The Best Part About the Print-On-Demand Future Will Be the Arbitrary Book Covers
The world of Radical Print appears to be splitting into two camps, the Electronicists and the Demanders.

Both camps shake hands around the necessary common denominator of the "internet-based text file" and then part company.

The Electronicists are those who feel that the future is marching inexorably toward electronic domination of the book, and that it is inevitable that within one generation everyone will be reading books ABOUT their computers ON their computers and nothing else. The Electronocists are utterly certain that all information will soon exist only as beams of light that must be seen using special wraparound shades. We will manipulate this information as if we are conducting our own invisible, silent symphonies. These wraparound info shades will cost $3000 dollars and will only be available in Europe. The only other way to get a pair will be to save the life of a noble infodandy...

...or end the life of a noble infodandy.

The Demanders, on the other hand, are utterly convinced that print-on-demand is the way things are headed and that the real future is in Fantastickal Book Machines -- machines which print and bind paperbacks for you, instantaneously, as long as you can provide the book block, cover, and metadata.

These Fantastickal Book Machines make cheap books out of nothing that only cost a few dollars. These FBMs will be the equivalent of book juke boxes. You will look through the FBM's massive catalog, punch in the book you want, and print it up while you spend three silent minutes thinking about death.

Both camps are probably right, and the smart money is on some joint combination of these two competing camps.

I am personally in the "sell-your-book-as-a-dick" camp.

It is a very small camp. We have a wagon and a goat. The goat is pulling the wagon. On the side of the wagon is a picture of Aquaman, and he is opening his rib cage, and his face is all in pain, and flying out of his chest are a bunch of badass flying cats.

Also, Aquaman is standing on top of a precipice and below him are all the nations of the world, which COULD BE HIS IF HE WOULD ONLY DO A DEAL.

It's a totally strong painting that gets many gasps. You should see it. You would shit.




You sit on a barstool, sipping a malted. The barista you are in love with wipes down the counter, snapping her gum and looking bored. She has a tattoo of herself as a pin-up girl on her forearm and she wears an elaborate pink bow. Above the bar, the screen is tuned to her "Matt Held" Facebook portrait.

She always puts this on the screen when she works. She is hilarious, sitting there under her own cruel and jaded picture.

You reach the bottom of your malted, and your straw starts to suck wind.

"Nerts," you say. You toss your empty cup across the room. It spins end-over-end and lands in the trash. You wipe your hand on your mouth. Your iPhone rings, but you don't answer it. You don't want to look "cool." You want to look "fucking awe-inspiring."

"You want a book?" you say to the barista. "Let me buy you a book."

"Aw hell, not today," she says. "I don't want no book, Al."

"COME ON, Dolores," you say. "Let me buy you something special. What are you reading? What'd you read last?"

"I dunno," she says. "The Complete Sailor & Lula novels."

"Far out!" you say. "Badass! Brilliant! So what do you want to read next? What gets you HOT?"

"Aw hell," says Dolores. "You know I've got a boyfriend."

"Yeah, but according to your profile you are in an open relationship," you say. You wink and lean closer. "I hear your boyfriend is poly."

"Come on, Al," she says. "Not so loud!"

"So what are you reading? What are you reading? I'm buying!"

"You pick," she says, smiling for the first time. "You got taste. Pick something out for me."

She gives her pink bow a seductive flick as she walks over and begins cleaning the Espresso machine. This place is gonna close soon.

You strut over to the Espresso BOOK Machine and unbutton the top two buttons on your shirt. You crack your fingers.

"Let's see, here," you say.

You sift through the catalog, checking out the new releases and cruising some of the more salacious "Europop Lust" titles. They are intriguing, but you think they will send her the wrong message. Plus, they are always so predicatable. Two bored ex-pats meet at a concert, commit accidental murder, and then end up re-enacting some kind of sordid historical tryst -- like "Freud and Anna O" or something. Silly, really.

You surf over to to the literature titles and check out the new cover designs for some of your favorites. There's always a new "Ulysses" cover, for instance. There are some amusing ones, but your favorites are always the ones that English teachers make their students draw and then upload to the Espresso Book Machine servers. They are always half-assed, handmade, and so damn AUTHENTIC.

You decide not to get her a classic. You want to surprise her with something WANTABLE. with something no one could turn down, but that no one would punch up for themselves. A book she won't just read and add to the coffee shop's already-massive paperback library, but that she'll want to keep.

Bingo! You've got it. You saw just the thing on "reddit" this morning. The entirety of the Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy with covers that look like brown paper bags, but are decorated with fastidious ink-pen drawings that look like they have come from the hand of a sociopathic outsider artist. She'll fucking love that. Anybody would fucking love that. You swipe your credit card.

You scroll through all the possible covers you could print of the Pullman books. There are some other pretty cool ones, including ones drawn by Pullman himself. But you are on a mission. You select the brown-paper-bag-psycho-covers and pay the fifteen dollars.

The Espresso Book Machine starts to whir and click. You watch the gears turn as it prints, cuts, and binds your paperback. You bring them over to Dolores and slap them down on the counter.

"Pullman!" you say.

"Oh my," she says.


In the future, we will judge people by the book covers they pick.

Posted by miracle on Tue, 20 Apr 2010 13:59:14 -0500 -- permanent link

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