In House: Inside the Biblioasis Book-Binding Party
January 9, 2018
Biblioasis is a classic passion-project-turned-success story: after operating as a bookstore for several years in Windsor, Ontario, Publisher Dan Wells took a leap and began publishing in 2004. Now it's hailed among Canada's prestigious small presses with a dedicated staff — lovingly referred to as bibliocreatures — who bring rad new books into the literary world and hand-make their own chapbooks in house. Narrated by Biblioasis staffer Jon Flieger, we got a rather entertaining behind-the-scenes look at the press's most recent chapbook-binding party.
It’s a busy time in the Bibliomanse. We are, first of all, moving.
The press has (happily and sadly) outgrown the backrooms of the Biblioasis bookshop on Wyandotte. The bookshop will be staying put — we love Walkerville too much to ever completely leave —but working out of what should be storerooms and filling up the bookshop’s already packed basement (not to mention storage lockers scattered all over the city) is not ideal for a growing press. (BRAG! We’ve had a couple of really great years, guys! Thank you!)
Publisher Dan Wells, who remembers running the press from a room above his garage and arranging for shipments out of his driveway, was a bit sentimental as he took possession of our new home on Ottawa Street in Windsor. Champagne was uncorked. People were thanked. A single wolf howled in the distance.
Publisher Dan Wells.
And then he ordered us all the hell back to work.
Bibliofriends planning what to do with all our new space. Will more work get done when everyone can't hear me muttering darkly to myself? Less? Let's find out!
Finally having storage space for our backlist is worthy of a selfie, right? I WAS HERE TOO, GUYS.
The immediate task (on top of production, marketing, arranging tours, getting all the holiday orders out, getting the spring season into a shape that doesn’t make us all want to open-mouth sob, etc.) is the production of handcrafted chapbooks.
Against Amazon is a short manifesto written by Biblioasis author Jorge Carrión. As with his hugely successful travelogue and love-letter to book stores everywhere,
Bookshops, Carrión’s chapbook concerns itself with the state of the book. Against Amazon is exactly what it sounds like — an author explaining how damaging Amazon is to the world of the book. Dan loved the manuscript and immediately decided to turn it into a chapbook – an objet d’art to celebrate the independent bookseller from an independent-bookseller-turned-indie-publisher.
Each book is hand-stitched.
Production Manager Chris Andrecheck and Local History Editor Sharon Hanna sewing chapbooks. Sharon is one of the few people Chris allows to touch the books. Then he berates her.
Production Manager Chris Andrechek, who has been with Biblioasis since the working-from-Dan’s-garage days, was tasked with designing and producing 500 individually-numbered chapbooks. Chris has been typesetting, printing, trimming, hand-binding and sewing chapbooks at Biblioasis for six years on top of his other responsibilities (like making sure our books actually get made). He’s never seen a response to a book like Against Amazon. Within hours of offering the chapbook to independent booksellers, Chris received orders for over five hundred chapbooks. On top of that, the publicity department (Chris’ sworn enemies) gave away most of his existing stock to reviewers. With orders continuing to come in, Chris has developed a feverish look in his eye and is never without some sort of book-binding weapon in his hand. We’re not sure we’ll all make it.
Chris' blood pressure is one billion over one billion.
He removed the safety to better control the trim on his books. No one is permitted to TOUCH the cutter except Chris.
Is that an awl? Is that what it's called? Chris uses it to make the binding holes in the chapbooks. I don't go near Chris when he has tools.
By the time you read this, these are all mailed out. We literally cannot make enough to keep up with demand right now. WE'RE TRYING.
All folding and no play makes Chris a "JONNY GET OUT OF THE PRODUCTION OFFICE."
The final glory.
Against Amazon is only available through independent bookshops (call your local shop!) and each copy was hand-folded, hand-stitched, and hand-trimmed by one of us here at the Bibliomanse (usually after work hours; sometimes while drinking and practicing for Futurama trivia night). Most of the books were made by Chris himself (and then he quality controls the ones the rest of us were permitted to make because he does not trust us).
Bookshops is available everywhere and is currently on sale on
All Lit Up! Read that book that started Carrion’s crusade against Amazon and Cultural Department Stores and that has been named a Globe and Mail top 100 book of 2017, a National Post 99 best books of 2017, and one of Maclean’s 10 best books of 2017.
* * *
Thank you so much to Jon Flieger for this entertaining look into chapbook-binding Biblioasis-style!
All Lit Up is produced by the Literary Press Group and LitDistCo. LPG and LitDistCo acknowledge the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council.
All views expressed by bloggers and contributors to the All Lit Up blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of All Lit Up or the Literary Press Group.
All Lit Up acknowledges we are hosted on the lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat. We also recognize the enduring presence of all First Nations, Métis and the Inuit people, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to meet and work on this territory.