At home and in my office I have about 80 meters (seriously) of bookshelves holding more than 2,000 books and uncounted magazines in a half dozen languages. Almost all are about the outdoors.
As an experiment, I once pulled 20 interesting books from the shelves and started Googling to see how many I could find as e-books. Just one. And that one was so pitifully produced that I’d have no interest in owning it. As to books that I’ve written, there’s a Kindle version of one–with tiny black-and-white photos, which drives me crazy. Photos are an important part of all of my stories. My magazine articles? You’ll find some of them online, always without photos.
In the process of looking for e-books, I also discovered just how hard it is to browse for books on a subject. If you know the exact title, fine, just Google it. But you’ll be hard pressed to browse hand-selected e-books on Nepal or the Sahara or climbing in Alaska or conservation in South America. I found it highly discouraging until it inspired me to come up with a solution: John Harlin Media.
Truth be told, the original idea for a digital bookstore predates the story I just told you. As the 10-year editor of the American Alpine Journal, I knew that climbers in India and Germany (and all places between) would have just as much use for the AAJ as we Americans do (have a look and you’ll see why). I dreamed of a way to share digital editions of the AAJ with mountain club members wherever they live.
That’s when I realized the world needs not only a digital AAJ, but also a whole digital outdoors library. Everyone should have access to the authors and books that fill up my shelves–and that’s just the beginning.
So here’s the point of John Harlin Media: On the foundation of mountain club journals we’ll build a great bookstore for all kinds of authors and publishers. Just as long as we have two things in common: a passion for playing outside and a devotion to protecting this planet.
After writing the Climbers’ Guide to North America in the mid 1980s—a 1,200-page, three-volume series—I joined Backpacker Magazine as an associate editor. In 1990 I left to edit Summit: The Mountain Journal until 1995, when I returned to Backpacker as its Northwest Field Editor. In 2002 I was invited to spearhead the American Alpine Journal, published by the American Alpine Club. We soon digitized all 80 volumes of the AAJ already in print, but didn’t have a good system to distribute the content.
In June 2012 I sent my final AAJ to the printer and have now left the American Alpine Club in order to launch Harlin Media. The digital AAJ is one of the first publications in this bookstore; additional years and more “country editions” are in the works. The AAJ offers a rich trove of nearly 30,000 pages of climbing history spanning 80 years. I get inspired every time I open an edition, whether it’s from 1929 or 2009.
During these last years I’ve written several books, including The Eiger Obsession: Facing the mountain that killed my father, published by Simon & Schuster in the U.S. and by national publishers in the U.K., Germany, France, and Italy. Two summers ago I completed a 105-day journey around the complete borders of Switzerland, during which my daily blog and photos were carried by swissinfo.ch. I’m in the process of editing this blog into an e-book, which will soon be available in this bookstore.
I’m also working on a half-dozen additional e-books, including the first digital release of The Climbers’ Guide to North America, a coffee-tablet edition of The Eiger Obsession with excerpts from the Imax movie about Dad’s and my climbs (The Alps), two anthologies of my stories in Backpacker magazine from the last 25 years, a collection of my father’s writings and photographs, plus that book about the Swiss borders.
My home bases are Hood River, Oregon, Leysin, Switzerland, and Oaxaca, Mexico. Wherever you live, I hope you’ll enjoy many mountain journeys through our virtual pages.
John Harlin III
Founder, Harlin Media