Saturday, January 28, 2012

Transforming books

Books will continue to exist, but the possibilities for their transformation are astounding. Although many of us still enjoy the tactile experience of reading books and flipping pages, I think that we may attribute more nostalgia to the physical book than they deserve.

For example, can you not enjoy an inexpensive copy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as much as a leather-bound printing? Is a dog-eared copy of Pride and Prejudice less dramatic? I don’t think so.

If we compare books to other forms of communication such as photography, is a digital picture worth less than a printed one? Is an online video less valuable than a DVD? I would argue that we value them both equally. But by removing the notion that we must publish books on paper and bind them together, we open up a world of possibilities.

Take for example, the creative ways for distributing a book that evolved when rapper Jay-Z partnered with the Microsoft search engine, Bing, back in October 2010. In a project that was two parts marketing and one part social experiment, Jay-Z and Bing released every page of the rapper’s upcoming book, Decoded, by strategically placing them across the United States and the world. 

For one month prior to the book’s release, they would publish five to ten pages in odd formats and venues that were determined by the content on the page. For example, pages were printed on billboards, on hamburger wrappers and even printed inside limited edition Gucci jackets.

Watch a recap of the amazing marketing and strategic publishing event:

By publishing his book in nontraditional ways, it added value to the book, instead of taking away from it. Readers were now everywhere and often snapped pictures of the book and became involved in the story as opposed to passively reading it. 


  1. I'm amazed by the Decoding Jay-Z project (and wondering what rock I was living under to have missed it). Very creative. Very innovative and what a way to draw all kinds of people into a reading experience. It really underscores a couple of things for me: 1) Books are not dead. After all, the wizards behind this strategy felt that it was a cool enough vehicle to drive Bing hits. 2) The competition for our time and attention is fierce and there is a lot of money to be made out of garnering it. I can't imagine what that campaign cost, but it would have been millions. Jay-Z's book on the lists was almost incidental to the real purpose of driving traffic to Bing.

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  3. I found this clip very intriguing, not only is it a very clever and creativey marketing application. It was similar to a geo-cache; where readers of geo-caches become part of each others' stories by interacting with the geo-cache. In this case the reader, in some cases, physically interacted with the text, 'involving' the reader into Jay-Z's story.

    Thanks Hillary, I'm going to bookmark this clip for future referencing.