by Jonathan Mallinson
Books on the decorative arts can be expensive to produce and to buy. And they are relatively few, particularly on art pottery. Open Access publishing has served the most immediate community of readers of this book: those who are familiar with, and/or are collectors of Moorcroft's pottery. It has enabled a rapid and international promotion of the book, and downloads from all five continents in the first couple of weeks demonstrate the effectiveness of that process. But it was the ambition of this book to move beyond this (quite limited) community to reach a much broader readership, from those with an interest (either academic or amateur) in pottery more generally or in the material culture of the first half of the twentieth century to those who might enjoy the story of an individual who enjoyed worldwide appreciation in his lifetime, but whose story is being told in detail for the first time. These broader communities are less likely to pay the cover price of a print copy until they know more about the book itself. Open Access publishing has made this much easier to achieve.
To prioritise commercial interest with a book of this kind would have been not to publish it at all. And yet, paradoxically, Open Access is not incompatible with sales. By reaching a wider community of online readers, by putting into the public domain the compelling story of a creative artist responding to turbulent times, together with multiple images of his work never seen before, Open Access publishing allows readers to explore at leisure the detail of the book. And it reaches a much wider community, of whom there will inevitably be some (or many) who may prefer hard copy for more extensive consultation, but who may have been reluctant to buy one sight unseen, or after just cursory inspection in a bookshop. Open Book Publishers' extensive and informed promotional strategies have maximised these opportunities.
But in another, more particular way, publishing William Moorcroft, Potter with OBP has been the perfect match. Moorcroft's work as an artist potter was not motivated by a desire to make money; his ambition was to express himself, and to bring beauty into the lives of others. To that extent, he may be situated in the tradition of William Morris. But whereas many (even most) products of the Arts and Crafts movement were luxury items (for all their appearance of homely simplicity), Moorcroft's pottery was accessible by more than a privileged few. He made expensive wares, collected by connoisseurs of ceramic art, but inexpensive, functional wares, too, affordable by a much broader public. And whatever its size, function or sophistication, it was all made to the same high standards of design and production. As one contemporary critic noted, even his simplest ware is, in the eyes of its owner, a collector's item. Added to which, he was personally very generous with his ware, often giving it away as presents or tokens of gratitude. What mattered to him was that he benefited others, not that he made a profit. Tellingly, he survived the economic pressures of the interwar years more successfully than many of his contemporaries. In more ways than one, he would doubtless have shared the principles of Open Access publishing.
This is an Open Access title available to read and download for free or to purchase in all available print and ebook formats below.