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Kindle ebook sales have now eclipsed paperback sales at Amazon.com which means the way people consume books has fundamentally changed. Even if you haven't embraced the ebook revolution yet, you must admit it's becoming a growing force in publishing.
I have talked before about how my reading habits have changed since I bought my Kindle. Essentially, all my consumption type reading is now on ebooks. By that I mean all fiction and most non-fiction that I will read once and then am unlikely to revisit. I still buy a few print books per year, but maybe one tenth of what I used to.
If you're interested in the future of print, you will need to inspire buyers with something more than they can get in an ebook i.e. it needs to be more than the content itself.
Cory Doctorow is known as a great digital publisher with Creative Commons licensing who focuses on providing information for free in order to sell his work. So it was interesting to hear him talk about this topic with Mur Lafferty on the fantastic I Should Be Writing podcast. In the interview, Cory talks about producing limited edition physical books that cannot be replicated. They would be hand-tooled, made of materials that are individual and not mass market. The words themselves would be the same as those on an ebook but the physical book would be a work of art and a collector's item for hardcore fans. The author would be able to make a profit by self-publishing a limited number of these and pricing them highly. Cory also spoke of this gorgeous artist's collective where he was going to work with the physical materials himself. It sounded like an idyllic creative haven in London and it sparked romantic notions in me to learn book-binding and create my own art forms.
Here are some of the other physical books that have inspired me lately.
The Red Book – Carl Jung. I am a huge psychology nerd and Jung has always been a specific interest. The Red Book is his personal diary of writing and paintings from a breakdown he went through between 1914 – 1930. It was only published in 2009 after being kept secret by his family for years. I bought the over-sized full reproduction of the book which I also featured prominently in my thriller, Pentecost. You can see it right with a small book for contrast. It is full of gorgeous reproductions of the paintings and calligraphy from Jung's hand. The text isn't particularly inspiring for general reading but the physical book is a masterpiece.
Tree of Codes. Jonathan Safran Foer took a book he loved, “The Street of Crocodiles” by Bruno Schulz and cut it up to make another story by removing specific pieces of the text with die-cutting. Check out the video below. It's a brilliant idea but definitely more art than book.