The M.I.L.K. man goes digital

The M.I.L.K. man goes digital

The MILK-Moleskine publishing partnership creates an innovative loop from digital content back to paper, with both brands bringing their own unique qualities to the venture.

M.I.L.K.  – Moments of Intimacy, Laughter and Kinship – the book concept made up of a collection of images founded on humanity, was created with images selected from over 17,000 photographs across 164 countries. The idea was conceived and developed in 1999 by New Zealand publisher Geoff Blackwell, and has gone on to sell three million copies in more than 10 languages.

Fast forward a decade, and while the PQ Blackwell publisher was putting together a photo book for his father’s 70th birthday, he was inspired to create a platform that would enable anyone to create their own tailor-made books.

Says Blackwell: "Publishing is a multi-faceted process, but for me the best part about publishing is actually making books. Those quiet times spent in a studio, gathering together the material, matching the text with photographs, designing and creating, and that sense of fulfilment when you finally hold the finished book in your hands. That process has been a real joy for me for so many years, and I’d like other people to experience this, and make it easy for them.”

The Auckland-based publishers have now embarked on their first major foray into digital and the print-on-demand book world, raising the bar to a stunning height. They have teamed up with Moleskine, the heir of the little black notebooks used by avant-garde artists and scribblers of the last two centuries, with the new MILK and Moleskine website now live and loaded.

Delve into the experience and it soon becomes apparent that this bespoke solution is both personal and business. The online platform provides intelligent text prompts, a built-in quote library, and an elegant range of templates, fonts and colour schemes. Now everyone from mums, chefs and wedding planners to designers, photographers and filmmakers can produce their own book of works, with the kind of exquisite quality and attention to detail that one would expect from these titans. In fact, the printers that produce these tailor-made books are the same printers that print all the other PQ Blackwell books, with a repertoire that includes portraits of Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana, and most recently More than Human, the extraordinary coffee table book by photographer Tim Flach.

This new partnership creates an innovative loop from digital content back to paper, with both brands bringing their own unique qualities to the venture. Customers have the choice of printing their books in either the MILK look and feel or Moleskine.

The MILK book fabric covers come in a variety of colours and designs, with inset cover images and labels, quality endpapers and a woven ribbon tie closure or marker. The Moleskine books feature Moleskine's distinctive rounded corners, elastic loops, expandable pockets, and textured covers. All books are printed on ivory-coloured acid-free FSC certified paper with lie-flat stitched binding. MILK's design system also allows for up to 10 people in any location to collaborate on the project. The book is then printed, bound and delivered to the customer's door within seven to 12 days, worldwide.

"Moleskine had been grappling with completing their own product, and then they saw what we were doing and it just made good business sense to collaborate." 

And it’s apparent that this new collaboration is working. Blackwell adds, "Since we launched our traffic has increased by multiples of 10 a day on average. Moleskine sell millions of notebooks a year and they have this huge customer base, huge traffic flows through their website - which enables us to reach a much broader audience.”

But this is by no means a print only solution. Customers that use the website can also incorporate video content, viewed in an online version of the book, and on a disc specially mounted in the back of the physical book. Work in progress and digital versions can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and through email.

MILK has flipped the script on its traditional book publishing model - whilst never forgetting their roots - and it’s paying off now as bespoke books fly off the shelves.

Jamie Joseph is a writer and a poet and can be found blogging at

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