How old do you have to be to become a self-publisher? I never thought of that question before a couple of weeks ago, when I attended a special event at my son’s high school: Senior Projects Night.
At the school, seniors spend most of the year involved in a project of their own choosing, which they study in depth. At the end of the year they present their results, and Senior Project Night brings them all together to display and explain what they’ve been up to.
What do today’s high school seniors want to study? I’ve seen projects that involved conservation, clothing design, music, and just about every other topic of interest to teens.
One fellow this year decided to build a guitar out of sheet metal, which was pretty impressive, although he couldn’t play it in the end. Last year 2 pals collaborated on a project to build a bicycle from bamboo. That one was pretty cool.
There were comic books from artists, movies shot in art studios, and one student gave a classical piano performance with an original piece of music.
What surprised me in some of the displays was that as part of their project, a number of students included publishing a book. Yeah, it’s that easy that even high school kids can do it.
Even projects that had nothing to do with writing or books had a book as a “deliverable,” a way to bring together the work done during the year.
Every one of these books (with one exception—we’ll get to that in a minute) was produced at Blurb.com, the photo book printer. Books from Blurb had achieved such a generic status among the students, they just referred to the books as “blurbs.”
I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. Students today are pretty familiar with publishing tools they’ve used since middle school. They turn out Powerpoint presentations, layout reports in Word, and learn about fonts and graphics in the process.
I was fascinated by these books and how they came to be, how the technological revolution keeps filtering down through our culture in interesting ways.
I shot brief videos of three of these students, each talking about the book they created. Because this event took place in a large space packed with people, the sound on these videos is less than optimal, but I think the energy and enthusiasm of the young self-publishers comes through loud and clear. If you don’t see the videos at first, please refresh or reload the page.
Hayley interviewed chefs around the San Francisco Bay Area and even worked in the kitchen of Oliveto Restaurant in Oakland. She wrote, designed and produced the cookbook that resulted, using Blurb.com for both hardcovers and paperbacks.
Kento Mizuno is a very talented teenage photographer. He is the winner of the North American Nature Photography Association’s 2010 High School Scholarship and numerous other awards. He traveled to Japan to renew his relationship with his grandfather, taking many remarkable black and white photos while there.
Kento turned them into a beautiful book combining text and the photos and produced it at Blurb. Interestingly, he chose uncoated paper instead of the usual gloss stock, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing and texturally interesting book. Take a look at his photography website.
Book Love—Emma Williams-Baron
Emma Williams-Baron is a book lover. She decided to create a book from her own short stories, and she even produced the book herself, with an unusual metallic cover. Emma does some great teaching in this video about books and at the end I solve the mystery of how she came by some of her knowledge of books and exactly why her typography is so elegant.
Hayley, Kento and Emma have graduated and moved on to college, but I’m still impressed with the way they carried off their book productions. These are strictly private books, and completely successful at meeting the aims of the publishers.
It’s democratic publishing, a fairly simple mode of expression if you don’t bother with all the stuff you need to do to sell through retailers. Simple enough for high school students. I love that.