Re-thinking the book

I recently heard a lot about books, libraries and booksellers and their effort –mainly due to the digitalization– to reinvent themselves.

Interesting is the case of a London bookseller that reinvented himself as a purveyor of private libraries (The Economist). The competition with the online booksellers –first of all Amazon– forced the owner of this very old and traditional bookshop to broaden his offer picking a new activity from the past: he is now provider of bespoke libraries. According to The Economist: ‘The first major commission, in 2013, was a collection of books on 20th-century Modernist art and design for a chalet in Switzerland. The 3,000-volume library took four months to put together and three days to install at a cost of just under £500,000 ($788,000)’. The differentiation of his offer allows this bookshop to survive and bespoke libraries now account for nearly half of its turnover.
Concerning the world of books and their attempt to modernise themselves a lot is happening, not only these very high-budget activities. Apparently, there are no boundaries in the development of new ways of reading and writing.
A good example of this trend is –on the publishing side– Advance Editions. The service makes edited books available worldwide few months ahead of final publication to allow early readers to give feedback to the authors. ‘They may spot errors, bring unique expertise or come up with new ideas. And then buy the ebooks with an advance discount’, explains Advance Edition. The most helpful contributors, then, will be listed in the final editions of the books.
Another service for participated writing was born in Italy and is called Tw Letteratura. It is basically a method that makes the collective reading and commenting of literary and artistic works possible through Twitter. The results will become tweet books. This interactive experience was tested from January 2012 and, since then, the founders managed to create a quite big loyal community of enthusiastic ‘re-writers’. Here how Tw Letteratura works: the community chose a book, read it and comment it –chapter by chapter, according to a shared calendar– re-writing it on Twitter. Every user suggests his own version using tweets, the differentiation of styles doesn’t matter. A system of micro-copies produced by the community related to the book and co-related among them is generated. In the end of the re-writing process these micro-copies, through an editorial process of selection, become new contents:  the community members could produce tweet books (PDF, HTML or ePUB) with the best tweets of the project and possibly print them.
This method could be used for didactics as well, as support to more traditional approaches.
Also, it has a great potential to be applied in other fields such as iconographic analysis, music, film reading and cultural products in general –tourism. For this reason the method is availablee to everyone as Creative Commons on
Last but not least in terms of book-related services: how many time were you looking for a specific book and you lost a lot of time wondering among all your city bookshops to find it? This is now easier thanks to Tribook. A startup born in Milan which in November 2014 launched the beta version of the website in order to ‘fight’ the big online booksellers’ hegemony. Tribook allows to geolocate a book in urban areas. In this way readers –who are now having difficulties in finding specific books and started to buy them online– can again start to buy from their city bookshops. As soon as the book is found the customer could then decide to go and pick the book up directly from the bookshop or to have it shipped at home in few hours by bike. A very good idea to support independent bookshops!