We’re made a big decision: we’re going digital. The little press known for its unusual formats and special inks is turning to pixels.

Shoto Press gained tremendous attention around the careful attention to detail we put into our printed books. Reviewers, retailers, and readers praised our innovative use of nonstandard sizes, carefully chosen paper stocks, high-definition printing, and our creative use of metallic and custom-mixed printing inks.

We love printed books. We love reading them, but most of all we have loved creating them.

But the era of digital books¬†has arrived. It’s providing readers with enormous conveniences and economies, and is giving small publishers like us a chance to distribute what we create to a much wider audience. It’s our chance to leave behind the antiquated system that made publishing an insider’s game, one that rejected works by authors like James Joyce, Stephen King, Margaret Mitchell, and Frank Herbert while cranking out billions of press impressions of questionable value and dubious sincerity.

Add to this the dilemma of killing trees. Yes, digital media carries with it a carbon cost, but one that is already being mitigated by alternative forms of energy. Recycled paper is one step on a very long road to correcting the problem, but there is little advancement in that area, and it doesn’t seem to be enough. No one (that we know of) is working on environmentally sound paper alternatives, certainly not ones that would actually improve the quality of the final product. It’s all jumped straight to media that’s delivered as ones and zeroes.

Will we stop publishing physical books altogether? Not necessarily. We’ll still print from time to time, judiciously. We’ll look into collected editions or limited runs of experimental books, where it makes sense and where we can ensure that what we produce will honor the planet and our readers’ (and our own) principles.

It’s just that our focus is now on digital, allowing us to bring the work of more creators, more quickly and frequently, at a higher quality, with less risk, to a wider audience, with less environmental impact. We relish the challenge of bringing the same level of craft and innovation to our digital works as we enjoyed doing with our printed ones.

This was not an easy decision, to say the least. One of the biggest considerations for us was the often confusing and conflicted universe of digital standards. After lengthy research, experimentation, and deliberation, we’ve decided to offer our prose books in Amazon Kindle and Apple iBook formats, and our graphic novels as Apple iBooks only.

(Update: Amazon has released new Kindles. Although we’re disappointed that Amazon is depriving all but a handful of the biggest publishers access to the specification for enhanced Kindle books suitable for graphic novels, we still stand by the Kindle ecosystem for prose books. We’ll be following developments in this area very closely, so our position on devices may change. Read our latest posts on this subject.)

Why these formats specifically?

For our prose books, Kindle is a great format (and the Kindle itself is a great device, along with the attendant Kindle apps for various platforms) for all books that are mainly text. But it’s really not there yet for graphic novels. We experimented with and tested this platform extensively and regretfully concluded that we were just not able to offer a good reading experience this way for our illustrated titles.

For graphic novels, Apple’s iBook format (based on the industry-standard ePub–though with important modifications) is the first instance we’ve seen of a type of ebook that would allow us to offer our titles in a way that’s faithful to the experience we want to create. On the iPad especially, reading our graphic novels as iBooks is a really wonderful experience. (And we’re thrilled with the reading experience of iBooks for prose as well.) Not that either format is perfect, but each is an important start and we’ve enjoyed the challenge of adapting our publications to them.

We’ve been accepted into both Amazon and Apple’s publishing systems (as well as Barnes & Noble), so we’re off to the races.

Watch this space for more thoughts on this subject: our experiences with various formats, an ongoing discussion of the evolving landscape of digital publishing–it’s changing each day. We’re watching it closely, and are excited to be a part of the discussion and to put our own work into the mix.

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