Books That Disappear

A friend sent me this story. I haven’t yet digested the need for such innovation, however.

“Book printed in ink that vanishes after two months

“We’ve seen a few innovations that have offered a twist on traditional reading habits, from offering short works by new authors based on the duration of train delays to a temporary edible book made of pasta and a smokeable book with pages made from rolling papers, printed with the lyrics of rapper Snoop Dogg. Taking elements of both of these ideas, Buenos Aires-based bookshop and publisher Eterna Cadencia has released El Libro que No Puede Esperar – which translates as ‘The Book that Cannot Wait’ – an anthology of new fiction from Latin American authors printed in ink that disappears after two months of opening the book.

“Silk-screened using a special pink ink, the book comes sealed in air-tight packaging that, once opened, allows the printed material to react with the atmosphere. The result is that after two months, the text vanishes. The more the text is exposed to light the faster it disappears, so unread pages may retain the text as long as the reader doesn’t skip ahead in the book. The ink is made from a “secret” formula that is highly reactive with sunlight and air.

“With much discussion currently centering on portable electronic readers and e-books, deemed to be bringing about the death of the physical novel, the creators aimed to add a bit of magic to the anthology, as well as encourage buyers to actually read it once they’ve received it instead of leaving it in their ‘to do’ pile. As the authors inside are all previously unpublished, the concept, developed with help from ad agency Draftfcb, acts as a way to ensure that readers engage with as much of the material as possible while they have the chance. The sense of urgency was important for the publishers to encourage readers to give new authors a chance and force them to digest the content quickly.

“The book has proven popular with Argentinian customers, with the first printed batch selling out on the first day it was put on sale. There is no word from the publishers on what they propose readers should do with the book once the text has vanished — however, leatherbound and with thick pages, it could easily be re-used as a high quality journal, for example.

“El Libro que No Puede Esperar adds an element of urgency to reading — motivating readers, promoting authors and benefiting physical book publishers by creating a buzz around a new release. Is this a business model that is as shortlived as its product, or could this be developed into something more sustainable?”

Ok, so a book that vanishes. I guess that’s okay for an author who isn’t interested in writing the Great American (or French or German or Swahili, etc.) Novel. But even then, to say you’ve written a book that vanishes is almost as bad as saying (as I have twice in the past) that you’ve written a user’s guide to software (which is almost immediately obsolete upon publication).

I know that articles in People magazine are written in lengths that are conducive to the “average bathroom visit,” but books that can be read during the time of an average train delay? What. Is. The. Point? And, weren’t those once called “short stories”? And edible books printed on pasta? Okay, novelty, but why not just print the dictionary on pieces of pasta and let people construct their own pasta prose before consuming? (Hey, I like that idea!) And books written on rolling papers…folks, they get the munchies, not the must-reads!

Still and all, folks will say, at least it’s getting people to read. To which I answer, baloney. (Ah, and there’s another idea!)

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