Photo by Shane Harms
Michael Matewauk in his gallery.

Ballard bookstore and gallery embraces ebooks

How do you like to read a book? Many readers have dumped the print for digital media reading devices like Kindle. Other’s cling to their age scented pages like a crucifix.

Amazon has had an influential role in changing the way we read, and with the way we read, publishing has changed too. More and more authors side step the traditional publishing house by contracting out all the work that goes into designing and editing a book to freelancers. With the change, new ways to sell books are emerging across the country and right here in Ballard.

Michael Matewauk is founder and curator of Factory vs. Academy (FA), a gallery and bookstore in a basement studio at 2220 N.W. Market Street. FA is part of this month’s Ballard Art walk. He launched FA in 2013, but this is his first showing. Every three months he plans to pair photography or paintings that lend to the featured indie writers' books. Matewauk plans to expand the genre he features but right now is focusing on creative non-fiction. His current exhibit is called, "Thank you Bezos! A Self Publishers' First Supper," and features eleven books.

Along with the books, there is a large mural inspired by “The Last Supper,” by Leonardo da Vinci. Matewauk recruited Seattle mural artist, Andrew Morrison, to paint the walls of his gallery. Morrison painted the Native American heritage mural at Wilson-Pacific campus. Last year Seattle Public Schools were going to destroy the walls the murals were painted on in order to build a new building. Morrison had to fight to save the murals. Matewauk said he was inspired by Morrison’s commitment to saving his work ,and so he decided to ask Morrison to paint his mural.

Photo by Shane Harms

“I don’t know where I got the idea to do this but I think it’s basically because Bezos sounds close to Jesus. I was thinking he’s a savior for a lot of writers by having readers buy their work online rather than going through the traditional publishing industry. I thought, ‘what would it be like to have him at the head of the table and have indie authors as the apostles?’ The mural shows that it’s a new idea – a new way to put a book out into the market place,” said Matewauk.

FA is a relatively new concept. Matewauk has an arrangement with Amazon where he gets a small percentage of every digital book sold through his website and gallery. The percentage does not come out of the authors' royalties. Hard copies average around $15 and digital books range from $4 to $5. Seventy percent of online book royalties go to the authors if it’s price is above $2.99. According to Matewauk that’s a “sea-change” for the publishing business and an opportunity for authors who cannot land a book deal with traditional publishers.

In the mural each apostle at the table is one of Matewauk’s featured authors. Under each one are QR codes that viewers can scan that takes them to the Amazon site where they can buy a print or ebook version.

“The money goes into the author’s pockets instead of going to some sort of middle-man, and it’s providing a place where their voices can be heard that otherwise would not be.”

More money is always good for struggling authors, but many are finding another benefit. The ebook route allows them to stay in control of the book’s design and how it’s marketed. They also get to publish their stories the way they intend them to be told, without the publisher changing things to fit into a certain genre or formula.

“Twilight on the Thunderbird: A Memoir of Quileute Indian Life,” by Howard Hansen is one of the books featured by Matewauk. Hansen has been living in Ballard since the 1940’s. His book is a memoir that tells the story of Hansen’s boyhood living on the Quileute Reservation in La Push, Wash.

Hansen published his book with the help of Vlad Veroni of Third Place Books. He said Veroni helped him design, format and print a hard copy edition. Hansen’s memoir is set to launch as an ebook this week.

Hansen said he would consider a traditional publishing house for books he’s writing now, but that he needed more control for his memoir.

“I didn’t want to go with a traditional publisher. When they buy your book they can do anything with it, and I decided not to let them do that with my boyhood and the story of my people. … I worked on that book since 1958, and I wasn’t going to give it to someone to horse around with,” said Hansen.

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