Out of Print hits the spot when it comes to experiencing a long-favored novel in a variety of ways. My elation grew after locking in an interview with Todd Lawton, one of two founders of the company keeping iconic book covers in the mind’s eye of artistic preservation. Good stories and style will never grow old!
The self-description of Out of Print immediately caught my attention: Out of Print celebrates the world’s great stories through fashion. Describe how the idea for the company came about?
My business partner, Jeff LeBlanc, and I always had a real interest in books and reading. We were each fortunate enough to come from families that encouraged that…from an early age we shared that in common. It was really always there, something we always talked about. When we first started seeing how the reading experience was changing to a digital experience we realized something was missing. We wanted to create a company and a brand around the nostalgia of reading. In the past, when you read a book, you could put it on a shelf. Now that is kind of gone. We are filling that void, a little bit, with a shirt or an iPad cover that says something about who you are as a person or reader. The art is a fashion statement.
Do you read books from an electronic device or just good old fashioned books?
I do both. It is 50-50. I definitely like the convenience of downloading a book, but I like having an actual book to share with someone or put up on the shelf…the way that it feels when you are holding a book…I still like that.
What was the first book you utilized as product for Out of Print?
The first book we sampled was 1984, in its original cover. It was not intended at the time, but 1984 is actually the year that Jeff LeBlanc, my business partner, and I met while in second grade. It has a bit of meaning. But, it was not intended.
Jeff is so much better at these kinds of questions! When you are starting a business, you just have to expect that it may be crazy. Crazy in a good way and crazy in a difficult way, but crazy. Your world is not going to automatically improve when you begin your own business. It takes a motivated person, someone with a flexibility to guide the business in your own way.
Who are your favorite authors?
Right now I’m into Haruki Murakami but my favorite book is Catch 22.
Is Catch 22 a book you feel like you can read over and over again?
There are definitely books I can re-read. Some of Hemingway’s books as well as The Great Gatsby. I recently re-read The Great Gatsby, since high school, and it was interesting to compare what stood out to me then vs. what stands out to me now. It shows a great measure of who you are as a person. For me, a fun way to re-read books is to understand yourself a little bit better.
Out of Print has The Great Gatsby art on an array of product. How do you decide between product and book art?
It’s not a science. We may see something and start it on one product, but move it to another. The Great Gatsby book art is one that works on a great number of products. We look at popularity as well as how it may fit into a particular collection.
Your social media campaigns have been brilliant. The “Put A Poe On It” was fantastic. Does Out of Print have a digital team creating these campaigns?
From very early on, we felt social media was important for this business. Readers are a community in and of themselves. We want to be a part of that community, drive the conversation, and get people interested and engaged around really cool things related to books. Most of the stuff we post has nothing to do with our actual product. The Put A Poe On It was something our designer came up with around Edgar Allan Poe. And, funny Poe-isms began. It got us excited and we put it up online. We do have a social media and digital marketing manager who works all day, every day, curating the online presence. It is something we will continue to do and will continue to enjoy.
With each product sold, you donate a book to Books for Africa. How did this collaboration come about?
We always wanted to 1) begin a business and 2) use that business to make a statement and bring some good into the world. We are inspired by companies like TOMS. Books for Africa is a partner that allows us to see the actual impact. Their mission matches up to ours’. It is giving people opportunities to read or to love and share the joy of reading. Giving access to people in countries of Africa who need support. The book is a community builder. Books for Africa was under-promoted, and we felt not only could we put books into people’s hands but also bring awareness to their organization.
What will never go out of style?
Reading will never go out of style. Books are timeless. And, I think that design never goes out of style. With Out of Print, we are fortunate, these book covers are classic, designed from a period that is gone. They are made by hand, and you can sense the connection from the artists to the cover.
What is your favorite place to read a book?
I just moved out to Brooklyn and I love reading on the couch right next to the window. On the weekend there is a really great soft light…
Out of Print originally used 1984’s red colored cover as art for product. // This interview has been edited and condensed. // A special thanks to Mrs. Laura Charecky.
Image Credits: Courtesy of Out of Print