Corvus' Miniatures

Painted sf & fantasy miniatures by Gerrie Schenck

Review: CoolMiniOrNot Annual 2008

This time I am reviewing a publication: the CoolMiniOrNot Annual 2008 book. It's a compilation of the best submissions to the CoolMiniOrNot website in 2008. It's a nice book with a lot of inspirational content, but I think there's still some room for improvement...

At the moment of writing there are still 167 copies left in the CoolMiniOrNot shop. If you want to buy this book after reading this review, I wouldn't wait too long because once it's sold out, it's gone forever. I believe it was a print run of 500 copies and just like the only other annual they did (which dates back to 2003) it will probably never be reprinted.

The question a lot of people ask is whether buying this book is worth it, because every picture in the book can be seen online too. I guess this is a personal thing, much in line with the discussion of printed books versus e-books. But there's probably one thing which makes a lot of people decide not to buy the book and that's the price. It costs $35, with $7 shipping if you live in the USA or Canada, $14 for the rest of the world. So I ended up paying nearly $50 for the book...

I mainly bought this book as a source of inspiration and relaxation (because I really like looking at nicely painted miniatures). Did it succeed in doing this? Yes! Did I expect more from it? Yes!

First of all I wasn't really happy about the packaging. The book itself was packed in a simple cardboard box, slightly larger than the book, with some small foam pieces to fill up the gaps. As a result of the packaging, nearly every corner of the book took a hit. Nothing really serious, I know, but some additional protection could easily avoid this. I complained about this on the CMON forums, but apart from "all books are packed in bubble wrap" and "tell the people in your post office to stop playing football with the packages" I never got a decent explanation. And it seems to be that some people indeed had a book packed in bubble wrap... If you got one I'd like to hear how your book was packed up, please leave a comment below.

The book itself looks deluxe: it's a hardback with shiny lettering and a gloss finish on the outside. The layout of the pages is very well done. There are plenty of half-page and multi-angle pictures. Sometimes you'll find one or two pages with miniatures painted by the same artist, sometimes a page filled with material from different people. A simple caption is put next to the picture, including the artist's real name, CMON username, a title and the manufacturer. This information is very accurate, however there are some small mistakes here and there.

The 134 pages are split up in several sections: Fantasy, SF, Diorama, Scratchbuilt & Terrain and Historical & Busts. The fantasy section contains some miniatures which should have been in the historical section, but for me a subdivision like this isn't really necessary. Apart from the pictures there is a short foreword and an artists index.

I already said I expected a bit more of this book. One of the major things that bothers me a bit is the paper weight. It's the type of paper which is used for magazines like White Dwarf or a manufacturer's catalog. I expected something heavier, like the first Cry Havoc magazines. The flimsy paper makes the book look a bit thin also, and probably more prone to wear and tear. But in the end it's the print quality that really counts, and this is very good. All artists were asked to submit high DPI images for the book, and this really shows.

Most of the pictures in the book are top-quality, better than the average manufacturer. For example the Swordmaster by derwish or Ana's collection of pictures. As we all know miniature photography is an art on its own, needless to say there are some photography failures in the book also. Examples of this are this Imperial Guard Sentinel and this Chaos Lord.

Apart from those two submissions I mentioned, there are a handful of other entries with a score around 8.0. While these could easily be replaced by submissions with a score higher than 9.0, the editors of this book have chosen to include them anyway. I don't know why they did so, but it raises some questions about the way they picked the entries for the book. I don't think they did wrong including such pieces, it gives a nice broad view of the painting community and it's probably great for the artists, but on the other hand doesn't the reader of this book want to see the best of the best only? I do so anyway, especially after paying those 50 bucks...

Even with the remarks I have, I think this book is worth the money. I really like publication like this, since they allow me to quickly browse some pages and soak up some inspiration. Almost all pictures are very good and the overall layout and selection is very good. If the 2009 edition comes out I will surely buy it. I'm just a bit disappointed in the paper quality and a handful of selected submissions.

  • nice layout
  • great selection of entries
  • good quality cover
  • price
  • paper quality
  • some lower-rated submissions
  • A must have for every miniature enthusiast who prefers printer media over browsing pictures online, a great source of inspiration.


Skeeve said... @ September 1, 2010 at 8:17 PM

It is not even a complain but rather a comment. Several sections I believe is disproportionally small. For example, the Historic miniature section is definitely underrepresented.
Granted, it is probably not a publisher's fault. Coolminiornot requested pictures from all people who posted minies scoring above 8. If said people did not submit these pictures, or the quality was unsatisfactory then the selection will be skewed.
Still, I would love to see more historic miniatures in the future.

Tony said... @ September 1, 2010 at 8:34 PM

I picked up this (and the earlier 2003 annual) and although I agree with most of your points - I would say that I bought mine very early on and the book arrived in perfect condition - I live in the UK. You might have been 'just unlucky' with the packaging and the damage.

I regularly ask myself why I buy such books (and magazines) as, like you said most of the images are available on-line. I think it is an 'old fashioned' thing, I just like the feel of a good book!

The cost is a fact - but again as you have mentioned, it is a beautifully put together book.

Thanks for the review.


Wren said... @ September 2, 2010 at 1:40 AM

My guess would be that the scores of the lower scoring minis have slipped since the photos were solicited. If I recall the process correctly, at the time the pictures were solicited, the artist of every mini submission scoring 8.X or higher was invited to submit photos. That seemed to be the case for the ones I was asked to submit, though I chose to not submit at least one due to feeling that the nature of the photo wasn't suited to the format (the WIP included in montage looked better than the finished product). Anyway, my point was that in the intervening years some pictures may have been voted downwards.

David said... @ September 2, 2010 at 6:31 PM

I received my copy in excellent condition. Love the book and really like not having to sit at a computer to look at the images, even though many are still available on-line. Another point is since it is an annual - the book is relatively permanent - but images on the computer might not be - I have found some images are not available any more.

Expensive, yes, but glad I got one - just wish I had one of the first ones!

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