Transient Books

Posted by Arlo on Nov 25, 2008 under Postcard Valet, PV-Podcast, Travel, Videos

This is an experiment.  I’m very interested in getting feedback.

Also, visit Transient Books.

Transcript (for Google’s benefit, please ignore):

We live in the middle of Argentina, right in the heart of the country. We’re outside of the city of Carlos Paz, but quite a ways; we actually live in the town of San Antonio. Out in the countryside, in the Sierras, up in the hills.It’s very Latin American. It’s very Argentinean and particularly Córdobesque-like. It’s a beautiful place to live. There’s beautiful rivers, there’s calm and quiet, and lots of time and space.

Transient Books

It was already a business while we traveled – we traveled overland – and we sold books in the plazas and streets in Mexico and Central America.

We became a sort of a little circus on the road.

And we traveled with a binding studio – Magú carried it – it was a typewriter and papers and an X-acto knife and a cutting mat. And we made books as we went.

Along with some music and some other little crafts I learned on the way, we combined things with each other, and it was very fun.

2001, a big economic crisis here comes and nobody has extra money for books or blank journals or, I mean, it was a very frivolous thing, and my brother in Alaska was offered to make us a website so we could sell on the internet – which sounded completely eccentric and impossible. But everything at that point was eccentric and impossible, so we had nothing to lose.

When we got the first order for 100 journals for a Dream Workshop that was going to happen in South Africa, but the organizers were from Texas or some place in the south, I needed help making those 100 blank journals and he jumped on board.

That’s when I really become engaged on the book binding world. Basically I needed a job, so here I am.

[En un… ¿Dónde? Sí, ¿por aduana?


Porque no estaba abierto y lo que nos figura en el seguimiento


es que lo llevaron para todos lados menos para donde tenía que ir.]

They charged us forty bucks and delivered it


two days later than what it was scheduled for, by them. Da-da-da-dum!

People write us and they almost always say, “I have this idea, and I don’t, is this possible?” And that we could say, 99% of the time say, “Yes! It’s possible!”

I mean… probably not crazy pop-up books with fireworks coming out, but…

I love people having these creative ideas; people continually surprise us.

Ah, there’s this book; the little, that one. There’s a Transient Standard, we just need to design the cover, it’s ready to go. There’s the two Ed Walker books that you already did the photos of the lady, the blonde lady – and those are the two covers there, we just need to do the covers. There’s – ah! – we need to do a clamshell; we should case in Melissa Bragg’s book, which is that black spine canvas there, too, or a different look, but we’ve already done the spine. And then, there’s Stephen Messimer, but he sent me 100 Megabytes, I couldn’t download it and three days went by, he needs to send it to me again. We have to do his book again. That’s all confirmed. There’s a couple others that are floating out there that might fall in…

…By Friday.

We print everything ourselves here, in house. We do everything by hand; there’s no machines.

Transient Books basically offers three kinds of, say, services or products, at the same time.

We sell artist’s books; they’re all produced by me. They’re written, designed, bound. Then we offer blank journals, already in stock – wholesale – we just have regular lines, they’re always there. We keep them, every, you know, every so often we update them.

And, then we do custom book binding. Anything you want. Memoirs, novels, theses, or custom blank journals. We do a ton of custom blank journals – people who order special covers – custom guest books, custom scrap books, baby books.

These are four books, ordered by a National Guardsman who’s from Vancouver, Washington, who’s right now in Iraq. And I’m really excited about it, because it’s somebody who’s in the middle of war, doing something very creative, which I think is important. And he is – he found old ammo boxes and these are being made the size to fit inside some big ammo boxes that he’s going to line with, like, Styrofoam or something that protects them.

I remember once there was a kid who ordered us a book for her girlfriend who was in jail at the time – we didn’t ask why or anything, we thought it was actually pretty cute. So, by the time when the book got there, it was really hard to get him to pay for it, and it was really complicated, in all the way he… the little things he wanted. After working too much for a really simple book, he wrote us back saying that he wanted his money back because his girlfriend just booted him. So, that was a funny one, and we said, “Okay dude, we’re really sorry…” If the book had stains of mate or something, that would have been a different thing.

It was this guy from Detroit, and so it was a gift for his wife on Valentine’s Day. This was two years ago, this was, like, in 2004. And so we talked about the book design, and the book size, and you know, how many pages, and how much it’ll cost, and he wanted a clamshell box, and he wanted all this stuff to go with it. And then he wrote and said, “Well, ah, don’t be alarmed by what you read.” I’m like, “Okay.” What could it be? Fully rhymed poems, very intricate details, and I think I know more about their sex life than I do even about my own! It was unreal; I was red for a week!

[Y sí, siete.

Sí. Ya voy a escribirle al Diego.]

I think the most, the biggest service we offer besides actually making the books, is the emotional support that the book can be made.

Transient Books
Alex Appella
Magú Appella

Video shot and edited in Argentina with just the equipment Arlo and Oksana Midgett happened to be carrying in their backpacks. Except the music, which was composed by Magú Appella.