Tonawanda News — In the never-ending discussion on the future of books, a majority of time is spent pointing out the growth of e-readers, print-on-demand concepts aimed at aiding publishing houses and big-box bookstores, and the competition Amazon has brought to the market.
For whatever reason, not a whole lot of attention has been paid to independent book publishers. That could be changing.
Take Dirt Bike Press for example. Based in Los Angeles, a small group of hard-working young adults are producing high-end material aimed at a market that is not being catered to by the big name companies — at least not as much as it could be.
That market? “Literature.”
In the rush brought on by “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” to stuff shelves with as many young adult works as possible, publishers and book stores alike have neglected those who want to push themselves as readers a bit more. While there is nothing wrong with the lightweight, easy-to-read style young adult books offer, its rapid popularity does have its share of negative side effects: most notably, the “literature” section of bookstores continues to shrink, taking less chances on new, formidable authors.
As a small group of friends, Dirt Bike Press has little to lose taking this challenge head on. Their recently released “Friends and Other Signs of the Apocalypse,” an 88-page collection of stories and poems by new and exciting author A.P. Menzies, looks to feed the literature-addicts.
Packaged in a hardback cardboard covering — think the stiff board/waxy paper stuff textbooks frequently use — along with a gimmicky, fake Newbery Award medal emblazoned in the bottom right hand corner to heighten the joke, “Friends and Other Signs of the Apocalypse” pays homage to the classroom-set books we were all assigned to read in elementary school. Menzies’ work looks back to his time growing up in suburban southern California in the 1980s for inspiration.
Fourteen illustrations of post-apocalyptic California are mixed into the work as well. While these pieces don’t necessarily match stories in the written work per-se, they do work well with the themes of “Friends and Other Signs.” Beautifully drawn, the artwork includes captions detailing where in California the post-apocalyptic landscapes are set. They’d be a blast to look over even as their own separate collection.
The written work isn’t quite as grim, exchanging the future musings of the artwork with biting, funny looks back to the past. “Paying Gig” spends a few pages detailing a time the author was duped into playing a concert for free after being promised thousands of dollars. “1987” looks at the fond memories of being fifteen-years-old, forced by parents to take a summer job, and crafting ways to keep oneself from going insane while working the fried dough booth at an amusement park. When the author is on, he hits home runs — and “Friends and Other Signs of the Apocalypse” hits a number of them.
On top of it all, included with each purchase of the book is a flexi-disc of the author reading a number of his works over a soundtrack of all-too-fitting punk music. While it’s made of plastic rather than vinyl, the flexi-disc can be played on any turntable just the same. It’s an added bonus you’ll find very few major publishing houses willing to take a chance on.
To top it all off, the book package is being sold online at http://friendsandothersigns.com for a modest $5.98 – practically a third of the price of the average book on sale at most bookstores. Want even more? The ebook version of “Friends” is currently free.
The majority of independent book publishers operate on this level, and that’s why they deserve our support. At $5.98, it’s hard to imagine the price even covering production costs. These companies aren’t doing it for income — they’re doing it for the love of literature. On top of it, they’re doing all the hard work the recently booming self-publishing market has made for us, weeding through the garbage to find the diamonds in the rough, like “Friends and Other Signs.” It’s a win-win for us all. Let’s support the independent publishers a bit more.
publishes weekly video book reviews at unleashthis.tumblr.com, and can be reached through Twitter at unleash_this.Dean Goranites publishes weekly video book reviews at unleashthis.tumblr.com, and can be reached through Twitter at unleash_this.