In a time when digital and print-on-demand technology are streamlining how books are created and delivered, Paravion Press believes there still is a market for well-crafted, hand-made books. “Paravion hopes to keep hold of a patch of turf for the old guard of the printed book—the realm of the social experience of shared reading,” said Craig Walzer, copublisher of Paravion. “The future of digital publishing is awesome, but when we give the gift of a story and bellow ‘Read this!’ we absolutely need beautiful bound paper to make the moment holy.“
Paravion originated on the cliffs of the Greek island Santorini, the location of Atlantis Books—a bookstore housed inside a cave, founded by a group of six friends in 2004. The bookstore’s remote spot inspired an idea by the three copublishers (Chris Bloomfield, Will Brady, and Walzer) to create what would eventually become Paravion: books are meant to be shared, but because of Atlantis’s remote location, that sharing could only be done by mail. “So,” said Walzer, “we designed a book ready to fly on its own, printed and sewed copies by hand in our back room, and sold them at our till.”
“The books caught on; we started selling batches to other bookstores we knew, and have been selling them as fast as we can print them for about two years now,” said Walzer. “We put a production scheme in place, established a network of shops keen to stock our books, built the resources to invest in larger print runs, and met a lovely fledgling network of writers and illustrators signing on to our projects.”
Titles at Paravion have print runs from 500 to 10,000 and sell for $10 each (including shipping). Most of the books sell in the U.S., though Paravion has retailers in Europe and Australia as well. Titles have included Walt Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry as part of Paravion’s New York series, which has “virtually sold out” of its print run of 1,000, and Katherine Mansfield’s Feuille d’Album, which has completely sold out its 1,000 copies. Paravion’s most recent title is a $25 edition of James Joyce’s famous short story The Dead, released this past holiday season with a limited print run of 500, printed on Scottish paper in Edinburgh, perfect bound with Italian Carta Varese paper from Munich for the cover, and including a letterpress broadsheet insert. That title sold out in a matter of weeks.
All titles come with a specially made envelope and a “for your correspondence” note for a handwritten message. The first books Paravion printed were on simple Canson art paper, then completely cut, folded, and bound by hand in Greece. But soon demand exceeded supply, and because the press is only a three-man operation, Walzer said, they had to stop sewing all the books by hand. “Every book still requires some amount of hand assembling, but nowadays we still control all the design and work with printers in Queens [N.Y.] and Edinburgh.”
Expansion is now Paravion’s goal. Walzer said they’re planning to grow both the frequency and scale of production and, to that end, will settle on a distributor “within the next several weeks” after having self-distributed their books until now. Paravion plans to publish 10–15 titles in 2012, including its first five original titles. “We still feel nascent, and we’re eager to keep researching and experimenting before we settle on a rhythm,” said Walzer. “We plan to be proud of the publishing house we build, which will be lucrative enough to purchase single malt scotch whiskey so we can offer a fitting toast to each new book.”