Sam Gould is kind of like a modern-day Ben Franklin. The activist and bookmaker has set up shop at the Midtown Global Market for his latest project, Beyond Repair, a bookshop, printing press, and community space. Equipped with various printers and binding machines, the space, which has been open for about five weeks, also displays magazines, leaflets, and books featuring Gould’s writings and collaborations with other creators.
While Gould has technically made everything in the shop — including personal writing projects and collaborations — he avoids the term “self-publishing.”
“Why isn’t it just 'publishing?'” he asks. “It’s really just economy of scale. It’s in a tradition that could be called self-publishing, but I wonder what that connotes. Is it illegitimate, then?”
To make money, the business sells books and services. Past projects have included printing wedding invitations and creating a songbook for a local karaoke jockey. They even rebound a cookbook for the folks at Salty Tart, who paid in pastries.
Each month, the space commissions an artist to create a work based on the theme of Beyond Repair’s rent check. They make an edition of 30 priced at $30 each. If all of the editions sell, that pays for a month's rent. For the first month’s rent check, Josh MacPhee created a five-color print at the shop. They pay the bills in other ways as well; the Walker Art Center bought a subscription, paying $100 in exchange for a couple of books for their library each month.
Upcoming collaborative projects include an imprint with Tom Kaczynski, where they'll re-release utopian texts from throughout the ages. There are also plans for another collaboratively created imprint, Society, which explores the intersection of politics and poetics.
Meanwhile, photographer Sean Smuda, who ran the nearby Shoebox Gallery on Chicago and Lake Street for 11 years, is doing a residency of sorts at Beyond Repair, taking people’s portraits on Saturday afternoons (show up between 2 and 5 p.m.). Participants are asked to bring their favorite piece of art or object, and Smuda asks folks to consider: “What’s your beauty and will you share it with the world?”
Subjects also write a few sentences about their object, and comment on the neighborhood. Smuda plans to create a book based on the project.
While Beyond Repair isn’t a nonprofit, Gould would eventually like to offer micro-grants to community endeavors.