William Blake, Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain and Washington Irving are only a few of the literary greats who launched celebrated careers by publishing their own books. Do-it-yourself is a growing trend in today's crowded book market as well.
Two Dartmouth students have published their own books this year. Roomies: The Book, by Kevin Pedersen '05, is a compilation of the popular comic strip he drew for The Dartmouth during his undergraduate career. In Public Painting: An Autobiographical Journey, J. Kiku Langford '06 documents a twenty-day project in which she painted a work a day in a different location on campus, then opened an exhibition of these works in the AREA student gallery in the Hopkins Center.
In getting from idea to print, each student had to go well beyond self-expression. They had to deal with design and layout, estimates, paper and binding choices, proofs and, of course, funding. Pedersen financed Roomies himself.
Langford, whose book involved expensive four-color printing and costly proofs, found her books would cost between $12 and $30 apiece to print. So she applied for grants to supplement her own funds. She also did a lot of comparison shopping. In the end, an employee at a local copy center became her informal adviser on printing technology. "When I first saw the proof I was very pleased. It looked even better than I expected." she said.
Both books are so steeped in their authors' Dartmouth experiences that they include special glossaries to explain campus terms like "Blitz" and "NovArt!," (a student-run art gallery in Novack Café) to non-Dartmouth readers.
The author-publishers made sure others on campus knew about their projects. "They came into my office with big smiles and gave me copies," recalled Director of Student Activities Linda Kennedy. "Despite everything I've read about this generation not caring about books, books really do matter to these students."
Why are "digital generation" college students still publishing on paper this deep into the Internet Age? "Books are nicer to have," said Pedersen. "You can put them on your coffee table and show them to people, and you get to tell people that you published a book, which sounds better than saying that you set up a website."
"My goal in making the book was to share my work and my life," said Langford. "It is hard for me as a painter to part with my work, but I still want people to be able to see and appreciate it."
By PETER WALSH
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Last Updated: 5/30/08