Founded in 2017 by Lucas Dietrich and Darren Wall, publisher and editor respectively, and based in London, Volume is a ‘curated publishing platform enabling the creation of high-quality illustrated books on visual culture’. Their aim is to redefine the role of the publisher, and the relationship between creator and reader, to produce printed books of uncompromising standards for dedicated audiences.
Covering subjects in and across art, design, photography, fashion, architecture and popular culture, Volume presents books as fixed-time funding campaigns and limited editions. Powered by international art publisher Thames & Hudson, Volume looks to the future of publishing but is founded on seven decades of editorial insight, production expertise and unparalleled global distribution.
We had a quick chat with Darren as news broke of the successful funding of their first title from Anthony Burrill, ‘Look & See’.
You appear to be a one-man publishing machine! Entering beast-mode with the recent launch of Volume, in addition to your existing work with ROM Publishing and Kickstarter endeavours. Whats the secret, and whats the plan? (i.e. will ROM continue?)
2017 was a really exciting year – I decided to increase the publishing output of Read-Only Memory (my own imprint specialising in videogame history books) while throughout the year, I was working with Thames & Hudson on the launch of a startup crowdfunding platform for visual culture books called Volume.
Read-Only Memory will indeed continue to operate. We’re working on several titles at the moment: Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works – which raised over £127,000 on Kickstarter last October – will be a sequel publication to our hit 2012 Mega Drive retrospective, created with Sega of Japan; while 500 Years Later is soon to be readied for production – an oral history of Final Fantasy VII, produced in collaboration with US game site Polygon and designed by Rachel Dalton (ex-Spin/Unit Editions). We are developing several other books which are yet to be announced, so it should be a busy year for ROM – hopefully welcome news for any videogame history aficionados reading!
The secret behind being so productive has been the support of a brilliant network of collaborators – I stopped doing (or trying to do!) everything myself and decided to take more of a directorial role in my projects. All in all, I’m working on around 20+ book projects, and handling the day to day operations of both ROM and Volume, so having a reliable and talented team around me has been transformative.
This time around you’ve teamed up with Thames & Hudson – can you explain a bit about that connection, why them, why you felt it necessary to partner up and what they bring to the table?
Volume came about after a spell working for Thames & Hudson as a publishing innovation consultant. The international publishing director — Lucas Dietrich — had noticed the books I’d crowdfunded and consulted for, such as Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works, Mr Bingo’s Hate Mail and British Rail Corporate Identity Manual. Lucas asked me what a crowdfunded art book publisher might look like and I set about creating a short proposal – Thames & Hudson decided to green light the idea and we set about creating the business, with Heydays in Olso looking after the site build. Although Volume is a Thames & Hudson venture, it is operated day-to-day by just myself and Lucas – we operate like an startup, making our business decisions independently.
How do you see the state of publishing in 2017/18, specifically within/for the creative industries? Rude health? Full of opportunity?
It’s notable just how much is changing in this area at the moment. Illustrated book sales in particular are in rude health, and crowdfunding has enabled individuals to publish outside of the constraints and idiosyncrasies of the traditional book trade. In building Volume, we wanted to embrace the idea that a book creator might not have to pander to the tastes or trends of the high street bookshops, and this frees things up enormously. I think this model will lead to more exciting books – indeed, we’re launching a title on Volume soon that is over half a metre in height, something that would prove self-defeating if we wished to sell it via bookshops as it would create so many problems in the store. I’m hopeful we’ll indulge these freedoms throughout the year, and we’ll be able to create some really beautiful items.
Can you tell us a bit about what plans you have for Volume and the forthcoming titles – you seem to have hit the ground sprinting with several books lined up – are these finished and ready to print, or more of a wishlist at this point?
We’re hoping to launch around 8–10 books on Volume this year, so it should be really interesting to see how the platform grows and evolves. I expect we’ll be adapting and tweaking how we operate and fund our books as the months go by, looking to carve out a successful formula that best serves our books and backers. Launching soon will be a retrospective monograph on Takenobu Igarashi, a great Japanese designer, known for his axonometric letterforms. Following that will be a title from technologist and Silicon Valley luminary John Maeda, and something close to my heart, a large format visual history on a beloved video game franchise.