Making physical representation of an ebook
April 29, 2019 10:44 AM   Subscribe

I've been picking up more and more reference books as ebooks, which is nice because I can carry them around a lot easier, but is also not as nice because they aren't sitting on a shelf somewhere for me to remember that they exist. To fix that I want some sort of small rectangular object that I can label with the book title. I'm around 80¢ a "book" with my first idea, can you do better?

My original idea was to get a bunch of cassette tape cases and then print out covers and spines on J-Cards. I don't need 100 cases (probably 40 or 50), so the most reasonable price I could find for non-bulk purchasing worked out to be a bit under 80¢.

My other thought was plain bulk wooden blocks but I haven't been able to find anything in a nice rectangular shape. Cube blocks could work, of course, but I might need convincing. And of course I wouldn't have nice printer templates for this route.

Is keeping the cassette tape industry alive my best bet? What other ways could I physically represent individual ebooks?
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
the most reasonable price I could find for non-bulk purchasing worked out to be a bit under 80¢.

If you have thrift stores near you, you might be able to find these for almost free. Or ask on a local list. I literally just put a few (a little broken but not very) in the trash this week.

My other thought was plain bulk wooden blocks but I haven't been able to find anything in a nice rectangular shape.

I've seen libraries take 1x4s and cut them into something about six inches tall. I don't know if they will do cuts like that at a Home Depot but they definitely might.

Another option is just doing a cover spread of these and putting them on a wall somewhere? You can find covers for most books online for free (high res can take a bit more doing) and print them out four or nine to a page.
posted by jessamyn at 10:47 AM on April 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would get printable index cards, print titles and cover images, and file them in a Rolodex or recipe box.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:56 AM on April 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

Origami boxes aren't terribly difficult to make, and the paper stays flat until almost all the folds are done, so it'd be easy enough to just write on whichever side you want. Or you could use a label-maker. Or create a template in the design program of your choice and print them out, if you want to be fancy.
posted by teremala at 11:00 AM on April 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is there a reason not to just buy 50 second-hand hand paperbacks from a thrift store or library sale, paint the spine or wrap them in brown or white paper wrapping, and Sharpie the title on them? Otherwise, blnkfrnk's idea is what I would do.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:08 AM on April 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

You can probably find 50 old VHS tapes for under 80 cents each. I also think just a print out in a binder is preferable so as to not take up so much space.
posted by soelo at 11:47 AM on April 29, 2019

Would Jenga blocks work? $7.19 at Target for 54 blocks comes out to $0.13/block. If I were doing this, I'd be inclined to glue 2-3 together along their long edge for stability, but that's still cheaper than cassette cases (but even more manual labor!)

Or this large Jenga set gives you bigger pieces at $0.79/block.
posted by natabat at 11:47 AM on April 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

Haha. I was super excited about my jenga block solution but natabat had it first. I think maybe popsicle sticks would be neat too, plus eat the Popsicles first....
posted by chasles at 12:12 PM on April 29, 2019

Making your own plain wooden blocks would probably be much cheaper. An 8' long board of 1"x4" pine comes up at $7.44 on the Lowe's website for me. If you're willing to do the sawing manually, and you take it down to 24 4" sections, that's about 23 cents each. Even throwing in the cost of a saw and some other tools, that's a lot less than the tape thing would be. It wouldn't even be that much labor: You can cut the 8' board in half, clamp the two halves together, and cut them in half at the same time, and that gives you four 2' sections with just two cuts. Clamp them together again and cut in half, and that's eight 1' sections.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:14 PM on April 29, 2019

Many public libraries use Soelo's suggestion of old VHS cases.
The size is better than tape cassettes and I think they would stand up better interfiled with the other books.
Label templates or label stickers meant for binders or vhs cases are still easily available.

I don't recommend the smaller tape cassettes or jenga pieces as they will not keep the neighboring books upright.
posted by calgirl at 12:33 PM on April 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Legos blocks?

One per book or use few legos per "book"? You can write books names w. magic markers, or use stickers, or print labels. You can use more or less legos per "book" to show which books has more pages, or which one is more important.

Legos are made in bright primery colors, but also black and white, grey, dark blue, beige if you'd prefer to make it in "grown up" colors.
posted by Oli D. at 12:37 PM on April 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

We use "dummies" in my library which are just book-sized blocks of styrofoam with a label on the "spine" -- if you can find a good deal on styrofoam I bet it would be ten cents per, max.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:05 PM on April 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

Everybody's brain is different but i know that if I had a set of rectangles or blocks of identical size, color, font, etc., I just wouldn't "see" any reminders of particular books in a useful way. If you brain would see it, great. Otherwise I would definitely go with printed pics of covers.
posted by sheldman at 1:23 PM on April 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

At the library book sale I work for, you can get either VHS tapes or paperback romances all-you-can-fit-in-a-grocery-bag for $1. You could do 50 objects for probably $4 max.
posted by gideonfrog at 1:53 PM on April 29, 2019

I don’t know if this would be too small, but: empty Kraft matchboxes? $5.95 for 30, or >$17 for 90... and ostensibly it wouldn’t be too hard to whip up a template (different colors and everything!) for labeling.

Paper Mart also has them (“slider boxes”) in a variety of sizes, if you’re looking for something a bit larger. ~$31 for a case of 72 in the ~3x2; $50 for a case of 72 in 4x4”.

I haven’t bought these specific boxes but have found similar ones to be relatively sturdy, though if you’ll be handling them a lot, it might be a different matter.

But tbh I’d probably just do a tiled printout of the book covers, too.
posted by alleycat01 at 9:11 PM on April 30, 2019

Thanks for all of the great ideas! A poster-style printout won't work for me since I want something I can pickup and leave sitting on a coffee table or nightstand. Something with some heft to it such as large Jenga blocks might be exactly what I'm looking for, but I also like the idea of reusing physical books that are being sold off.

I still need to take an afternoon to build/label/etc all my ebook tokens so in the meantime I've marked best answers for the ideas that all sound promising for what I have in mind.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:19 PM on May 29, 2019

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