My worlds collided this week when I received an unexpected package in the mail. It was sent by an old friend and book publishing colleague whom I don’t see often enough, but Facebook allows us to keep tabs on each other and she must have been paying attention to my various dalliances and indulgent distractions (making beer and growing facial hair, among others). The package I received contained a beautifully produced, hardcover book that I’d seen mentioned in my Instagram and Twitter feeds, but had yet to lay my hands on.
The book is entitled Craft Beerds: A well-groomed collection of craft beer labels featuring beards, sideburns and moustaches. The author is Fred Abercrombie, a self-described craft beer aficionado and lover of all things facial hair. While the book concept is hilarious and witty and the production values of the physical book are quite nice, the book publisher in me could not help wondering what courageous soul would take a risk publishing such an impulsive, small-market product. Also, it’s 268 pages of full color for only $19.95 MSRP – a crazy value for this type of book. You can see a couple sample pages on the book’s website.
So I started digging a little and things got interesting.
The book was funded through kickstarter. Over 260 individuals ponied up their hard-earned cash to see this book made – contributing more than $10,000 combined. According to the introduction in the book, that covered approximately 50% of the book’s manufacturing costs. Not bad.
It was self-published. This is an important fact in many ways. First of all – it’s not self-published in the way that most books are self-published (through one of the predatory self-publishing units of Amazon or their ilk). It’s published by the author’s design agency in California (Abercrombie + Alchemy). They apparently designed the book themselves and have some street cred in the craft beer community having done work for Lagunitas Brewing. Second, it’s a book. That’s right – ink on paper. With a binding. This concept could have easily been a just a website at a fraction of the cost, gone viral, yada, yada, yada. But it’s a physical book. The book thing is a key point – because it’s not only a smack in the face to all those “eBooks are the only future” idiots out there, it’s also an indication that people want to invest in the arts. Can you imagine if the author had tried to get this funding for a website? I suspect nobody would have contributed.
It focuses on craft beer. For those of you unaware (your loss), there’s a craft beer revolution going on in the United States (and it’s starting in the UK, too.) Craft beer sales grow while the big guys (InBev and SABMiller) lose market share and see declines in revenue. 10 years ago, a book of this magnitude would have been impossible. There simply were not enough craft brewers around to make a book of well-designed labels, much less with the additional requirement of facial hair. I love this grass-roots, locally-focused movement and we should all do whatever we can to support it. We’re also seeing what I hope is the beginning of a renaissance of independent bookstores (knock on wood) while the big box booksellers struggle.
So, to summarize all this rambling into a key takeaway, I think it’s this: People want to be part of something artistic and authentic with tangibility and a sense of permanence. Books provide the opportunity to create all of these things. And Mr. Abercrombie, who clearly had a mission and a drive to get this done was able to turn his vision into a reality.
I took the book to Equinox Brewing today, my favorite local craft brewery here in Fort Collins and donated it to their bar library. The book sparked conversation on everything from the yeast that the Rogue Brewery guys cultivated from their brewmaster’s beard to Northwest brewing legend Glen Falconer to the local mustache wax company that recently opened up in town. And, of course, this conversation happened over a pint (or two) of local craft beer. Try that with an eBook.