By Pete Rivard "The best memory is not as good as pale ink." –Chinese Proverb June 1 , 2006 -- I penned (OK, I typed) a column for OnDemandJournal about a year ago entitled The Useful Arts. In that column I held forth that digital printing fit the centuries-old classification as a Useful Art in that it was worthwhile work which had benefits for the entire community. Photo Book Press uses 21st century digital printing technology and 12th century bookbinding to preserve the memories of anyone with the desire to sift through their cache of photograph I've recently become acquainted with a Minneapolis business called Photo Book Press that underscores that position in the strongest fashion. Photo Book Press uses 21st century digital printing technology and 12th century bookbinding to preserve the memories of anyone with the desire to sift through their cache of photographs and other artifacts and take the time to talk about who's standing next to Aunt Christina, where the picture was taken and what was the significance of the event. "If you ask Grandma to tell you about her life, she might not know where to begin," said Ed McConaghay in his office at Photo Book Press. "But if you ask Grandma how she dressed to stay warm in Minnesota winters, or who took the picture of her standing out in the snow and what she was thinking when the picture was taken, then she is going to have something to say." Ed McConaghay in his office at Photo Book Press Photo Book Press specializes in three services: photo restoration, printed memoirs, and event remembrances, such as wedding books. Not wedding albums, with a series of prints pasted haphazardly into a three-ring binder, but artfully laid out and digitally printed books on carefully selected papers with exquisite typography and bindings that range from simple saddle stitch or perfect bound to hand sewn and leather bound. McConaghay credits Minneapolis' Center for the Book Arts for training a reliable local cadre of bookbinding artists. Provides a Solution McConaghay believes that the problem of on demand printing has been largely solved. "However, what has not been solved is on demand photo restoration, on demand archiving and on demand book binding. Look, there are bookbinding artists that can deliver a work of art in two weeks. But they have trouble delivering six hand sewn and bound books in two weeks. There are also binderies that can deliver 5,000 bound books in two weeks, but again, they have trouble delivering six. Photo Book Press is that service that can deliver six. Or one. Or a dozen." The problem of on demand printing has been largely solved. But on demand photo restoration, archiving and on demand book binding has note kept up. Photo Book Press can deliver six. Or one. Or a dozen, all in a very short timeframe. McConaghay and I met at a Minneapolis InDesign Users Group meeting. He was looking for additional Photoshop talent for his growing business. Ed was persuaded to interview a couple of my more accomplished students preparing for their second-year internships. He did just that, and ended up taking on one of my students. My best student, in fact, who chose Photo Book Press over three or four other offers. But first he had to digitally retouch three test shots that Ed selected for him. He knocked all three pitches out of the park and secured his internship. Photo Book Press is accustomed to cultivating clients who may wander in with a few photos, and just want some restored prints and a CD with the finished TIFFs. Many of these photos date back a century or more, and McConaghay's small, but able group have been called upon to scan glass plate negatives dating back to the 1800s. One recent project brought in a client with an irreplaceable heirloom, a 105-year old brown paper shopping bag, pulled open flat and covered on both sides of every panel in tight, marginless lines of pencilled cursive. One can imagine the author, in extremely reduced circumstances, setting the family stories down with the house's last remaining pencil stub and the only substrate at hand. How many graphics interns ever get the honor of scanning a century-old artifact and using digital photosorcery to coax back the faded and nearly lost record of a specific family's time in the sun? Memoirs and Art Books Photo Book Press's core service is the very short run memoir or event commemoration. These books have ranged from family histories to memoirs of people's sojourns in China or on African safari. McConaghay also offers the wedding photographer a much classier way of showcasing his work while giving the lucky couple and selected next of kin a published art book of their special day. A sample of some of Photo Book Press's products, including the workbook shown in the upper right corner. McConaghay even designed a Getting Started guide that walks customers through the steps of producing such a printed and bound heirloom. The steps detailed include Gathering, Scanning, Writing, Page Layout and Binding. He'll even bring the scanner to you if the thought of your precious photos being in Photo Book Press's possession makes you nervous. Any photos entrusted to Photo Book Press are treated with respect, tagged and organized in acid-free boxes and handled by gloved technicians. How many graphics interns ever get the honor of scanning a century-old artifact and using digital photosorcery to coax back the faded and nearly lost record of a specific family's time in the sun? Once the scanning is completed, Photo Book Press prints a workbook containing all the images with space for the memoirist to write captions and other details and explanations. There is a small stable of writers on retainer if help is required in that respect. The page layout is done in Adobe InDesign and a final proof shown prior to print. A lot of thought is given to both cover materials and the stock itself. Photo Book Press is concerned that the books themselves stand the test of time. Photo Book Press prints all books on a local press house's Xerox iGen. They are also investigating the Kodak NexPress as a possibility. "Whatever the highest quality digital press happens to be, that's what we want to print our books on," says Andy Edwards, my student who won the internship. (He must be feeling pretty secure about that internship, using the "we" and "our" words). If pale ink is better than the best memory, how much better must those memories be when preserved digitally, professionally designed and typeset, printed on the finest digital presses, hand sewn and leather bound? A useful art, indeed.