Oak Knoll Fest: A New, but Familiar Experience
I’m Sanjay. I’m a medical student. But I’m taking some time off from that right now, and while I do, I’m here at Oak Knoll shelving books that need shelving and finding books on the shelf that need finding. A weekend or two ago, I had the pleasure of working at and attending my first Oak Knoll Fest. While I am pretty clueless about the world of bibliophilia, something about the fest felt warmly familiar.
Now, besides being an aspiring med student and book shelving technician, I’m also a webcomic writer. For three years, I have drawn a comic every day and put it on the internet. In doing so, I became part of a pretty fantastic community of comic writers. By taking to the web, we can self-publish, explore the form and content of a comic in ways that would be impossible on paper, and reach niche audiences who appreciate it.
And though private presses are celebrating and expanding everything that can be done with print, while webcomics are silently eroding the medium, as I listened to the Sunday speakers, I was struck by similarities. Martyn Ould’s talk about his misadventures in printing got plenty of laughs about things I don’t understand in the least. It worked because Oak Knoll Fest brought together like-minded people in the same way the internet does. While most people wouldn’t understand why dampening certain types of paper before printing on them is a terrible idea (I don’t), that doesn’t matter when you have a room full of private press printers to laugh at such foolishness. And when Russell Maret talked about finding a perfect marriage of type and content in the face of big commercial presses that don’t get it, it reminded me of the same explorations of comic form that are possible when you ditch the big comic companies.
I only wish there was a webcomic parallel to sneaking to the Thames in the dead of night to dump all your typesetting equipment into a river, forever saving your type from being commercialized. Amazing.
I had a great time at Oak Knoll Fest. Most of the time I was sitting in the bookstore, listening to blues music, waiting to help a customer. I even had time while I wasn’t helping any to draw my comic for the day. It was a fantastic weekend and my only regret is that I didn’t have more time to get to visit the exhibitors.
Thanks for reading. Maybe I’ll find a book for you one of these days!
-Sanjay, Book Shelving Technician