Ebooks as physical objects
April 12, 2010 10:44 AM   Subscribe

I like e-books, but miss the physical object, collecting and displaying. For my ebooks, what could I cheaply and easily make to stand in as a book on the shelf, to physically browse through my collection?

I believe the more e-books become popular, there will be growing latent demand for what books used to have but e-books don't - namely, the physical object - something to look at, collect, carry around, show off, categorize, label, etc.. the question is, how would one transform an e-book into a physical book cheaply - without actually buying the book? Some ideas I had were playing cards, one card per book, like card collecting. Or tri-fold pamphlets that had the editors blurbs and cover art.

Ideally the object would contain the content of the book, but I can't figure how to do that cheaply since it would require an electronic storage medium of some sort. Perhaps a 3.5" floppy disk but they go bad in a few years.
posted by stbalbach to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of companies make digital things like Delicious Library for this sort of thing. I assume you have already looked at a digital version? It's like a bookshelf.

I think the whole benefit of ebooks is that they don't take up so much space.. But I do like the idea of playing cards. You could even get custom printed business cards with all your books on them so you could look at them.
posted by lakerk at 10:49 AM on April 12, 2010

DVD cases with printed insert, and the e-book burned onto a CD-R inside. A bit of work, but could replicate a physical bookcase aspect.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:54 AM on April 12, 2010

You could use DVD cases, but instead of a CD-R inside, put in a USB memory stick. Make the metal plug of the USB stick protrude from the case such that you can actually plug the DVD case into a USB port cleverly recessed or hidden toward the back of the bookcase.

This port could be at the top of the bookcase, under a sign that says "Now Reading:" And next to that you'd have your propped-up tablet e-reader displaying some pretty photos of your favorite authors or something, as a screensaver.

You could then have software on the tablet that detects the plugged-in USB drive and its contents and opens the book in question automatically. You then take the tablet off the shelf and read.

You could potentially do this with RFID as well, and just have empty DVD cases.

But the "shiny plastic" effect of the DVD case cover is a bit of a turnoff if you're going for a classic-looking bookshelf.

I guess this doesn't meet your "easily" criteria, and it might not work well with DRM'd ebooks. But it might be a start...
posted by circular at 11:05 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Maybe you could find a lot of discontinued low-memory SD cards or USB flash drives for cheap -- 1MB is enough for typical book. Then make tiny little sleeves in index cards to hold them and get an old library card catalog. OK, not so much with the artful display. But still kind of cool.
posted by Zed at 11:32 AM on April 12, 2010

Get a tablet PC, index all of your ebooks on there on something like Kindle for Windows, hang it from the wall of your living room. If you use something like Kindle for Windows, your books will also be backed up to a second location.

It might seem expensive, but if your book collection is very large, then something like DVD cases or USB sticks are going to get both expensive and cumbersome--why replicate the size of a physical library, one of it's biggest drawbacks? For that reason, I like the idea of playing cards, too. You could then stash them in a binder for card collecting.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:58 AM on April 12, 2010

What about something like this Overdue Book Calendar where you could write out the titles for books you read and the date you read them?
posted by shesbookish at 12:52 PM on April 12, 2010

Have you considered sticking RFID tags on objects representative of the books (cards, pyrographed sheets of wood - whatever you want), then using them to open the corresponding ebook on your computer?

I have never used it myself, but I think that you could buy the TouchTag kit, then use the Web link application to open the appropriate URL in your browser. If the files are on the computer with the RFID reader attached, you should be able to use URLs like file://path/to/ebook without needing to set up a web server).
posted by James Scott-Brown at 1:12 PM on April 12, 2010

Personally, I would use a card catalog with a card for each e-book, but I suppose there's something a bit contrarian about that. I like bringing back more-dead technology to replace recently-dead (or at least moribund) technology.
posted by JMOZ at 1:23 PM on April 12, 2010

Also, a barcode or a QR code on the card would be a nice way of speeding retrieval instead of storing the book itself on the item.
posted by JMOZ at 1:26 PM on April 12, 2010

I noticed that the Kindle for Macs application produces a nice image of all the covers of books you've purchased. Really brought home to me how much I've read. Maybe screenshots of your library arranged like that arranged on a wall or in a display folder. A poor substitute I know.
posted by peacheater at 1:27 PM on April 12, 2010

Best answer: Or, even sillier than my last suggestion, print the book out as a few sheets of 2-D barcode with optar and put them in a nice folder with the book cover attached.
posted by Zed at 1:59 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's cool, Zed!

Now, if it was printed on acid free paper with archival quality ink and stored in something protected, one could print out Moby-Dick on 6 pages of paper (3 pages double-sided). Which means a typical 200-300 page book could be condensed onto a single piece of paper. Folded and slipped into a carrying case - CD jewel box etc.. with some cover art, and you have an e-book "object" that is artistic and pragmatic, just like a real book.
posted by stbalbach at 7:18 PM on April 12, 2010

Response by poster: pragmatic utilitarian
posted by stbalbach at 7:20 PM on April 12, 2010

Best answer: Time and somewhat cost intensive but take some sort of mini journals, hollow out a slot, and stick a usb drive with the book in there, or leave out the drive and just write a couple notes on the book in the journal. You could probably work something out with an etsy seller and get a bunch produced more cheaply than buying randoms.
posted by abitha! at 7:21 PM on April 12, 2010

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