By Jon Fortenbury
Photo: Rebecca L. Bennett, Brave Bird Photography.
In a world that’s losing its human touch to machines, one Austin book publisher is sticking to the roots. Tiny Toe Press, founded in early 2011 by husband-and-wife team Michael and Bridget Davidson, creates each book individually, by hand, the way artisans did in the golden age of publishing.
Tiny Toe’s website explains that the process makes use of a self-healing cutting mat, a utility knife with segmented blade, a metal ruler to “score spines into our covers with precision,” a “custom-designed jig to clamp squared books into place,” and plenty of high-quality glue with special ingredients. After the spines ossify, the page edges are shaved by hand with the same utility knife used to help create the spine, and then they’re stamped “to give identities to our books.”
Yes, Tiny Toe’s books have identity alright, and a discrete birthmark. It’s a hard thing to convey digitally, but Michael Davidson told Austin.com that his customers instantly notice the product’s authenticity upon seeing it in real life.
“Over time, when you give the books to so many people, you see that they give this seductive reaction, as they realize this is not mass-produced and it’s an act of people,” he explained.
Since the press started, Tiny Toe has only published six books: Novels and novellas so far, mostly from authors in Austin but some elsewhere, and they’re looking at publishing poetry and nonfiction in the future. Their current selection, while small, is actually quite diverse, with subjects ranging from travel novels to apocalyptic love stories. The company also makes and sells notebooks and stamps through a sub-division called Slim Note, which sells through Etsy and at local Austin events.
For the Davidsons, Tiny Toe Press has been a passion that is finally growing into a real source of revenue — and community. Michael, a Miami-native, came to Austin looking to publish some of his own writing. When his friends who helped him run the collaborate blog The Open End heard of his plans, they wanted in.
So, what started out with friends has turned into a successful publishing house that sells thousands of books online, and Davidson said it could not have happened anywhere other than Austin. “There’s such [support] here,” he said. “It’s always possible to find a gallery or coffee shop or some venue that will give you time to hold something like a release party. It’s been very useful.”
To check out Tiny Toe Press books, go to the store section of its website. Be prepared for not only good writing but an authentic reading experience as well.
An ocean creature-themed journal series from Tiny Toe Press. Photo: Rebecca L. Bennett, Brave Bird Photography.