Design, Design Desk

From the Design Desk: Bay Area Book Expo

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Did I hear someone say books are dead? That prognosis did not stand in the way of the hundred or so bibliophiles who came out on a stormy night to view a selection of books from Bay Area publishers on view in our lobby.


We called it BABE: Bay Area Book Expo. Since the demise of the San Francisco Bay Area Book Festival, there hasn’t been an opportunity for local publishers to showcase their work. On view in the Chronicle Books lobby is a sampling of books published over the last ten years, or the first decade of this new century.

By no means a comprehensive showing of all publishers–a much larger venue would be necessary for that–this is a selection of half a dozen houses plying their craft in the Bay Area. Represented are Ten Speed Press, Jossey-Bass, Gingko Press, University of California Press, McSweeney’s and Chronicle–a representative mix of trade, university, business, popular psychology, and literary genres.


As I mentioned in my remarks to the attendees, San Francisco has a history of publishing: from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books in the 1950s (Howl) to 1960s renegade publications such as Zap Comix (R. Crumb), Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone, Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog to 1990s Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and dot com era must-read, Wired. Not to be left out, Chronicle, too, had its beginnings in the Summer of Love.

What’s curious–and heartening–to me is how the spirit of those publishing pioneers can still be seen and felt in the books on display. Underlying that spirit is a dedication to the art and craft of the book: its design and tactility. This is a humanizing factor as we, a book- and information-consuming culture, migrate from the printed page to the electronic one. Books do and will continue to remind us of the symbiotic relationship between hand and eye and mind. Or, in the words of the commemorative poster that designer Tim Belonax donated to the show, “In Books We Trust”.

BABE is open to the public until Friday 4 March 2011, from 10.00 a.m. until 5.00 p.m. in the Chronicle Books building on 680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA. Book lovers stop by.

Michael Carabetta
Creative Director

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