January 11, 2013

No Layout is an online shop and digital library for independent publishers that focuses on art books and fashion magazines. The No Layout library holds a healthy archive of cover-to-cover scanned print media with a design that respects the folio form. On their site, you’ll find early editions of I Love You and Fantastic Man magazine, both issues of Tissue, our favorite contemporary sex mag, Alfred Stieglitz’s 1915-1916 publication 291, as well artists zines, like my favorite, Asher Penn’s Institutional Critique.

No Layout  just launched an online store using a new model of print distribution: when you buy through No Layout, you’re buying directly from the creators. The site takes no commision. Instead, they offer exposure and portal for direct sales in exchange for a small annual fee.

After browsing No Layout with pleasure for months, I wanted to know more about the impetus for its creation. And so I contacted its creator, Daniel Pianetti, and here we have some answers.

I’m assuming your interest in digitization and archiving comes from a passion for print. Do you collect zines and periodicals? Do you have favorite publications or periods in print history?
Yes, I collect weird publications without much of a periodicity nor following specific publishers. I wish I could have all the zines from the New York DADA/Surrealist period, and Jean Cocteau’s drawings. A theme I’m also drawn to is how erotic and porn publications often become cult objects due to their opposite characteristics: of being easily saleable and at the same time having a taboo status. I’m also involved in book projects with photographers I like. I’ve work as both a publisher and designer.

Do you see No Layout as part of a larger movement of new methods of publishing and distribution?
I think No Layout is actually quite old school as a concept. This type of archiving is not that different from what they do at MoMa’s library, it’s simply transposed to a contemporary medium. Regarding the distribution, it may be, but it’s too soon to say if it will work or change anything.

Working from that last question, what do you see as some of the most significant or interesting new developments in independent publishing? One thing I’ve noticed is that the most successful new magazines are quite specialized, like Lucky Peach, Apartamento, Richardson, The Travel Almanac
Contrary to the belief of many, I think it’s a golden period for art and independent printed publications. Publishers are either focusing on the object–creating limited precious editions–or on the reader–identifying very precise and trusted niches like the ones you mentioned. I see two other categories, among those whining and failing in publishing: first, the generic magazines that still haven’t managed to understand how the real behaviour of reading moved to digital, and the poorly executed (visually, conceptually or content-wise) ones, that would have failed 40 years ago, just as they do today, with the difference that their voice is amplified by their 10k Tumblr followers.

What’s in the future for No Layout?
For this year, the focus will stay on the store experiment. The main goal has always been to become the Internet reference for independent publications, whether that’s in terms of archiving, selling, or other properties. It’s a slow journey since it’s all done as a side-project without financial aid but I think we’re at a good point.

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