BASEMENT BOOK SHELF: “Venomous Words” by Jeff Oliver and Gordon Reilly

As is often the case, I become aware of new books through random Amazon searches. I am always looking for new books on tarantulas and “Venomous Words” by Jeff Oliver and Gordon Reilly appeared in the offerings and the concept intrigued me, macro-photography combined with dark poetry. What a great combination and the book’s cover certainly sucked me in, despite the high price tag.

When the book arrived two days later, I initially had mixed feelings about it. The first thing I asked myself was it worth the price? This was based on flipping through it quickly. I decided to give it a chance though and read it cover to cover and found that it is not all that bad. It is far from perfect though.

First off let me say that this book does seem to be a labor of love and who am I to criticize someone for creating such an ambitious project? I think the concept is a great one; it’s the execution I am having issues with, many of which may have worked better if published differently.

Some pictures appear out of focus.

Let me talk about Gordon Reilly’s photographs first, which are amazing. What is not amazing is how they appear in this book. Many appear dark and out of focus. I have self-published before and I learned two things. Never upscale a photo beyond its capabilities and use photos lighter than you would expect. It seems that the photos were upscaled because when you look at the logos on the pictures, they are distorted. A one-to-one scale (or smaller) photo should appear crystal clear. Another issue here may be the 8.5 x 11″ size of the book, where these photos have to be re-sized to fit the larger format.

Some aspects of the photos loose their clarity from being blown up too large.

With the last book I published I viewed the proof two ways, online and a printed copy in hand, and I am glad I did. The online copy looked absolutely amazing. On the print copy, many of the pictures appeared dark, causing definition and detail to be lost. I think this happened here as well. Because many of the pictures appear dark, you lose the whole point of macro-photography, seeing the incredible detail close up. I am wondering if a smaller book size was chosen, if the detail issue would’ve gone away (and it may have lessened the retail price of the book as well). If the authors had looked at a printed proof, they would’ve realized that lightening the photos would have been beneficial.

Too much white space, giving the impression of an unfinished project.

I think a smaller book format would’ve also helped with the text. The poems are fun and quirky and the text under most pictures are informative. When you look at most of the pages though, you see a lot of white, areas void of pictures and text. Because of all of this white space, the book comes off as unfinished and loose. I think by making the overall size of the book smaller, the images and text would’ve come across tight and clean. In its current state, it looks like it is missing something.

This is unfortunate. There is so much to like about this book, but the execution is all wrong. I think if the book size was reduced and the pages tightened up, this book would be one to have in all collections. I am hoping that this book will get the release it deserves, with reformatting of both the text and images someday soon. I am thinking print-on-demand just cannot do books like this justice.

Don’t forget to read the other blogs in my BASEMENT BOOK SHELF series.

~David Albaugh

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