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Page history last edited by Tom Armitage 14 years, 11 months ago

So I think I might have an idea to talk about: "Designing the Socialised Book".


What does a book designed for groups, rather than individuals, look like. After all, most books (artefact or instance thereof) see group usage: book groups use many copies of the same book. Friends and family share the same copy of a book. Books have a healthy secondhand market.


Given that physical books are (to use a coding analogy, sorry) all instances of an original, ur-product... what are the ways we could design them (physically, digitally, across both divides) to enhance their status as social objects? They're already wonderfully socialised; now how do we embrace them?


This cuts across some of Lucy's Social Reading ideas but also is somewhat different to them, so I don't want to get in the way of that - it's about new ideas for publishing and product, and takes a lot inspiration from some things I said to the games industry about what they can learn from other, already-socialised products.

Comments (5)

Kevin O'Neill said

at 5:42 pm on Jan 12, 2009

Wow, have never even thought about this before -- I've got some ties to the second-hand book trade, and am sure I could ramble a bit about the types of design that seems particularly conducive to this usage. Cheap books are despised by pretty much everyone, I think. I'll try and restrain my fascist impulses to declare that certain aspects of the market should just disappear. I'm working with a paperback copy of McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales that has this fantastic square spine that hasn't cracked in the six years I've been reading it over and over again. This gives me an excuse (that I don't think I needed anyway) to bring some of my favourite books (as objects) along. <a href=http://store.mcsweeneys.net/index.cfm/fuseaction/catalog.list/object_id/896f4810-ced1-4455-84df-aa311d1e29ce/Books.cfm>McSweeney's</a> make a concerted effort to make every single object they publish *ownable*, imbuing their physical properties with something that makes people want to touch and feel them, and usually goes hand-in-hand with making them durable too.

Penguin have done some excellent work on this front, too - Chris Ware's <a href=http://covers.fwis.com/candide__or_optimism>design for Candide</a> is just one of some fantastic books that they've made in the last few years.

This usually entails extra expense, but it depends who we're targeting here, if it's going to be a niche (geek?) market or maybe to develop some kind of targeted book-group demographic. A lot of popular litt. now comes with readymade questions and issues at the back to encourage book group discussion, be interesting to explore how effective these are - I'm sure Lucy will have some thoughts.

Makes me think about what sort of role secondhand bookselling plays, too. Perhaps for another item....are there any other booksellers coming along?

Tom Armitage said

at 5:45 pm on Jan 12, 2009

Interestingly, that's a whole bunch of totally relevant thinking that was a million miles away from the ideas I'd been having, but which feeds into it nicely. I will try to jot some notes or ideas down before Saturday so I can be slightly prepared. I think I also need to elaborate on "groups".

Anne Ward said

at 7:29 pm on Jan 12, 2009

This is a really interesting area as I had a similar thought, which is different but related. Along the lines of a book having a sort of memory.

I was wondering if a book could remember who has read it. Remembering what you’ve read and what you haven’t is a practical problem that faces a lot of readers (particularly if you read genre fiction or prolific authors). When I worked in libraries, the most avid readers would literally leave their mark on the Westerns and Romances (like hieroglyphics, usually on the inside back cover) so they would know they’d read them next time they were browsing. I wondered if there’s any way of marking books visibly or invisibly so that you could match them with your reading history and find a title to read.

My mental picture for this was waving something at the shelves in a bookshop or library and a having a book beep (silently?) back at you. This might take some of the serendipity out of browsing, but it would be kind of neat.

Tristan said

at 1:32 pm on Jan 14, 2009

Re the memory of a book - have you seen http://bkkeepr.com? It uses Twitter as an easy way to mark when you start/stop/bookmark things and even add annotations to bookmarks. You can see what people have read - http://bkkeepr.com/people/tristanf or even the memory of a book - http://bkkeepr.com/books/9780141034591. It's not as invisible as you've described, but it's a start.

Kevin O'Neill said

at 2:02 pm on Jan 14, 2009

Ha, James Bridle (one of the founding fathers of Bookcamp) is behind bkkeepr, and will be talking about it at some point. It's a great way to bookstalk people!

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