out of print

Earlier this year, they celebrated their fifth anniversary. Todd Lawton snuck some time from his busy schedule and ­talked to us about ‘Out Of Print’ that he co-founded with his long time friend, Jeffrey LeBlanc; a special T-shirt company that prints covers of classic and loved books for all the book lovers out there. That’s very thrilling already, but apart from that the well is deeper. ‘Out Of Print’ has a mission and the mission is to provide books to the children who wouldn’t have access to them otherwise. With each product sold, one book is donated to a community in need.

Books meet fashion! Where did you meet and how did you start Out Of Print?

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The founders of Out Of Print, in Malawi

Jeff and I met when we were seven years old, shortly after we both moved to Portland, OR. Both being the ‘new kids’, we quickly became friends and managed to stay close even after Jeff moved and through college. Eventually, our separate paths landed us in New York and we started hanging out again. Out of Print started from a shared interest in books and business. We love to read and we’ve always had a creative mind for business ideas. When we finally got around to starting our business, we looked first to our passions. The fact that there were so many avid readers in the world and so few companies like us dedicated to the lifestyle and iconic artwork of reading baffled us. So we decided to change that.

­How do you decide for a book and who designs it?
Initially, Jeff and I picked the covers we liked, based on the art and title/author. Since our launch, we have had thousands of requests from our customers. We keep track of every request and are starting to make our new style choices based on what our customers like. Once we have a book in mind we have to do a lot of research to find a right cover and figure out how to license it. We feature cover art by some of the most famous designers from the golden age of publishing: Paul Bacon, Edward McKnight Kauffer, George Salter, Judy Leeds, and Alvin Lustig to name a few. In addition to licensed art, we have original designs created in house or through collaboration with talented artists of today, like Mikey Burton.

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­From all book covers you have printed, what is your best seller, so far? What’s your personal favorite?
‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ seem to often be among our best sellers, but lately ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, ‘Gone With the Wind’ and ‘Sherlock Holmes’ have been giving them a run. My personal favorite depends on the day. Today I woke up feeling a bit dark, so I’m wearing our black and gray tonal version of ‘A Clockwork Orange’; however, lately I’ve been wearing a lot of Literary Terms tees that came from collaboration we did with Mike Joyce.


You print on apparel, notebooks, jewelry, tote bags, i­phone cases.. I have to admit that I fell in love with the super cute baby bodysuits. Who knows how the words ‘printed book’ will sound to their ears, when the grow up! How do you see the new era of e-­Publishings?
In one way it’s a blessing. It’s a fast and easy way to read books. While traveling it can be really convenient. It also can be a ‘leveler’ for places in the world where paper books are expensive and in short supply. Personally, I read a lot of paper books, as it’s still an important part of the reading experience to me. I like the smell, feel and ability to hand the book over to a friend afterwards. I also have on occasion used e-Readers, but not that much.

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At least, with e­-Publishings, we can still find the books that are out of print. As a side tip to our readers, what’s your top 5 must­-read books?
Tough question. I’m just going to list of the top of my head and see what comes out…’Cathedral’ by Raymond Carver, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ‘A Fine Balance’ by Rohinton Mistry, something by Hiruko Murakami, and I loved the ‘Game of Thrones’ books.

­Out Of Print has a mission. With each purchase, you get to equip libraries in Africa. How do you make that happen?
We work closely with Books For Africa to help with our donations. They are the largest shipper of books to Africa and have been a great partner since day one.

­When you replied to my interview request, you have just got back from Malawi. To where else have you reached? When you are back from your travels, what’s the most precious memory that you keep?
We have sent books to 22 countries in Africa. Malawi was an incredible experience. By far the most precious memories are of the people and natural beauty of the country. The children especially were a joy to see. They are so curious and hungry for knowledge. They love school and love reading. It’s sad to see how limited their access is to books and learning materials. Books are either non-existent or super outdated. To see the impact and opportunity a shipment of books offers to a community there is very moving. We can’t wait to go back.

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­Your enterprise is a very successful one. How did you manage to spread the word? Did you face any obstacles, in the beginning?
I think having a good idea at a good time has helped a lot. In a way the dawn of a digital era of reading has helped us. People still want a tangible souvenir to show they read a book. Our products are conversation starters. We’re a company dedicated to getting more people talking about books.

­What advice would you give to someone who is about to start up a brand with a mission?
Don’t bog yourself down with trying to have all the answers right away. Find your path by continually testing and talking about your idea to others, and constantly ask yourself ‘why does this matter?’.


What to expect from Out Of Print in the near future?
We have some exciting products and designs in the works. I wish I could be more specific, but you’ll just have to trust me. The best way to keep up with us is through social media or sign up for our email.

­Last but not least, what does NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION mean to you?
That’s exactly what Jeff and I started our business on. It’s the key ingredient to any great project or action!

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All photos, courtesy of Out Of Print