New Bourgie Publisher Seeks to be the Toms Shoes of Books

haute culture books

A new publisher is re-inventing the publishing model by offering new translations of literary classics in luxury format. Decked out with gold-plated logos and hand-bound leather covers, each sale will support the distribution of free ebooks.

Aptly named “Haute Culture,” the publisher calls its customers “Book Angels.” Each luxury book costs $451 USD, and gives the consumer the ability to donate 100 copies of the ebook version to specific schools or organizations, or to the anonymous unwashed masses via the Haute Culture website.

As a book-lover, I have to manage my overall disgust with consumerism and my irrational love of books as objects. And while it’s pretty cool that Haute Culture is giving the lumpen proletariat the ability to read never-before translated texts, “capitalism with a conscience” is still a giant crock of shit.

The model is not dissimilar from Toms Shoes, where their “one for one” program provides a pair of shoes to people in developing nations for every pair purchased. Zizek quotes Oscar Wilde in his commentary on Toms:

The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good; and at last we have had the spectacle of men who have really studied the problem and know the life – educated men who live in the East End – coming forward and imploring the community to restrain its altruistic impulses of charity, benevolence, and the like. They do so on the ground that such charity degrades and demoralises. They are perfectly right. Charity creates a multitude of sins.

In an interview with Biblioklept, CEO Luis de Miranda noted “Physical books should be sublime, digital books should be free.”

Their first book will be Flaubert’s “Felicity: The Tale of the Simple Heart.

Read the full interview at Bibliokept.

  • Jeremy Stewart

    (Sorry, I think you may mean “capitalism with a conscience.” I will delete this comment when the correction is made)

    • Critical Theory

      Gets me every time.

  • Omnipotence

    Yes, Mr. Miranda, digital books SHOULD be free. So why are you charging someone $451 before anyone can have them?

  • Haute Culture Books

    We are surprised by this article and its comments. Do you have any common sense? Did you investigate our model before you paste your assumptions as praecox radicals, probably to try to convince your superego filled with “bourgeois” guilt that you are rebels? Our communist or leftist serious friends, who have studied accounting, would be ashamed of your lack of economical knowledge.

    Haute Culture Books is loosing money on this project, my fellows. A translation is made by an human that deserves to (and must) be paid fairly, then edited by an human (or two) that deserves to (and must) be paid fairly. Many other costs are involved in this realisation, like for example the revision and layout of hundreds of pages. We have spent some of our personal savings on this project, without any salary and probably no immediate return (and may be never any financial return at all). But we want to continue to pay the people who work, as we are against the tendency to work for free that is the disease of the proletariat of culture.

    At 451 euros, you have only an average of 25 people sponsoring a project like this. We do not have the space here to give a class on accounting or explain our vision and model but you can refer to our site and blog, and study the publishing sector a bit. Ours a radical and complex new vision, in fact more a long-term venture than a profitable business in the short or even the middle term. Critical thinking needs some calculation capacities, not just quotations of fashionable philosophers.

    In fact what we might need one day is to produce, at the limit, only one or very few expensive physical object (sold much more than 451 euros) that will cover all the production costs and then allow the free digital books. Because there is no collective desire for the kind of books we want to translate and publish, only a small minority will pay to read them in English. The collective desire, as you know, is orchestrated towards much more accessible fast-food like products, as Zizek as also shown (after Lacan). The other publishers do not want to publish this kind of books, because they are not considered economically viable, and this is why they have remained untranslated for many decades before we decided they were worth being known by the global psyche.

    Or should we give up and leave this books forever untranslated? No, don’t worry, you will get your free e-books, and despite your fantasies, there is no greedy fat capitalist with a cigar behind the scene. Not even a cigarette and a “cool” google tee-shirt. Haute Culture is about craft, far away from the mass production of invasive objects…

    As for charity, it is not a pertinent concept here, as again there is no demand or intellectual starvation for these kind of books, no deep need as there can be for food or housing in some parts of the world. We are doing this out of LOVE, in the very lacanian sense, and the only jouissance we get in the process is to produce beautiful and rare objects, made with a lot of patience and art.

    By the way, you should change the photos of this article, as they are not accurate anymore. Those were prototypes that we considered not convincing.

    More soon, if this comment is not deleted…