Palermo’s La Rural is currently hosting the Feria del Libro, the Spanish-speaking world’s most important annual literary event. While the feria recognizes the achievements of writers and publishers from all over the continent, Buenos Aires is itself a thriving hub of independent publishers who play by their own rules, producing innovative, unique, and interesting content that separates them from the mainstream crowd.
Argentina recognizes and celebrates the underdog. Small- and medium-sized companies (known here as PyMEs) comprise 90% of the total number of publishers, showing that this is an industry where underground and artisan production is still valued over the faceless efficiency of big business. From those exploring new printing techniques to others promoting the recognition of international links, these editing houses are flourishing, proving that at least in Argentina, there is still an appetite for literature in its physical form.
AZETAguía is the ultimate demonstration of how you can turn your passions into a career. Their story began in 2015, as the reaction of cinephiles to the rapid decline of the Video Club. Their work has managed to overcome the historic divide that exists between film and books, creating a celebration of the moving image through the medium of the printed word.
Video Clubs were a place for meeting and exchanging ideas about cinema, but in the age of Netflix they are all but extinct. Frustration at the disappearance of these cultural hubs led AZETAguía’s founders to create a sort of ‘print Video Club’ by producing their first book Azeta. Guía al mundo del cine (Azeta. Guide to the World of Cinema), as a way to keep this tradition alive.
This first edition only covered films up until 2013, and so the drive to keep this guide current led them to experiment with new forms of printing. Thus, the publishing house was born, almost without them realizing. The publications are meant to be a register of our time and contemporaneity, aiming to drive the reader’s curiosity and desire to explore areas outside of their comfort zone.
"Al reconocer y producir imágenes, el criterio estético está pero no predomina. Como decía Joan Fontcuberta "no existen las buenas o malas fotos sino los buenos o malos usos de la fotografía". Entendiendo que cada producción que me es válida es la que posee un grado de pertenencia con su realidad. Así mismo, si pensamos en la información contenida en una fotografía, es más la que se deja por fuera que la termina dentro del encuadre. Como si lo que ignoramos tuviese más prestigio. Al igual que las palabras al hablar, al igual que las palabras al escribir, no solo debemos leer lo que se expresa sino también reconocer aquello que dejamos de lado. Entender que al decir se calla y que callar comunica. El proceso de producción de imagen está más ligado a un ejercicio de reconocimiento que de producción en sí, a un ejercicio de lectura que de escritura." Texto y fotografías por Juan Masabeu (@masabeu) Título: Todos escriben Edición limitada de 100 ejemplares. Publicación hecha en conjunto con @escuela.relacional #TodosEscriben #azetaguiaed #escuelarelacional #BuenosAires #argentina #impresion #risograph #dodorisopress #oficio #encuadernacion #artesanal #publicacion #edicionlimitada #editorial #fanzine #video #videoazeta
In addition to the ‘Video Club’ collection, they also publish ‘The Invisible Hand,’ authorless political publications which call on the reader to become the author through interpretation and critical thinking, and ‘El Retorno,’ a series offering perspectives on Nicaragua through stories, poems, essays, and drawings.
HUMOBOOKS is definitely the most aesthetic option on this list. Launched in 2014, it prints exclusively using Risographs, to create artistic booklets that welcome creativity and experimentation.
The Risograph is a type of printer from Japan which combines the best of the digital world and traditional printing methods to produce images which look handmade, at the speed, cost, and efficiency of a normal printer. It uses processes similar to screen-printing to achieve a similar, multi-layered tonal image.
They’re appealing to artists, as they have 21 standard colors available along with 50 custom colors, some of which are unique to this process as they are extremely difficult to render digitally. Risographs are also an environmentally friendly printing medium: they are energy efficient, use soy-based ink ,and the screens are made from plant fibers, meaning that they generate only a small amount of (biodegradable) waste.
This choice of medium has led HUMOBOOKS to become an experimental platform that offers young Argentine artists the opportunity to get their work published in new and different formats, offering them a platform from which they can connect with an audience that otherwise would have been out of their reach.
For more like Humo, check out Ediciones El Fuerte, another CABA-based risograph printhouse, or Fábrica de Cianotipos, whose blueprinting services are used by artists looking to further experiment with producing books in alternative formats.
In this age of technological over-saturation, getting children to read is now harder than ever. Step in Ediciones Abran Cancha, a Palermo-based publishing house that produces beautiful children’s books, combining whimsical stories with attractive illustrations that both parents and kids will enjoy.
Founded by Argentine author Adela Basch in 2002, Abran Cancha’s mission is to make books for “boys, girls, young people, and curious readers of any age.” They are “guided by patience, love, and a profound respect for the complexities and varieties of childhood and adolescence,” a care and consideration that is evident in the books they produce.
Abran Cancha really take into consideration the multifaceted interpretations that even children and young adults’ books can solicit, and present their books as experiences to enjoy rather than just objects made of bound paper. You can even access reading guides on their website to make accessing the books as enjoyable as possible, thereby convincing the new (reluctant) generation of the merits of reading.
Le Percore Nere is practically the physical embodiment of Argentine history. They are a transnational publishing house that only publishes authors whose writings have a ‘glocal’ (global + local) impact. While these texts are born in a specific country, they have the power to transcend borders to consider questions and themes universal to the human experience.
They aim to be a literary space which gives rise to distinct voices, in particular modern and contemporary writers who build bridges between Italy and Argentina. At a time when the borders between nations seem more defined than ever, and we are being encouraged to turn away from internationalism in favor of national introspection, Le Percore Nere has a different outlook. They celebrate the richness of shared pasts and the possibility of expanding the territorial, linguistic and cultural limits of litertature to achieve lasting change and transformation.
Publishers are often wont to shy away from technology, since it is so often credited with the destruction of print, but Le Percore Nere has a different attitude, making it truly the black sheep of its field. Instead of shying away from modernization, they embrace the different potentials of technological advancements, examining the literary dynamics that exist on the internet and the way that paratextual tools can be used in our digital and interconnected world.
Gárgola are the rebels of the publishing scene, aligning themselves in direct opposition to big business editors, financial markets, and the media, constructing an alternative space to explore the voices of both recognized and lesser-known Argentine writers.
Their catalog now counts over 100 titles and is notable for the diversity of talent and trajectory of the authors published. While they have published and reissued work by well-known authors such as Alberto Laiseca, Juan Sasturain, and Carlos Sampayo, their attitude really comes in to its own in the presentation and promotion of writers whose work has typically not been celebrated, especially those from outside of Buenos Aires. They champion the work of prolific writers such as Jorge Goyeneche and Luisa Peluffo who have struggled so achieve the success of other authors, due to market demands and lack of publicity.
Particularly interesting is their editorial series entitled ‘Laura Palmer no ha muerto’ (‘Laura Palmer Has Not Died’), a collection of new Argentine voices which has published the first works of some of Argentina’s most exciting authors such as Leonardo Loyola, Selva Almada, Federico Levín, Ariel Pavón, Edgardo Scott, Pía Bouzas, Mariano Quirós, and others. Above all, Gárgola champions difference, recognizing the work of authors who have not been as accepted by mainstream publishing. “In diversity, we seek our place,” they say.
If you’re interested in discovering more about the world of independent and art-house publishers, there is an annual Feria de Editores, which gives these smaller publishing houses the opportunity to exhibit their work and connect with a larger audience. This year’s edition will take place in August and will welcome over 100 publishing houses from Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela.