In these days of increased reliance on web-based shopping, online book merchants like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Powells offer much wider selections than physical stores, even large ones, can provide. (Though nothing still beats the personal selections made by owners of small, independent booksellers, if you’re lucky enough to have access to one.)
The big selections of books available through the online sellers works well for finding a book that you already are familiar with and have decided to buy, but browsing, a practice of key importance to all book lovers, is hard to duplicate in the window of a web browser (despite the name).
This is particularly difficult in the case of art, illustration and design books.
The online booksellers have tried to make up for this in various ways with reviews, recommendations, ratings, and more recently, small visual excerpts form the books.
The latter, as exemplified by Amazon, is particularly bad at delivering on its premise, hampered perhaps by overzealous intellectual property lawyers and poor think-through on the part of the company. These “Look Inside” features usually disappoint, showing a table of contents, some opening pages and a bit of an index, but little (if any) of the heart of a book. I get the impression the preview pages are chosen by an algorithm or numeric formula, rather than a person.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a site where art related books are reviewed and described, accompanied by a few carefully chosen (by a human), high-resolution images that really give you an idea of the book’s visual content?
Enter Parka Blogs, a blog by Teih Yi Chie, an illustrator and cartoonist, blogging under the alias of Parka, who makes a point of doing just that.
The Art Book List is heavy on movie and animation concept art, illustration, anime and science fiction, but within that vein does a great job on the books that are reviewed. (If anyone starts a review blog like this for gallery and museum art books, please let me know!)
The reviews themselves are succinct and give a nice overview of the book. The killer feature though, is the selection of well-chosen images from the books, images that are actually representative of the books’ content (are you listening, big-time online booksellers?), and often supplemented with video “flip-throughs”, in which the entire book is quickly flipped through, giving you on overall impression of the amount and kind of images that make up the body of the book.
The still images are linked to larger versions on Flickr, the largest of which are nicely high resolusion, giving you a browsing experience that is next-best to actually having the book in your hands when deciding what to buy.
The Art Book list is divided into types of movies, individual studios (like Pixar and Studio Ghibli), as well as collections of work by individual concept artists, illustrators and others.
There is also a shorter list of Intsructional Books.
The site provides a list of relevant links; and the blog itself can also, of course, be read like a blog, browsing back by date or searching out topics of interest. In addition to the reviews, he covers topics of interest in similar veins. I came across Parka Blogs when he was kind enough to post a brief article about Lines and Colors a few days ago.
The Parka Blogs book reviews are accompanied by links to the reviewed books on Amazon. Purchases made through his links return a small percentage to the reviewer so he can, what else?, buy more books to enjoy and review.
(Images above: from Parka’s reviews of The Art of Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith, Miyazaki’s Magical World, Covers by James Jean and The Art of Kung Fu Panda. See my posts on Hayao Miyazaki and James Jean.)