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Korean Publishers

 

Mati Books

New Perspective, Broader Sight

 

2022.02.14

 

Mati Books is a publisher specializing in the humanities, publishing books in various fields such as society, art, and architecture. Starting as a single-person publisher, Mati Books has been delivering the importance of humanities books, winning the Lotte Publishing Culture Award and Korean Publishing Culture Award, and being designated as the Sejong Excellent Academic Book. Under the slogan of “Humble Life with Ambitious Thinking,” Mati Books has been touching the hearts of its readers with insightful interpretation, heartwarming encouragement, and deep enlightenment for 17 years. Following is an interview with Mati Books.

 

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Logo of Mati Books

 

 

Please introduce Mati Books to our readers.

 

Mati Books was founded in 2005. We publish books about society, art, and architecture, based on humanities. We have been publishing the Faustian Bargain series, which broadened the scope of understanding about the Third Reich through the lives of artists who cooperated with the Nazis such as Furtwängler, Leni Riefenstahl, and Albert Speer, the Edward W. Said Selections that introduce the intellectual heritage of Edward W. Said such as On the Late Style, and the Good House Series that led the house-building syndrome in Korea in the mid-2000s including The House Building Bible.
Mati in Greek means “eye.” Upon establishment, we wanted to focus on visual art and media in the early 20th century. It was the time when all sorts of “post (like post-modernism)” were trending. And we were instead thinking that we should look at modernism. We wanted to show the act of “seeing,” viewpoints, and perspectives.

 

Why does Mati Books focus on humanities, among all other genres?

 

Historically, the very first root of publishing as an action is modern humanities, and it is not an exaggeration to say that it has led to publishing today. Many fields such as society, art, and architecture are closely intertwined, and the link is the humanities. In fact, each of the fields has branched out from this common root of humanities. But, we don’t think that the humanities are at a level where it ecompasses every other genre. Time has long passed. Yet, we still think that if there’s a common foundation for topics for our conversation, it would be the humanities, even should it be a worn-out foundation.

 

What do you think is the biggest charm of the humanities as a genre, and why do you think we must read such books?

 

Humanities can also mean a study of human beings. As we want to know and must know human behaviors, history, and life, we have to look into humanities. Sometimes the humanities are the most practical fields. Plus, it’s fun. There’s nothing more interesting than a human being, right?

 

What are the criteria for good books and good writing that Mati Books seeks to pursue?

 

It’s like a tautology, but we think good books are those that well exhibit the unique characteristics and strengths of books as a medium. As paper books have their own advantages, we try to produce books that are good at showing such strengths. Also, there might be various yardsticks to judging good writing, but we think that writing (media) should fit the content of the book. Just like Marshall McLuhan said, the medium can also become the content. We prefer accurate writings rather than beautiful ones.

 

In order to publish the good books and good writings mentioned above, what are the criteria by which Mati Books selects authors and works?

 

Above all, the writing must be able to stimulate our members’ curiosity. As there are not many products that highly depend on individual preferences, we believe that a good book should be able to capture the minds of its producers first. Then, our interest and curiosity shall extend to our readers. We think whether we would buy the book instantly if another publisher has made the book.

 

If you were to pick 3 books published by Mati Books, what would they be, and why?

 

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The Genealogy of Modern Korean Houses, The Symphonies, Borrowed, Bought, Discarded

 

 

The Genealogy of Modern Korean Houses by Park Cheol-Soo won the Lotte Publishing Culture Award and Korean Publishing Culture Award, also being designated as the Sejong Excellent Academic Book last year. It literally won all the awards an academic book can receive. It’s 1,400 pages long with more than 1,000 drawing plates, but it’s actually quite fun. It tracks down the history of Korean housing, looking at the kinds of houses Koreans have lived in since the colonization period, Korean War, and the miraculous economic growth, and talks about how Korea got to invest everything into apartments.
The next book is The Symphonies by Choi Eun-Gyu. This is a classical book that includes “almost every” symphony written by renowned composers, from C.P.E. Bach and Haydn to Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, not to mention Mahler and Shostakovich. It focuses more on the music itself rather than discussing episodes about the composers. It has been largely popular among genuine music lovers.
Last but not least, we would like to pick Borrowed, Bought, Discarded by Chang Jung-Il. It’s a book journal. Novelist Chang is a famous book collector and an extensive reader. He has been keeping the book journal since 20 years ago. He has been writing it everyday, believing that books open the window to society, and that society is again reflected in books. The book journal is a mirror of the generation.

 

Mati Books has been issuing a newsletter named Footnotes*. What is the reason for publishing it, and how’s the readers’ response?

 

As we’ve mentioned earlier, we wanted to make a channel closest to our readers where we share our interests and curiosity with them. We also wanted to put together all our content into one place, unlike using Social Media, where posts are kind of volatile. Feedback from the readers on the free newsletter is all positive. We get good opinions. But, many of them say that it is different from many other publishing-related newsletters. It seems that they take our newsletter as more friendly. Maybe that’s why its open rate is high.

 

 

“Amidst the emerging crisis surrounding books and writing,
Mati Books is seeking for ways to supplement physical books with digital media,
while mulling over how to preserve their values and history.”

 

 

What kind of publisher does Mati Books pursue to become, and what are your next plans?

 

We hope the publisher becomes more colorful as we welcome more members. In a time when it is difficult to quickly increase the size of a publishing company, we think it is one of the few ways to keep publishing for a long time.

 

 


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#Mati Books#Humanities#Sejong Excellent Academic Book#Modernism
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