loose brief, I was astounded to see how many pieces focused on the hefty role technology played in our lives. I quickly worked out, I was not the only one with these nostalgic leanings.

Taking nine months from conception to release, the process of crafting the debut issue was arduous. When compared to digital, print has a fuck-ton of "friction"—hard costs, actual materials, labor, and the rest. I dare anyone to now complain to me about "how annoying it was to set up their Wordpress blog."

With the help of those amazing friends/collaborators, Issue One was birthed in September, 2012. Holding the first copies in my hands, I was overcome by an unexpected welling of SO MANY EMOTIONS. It was like being teleported back a decade to that same moment with Beat.

Many asked if I had plans to also publish online. Having spent years learning how to use the internet to grow editorial brands, I’ll admit that the temptation was hard to resist, but I did. My decision was vindicated within minutes of showing copies to close friends at our launch event. If ever you need to be reminded of the reverence of print, make something physical and give it to a loved one. Then compare their reaction with that time you sent them a cute .jpg you made in Photoshop. There is no comparison.

With another two issues now under my belt—including a Hurricane Sandy special that came together in just 10 days—and on the eve of exhibiting at my first Brooklyn Zine Fest taking place this weekend, my love of 'zine publishing print is still strong. Maybe I’m a curmudgeon, romantic, delusional, and/or all-of-the-above, but I’m going long on the future of print. Advertising revenues from newspapers and magazines might be fucked, but print as an art form, is well-and-truly OK.

Issue Two of Everything is Fucked, Everything is OK is available now for $5 via the EFEOK online store. Brookyn Zine Fest 2013 is this Sunday, April 21, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at Public Assembly in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Keep Reading

The Dharma Bum's Passport Photo and the Value of Wanderlust

Jack Kerouac used his experience traveling around the U.S. and beyond to serve as inspiration for his many novels.

Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road, Dharma Bums, and Mexico City Blues, was as famous for his revered novels as for his love of travel. If anyone could inspire wanderlust it's Kerouac, with prose like “What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Kerouac made New York home after earning a football scholarship to Colombia University, but he later went on to persue experiences far and wide. Though he made the American road trip famous with On the Road, he also enjoyed the likes of Morocco, Paris, and Mexico, and wrote about these experiences in the Lonesome Traveler.

Keep Reading