Sometimes, one of the best aspects of living in Arizona is uncovering a gem of innovation, novelty, substance and intrigue where you never thought you’d find it. You have to look close and keep your eyes open because one day while perusing the exhibitor list for the LA Art Book Fair, you might find an amazing little publisher called Hol Art Books.

Tucked away in Tucson, founder Greg Albers has been taking advantage of the space and freedom of Arizona’s wide open working environment to develop an art book publishing house that specialize in e-books. After moving his business from Boston, and recognizing the adaptability needed in a struggling economy, Albers shifted gears and became one of the first art publishers to work in e-books.

Hol Art Book’s website, blog, projects and approach all exude an enthusiasm for innovating in a realm that many of us have never considered.  Says Albers “It is very much a mission of patronage, and perhaps I put that more in the forefront of our activities than other publishers.” The bottom line is bringing subjects, authors and artwork to the public for universal, engaged consumption.

The Hol Art Book website’s “incubator” page allows authors, editors, publicists, designers and bookstore sponsors to participate and have a voice on whether a project will come to fruition. It also makes you aware of all the great potential ideas that exist in need of a platform for all the pieces to come together. Albers turns the process of publishing, from initial seed to final project, into a transparent collaborative effort—removing the intimidation of what can often be a massive project. Also, by removing the printing step, Hol Art Books makes many of these projects financially possible and no longer a far-off economically insurmountable dream.

Albers efforts to engage and include the community reach even farther than publishing their next book. Their Kickstarter project The People’s E-book endeavors to create a free online program that will simplify the currently confusing process of turning a book into an e-book—opening up a new and accessible self-publishing option for aspiring writers and artists wishing to create a book project. At over 180% funded and about two weeks to go, The People’s E-book will likely become a reality and change the face of personal creative publishing. Albers says “the response has been overwhelming and humbling”—a sign of someone who’s inventive mind trumps his pride. Soon, we could be using e-readers to peruse a whole new medium for visual and text-based art projects. I’m already planning mine.

In addition to reaching out to the larger world to make e-book publishing available to the masses, Albers is regularly involved in the local community discussing art and books. Coming up at Tucson’s MOCA, he will be leading a four-part program called “Art Reading/Reading Art: An Unbook Club” that attempts to tap into the regional enthusiasm for learning new things in combination with making the criticism of artwork approachable to all. Simply, we are capable of assessing what we see, with or without a formal art education. This series will focus on “the various, alternative kinds of texts about art that exist including Fiction, Essays, Poetry and Artists’ Texts.” A drive down to Tucson may be in order, or perhaps Greg Albers will consider a trip to downtown Phoenix.

Maybe you like your giant 80lb art books. You like having a shelf full of weighty titles to impress your friends. You’re scared of the prospect of books becoming part of the intangible ether that will keep us from having a concrete, recorded history. To that, I would say: paper is very flammable (the library at Alexandria still burned to the ground), you have your mind to hold all these words and thoughts in and, you can always take the time to conceive of a creative, interesting way to bring ideas to the people, like Hol Art Books has. If none of that works and you still want to impress your friends, you can use this handy E-Book Shelf Surrogate and no one will be the wiser.

An E-Book Shelf Surrogate, promoted at the LA Art Book Fair for Hol Art Books