Stories

Limited Edition Books are Leading the Way in Editorial Sustainability

written by Delfina Jaureguialzo

It’s no secret that we must start thinking of ways to reduce our purchase of single-use products in order to make the world more sustainable. Books are no exception. A single sheet of paper needs many liters of water to be produced, and other aspects of the traditional publishing process, such as print and distribution, are some of the challenges we are facing today. 

Buying used books is a way of reducing overproduction, but what should we do about new publications? Emerging artists need their work to be known and they also deserve fair compensation for it. But ebooks are not the best solution either, especially for image-based books. 

Sometimes a book can offer more than reading. Touching it, feeling its weight, and smelling its pages is a huge part of the literary experience. Books as objects have been around us for centuries and we are not ready to let them go. Fortunately, there are other things we can do to mitigate the consequences of the publishing industry.

Guadalupe Chirotarrab, Marina Alessio and Pilar Villasegura opened Rata Kiosco in December 2021. It is a small bookshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina that was born to bring together in a single space the self-managed local production of books, visual arts fanzines, as well as vinyl and cassette records. 

The three women behind Rata Kiosco come from the visual arts, book publishing, and music fields, so they were interested in building a project that could combine their knowledge and experience. “The content we offer is very diverse. We have books, fanzines, artist's books, magazines, hybrid publications, handcrafted objects, and experimental music records”, says Pilar. “But the vast majority are limited publications and special editions. We also have unique treasures for sale, like some out-of-print books, and last copies of books that will not be republished.”

They have a federal approach for the selection of the materials they offer. They first do very extensive research and then a thorough curatorship that determines which books fill the criteria to include in their catalog. “We are always on the lookout for new productions and the emergence of new publishing projects and music labels from all over the country,” explains Pilar, “we are particularly interested in self-reflective and self-referential publications where content and medium are inseparable. For example, for an artist's book, we don’t look for exclusive, expensive, and collectible objects. We understand the artist's book as a working territory and as a way of asking questions. That is why it is essential for us that our books are affordable and portable.”

Pilar and her partners are aware of how important their work is for bringing more visibility and distribution to self-managed and local editorial production. Traditional and commercial libraries are not keen on providing these kinds of materials. Independent books are often hidden or don’t receive the necessary care. “That is why we understand that Rata Kiosco comes to meet a need. We aim to continue the work other bookshops have been doing in the past and have an impact on our current cultural scene,” she says. 

Projects like these are important not only for sustainability but also to help independent writers, photographers, designers, and publishers to continue sharing their art. As consumers and as book lovers, our only job is to support our local libraries and books printed one copy at a time.