Katherine O'Brien
American Printer

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Everyone Loves This Book of Cool Tools Which Proves That Print Rules


Cool ToolsWhat a dumb idea. That was David Carr’s first reaction when he heard about “Cool Tools,” a 472-page book featuring reviews of neat-o gadgets already based on free, previously published content. But Carr, the media columnist for the New York Times, sang a different tune as he pored over the book which is positioned at the “Whole Earth Catalog” for the modern age. 


“Cool Tools” has been a smashing success—the $30 coffee-table sized book sold out its first printing of 10,000 copies. Why do people love it so? The design and editing are excellent and the material is far ranging and irresistible.



The author, Kevin Kelly is the former editor of Wired magazine. He calls “Cool Tools” a “selection of the best tools available for individuals and small groups. Tools include hand tools, maps, how-to books, vehicles, software, specialized devices, gizmos, websites -- and anything useful. Tools are selected and presented in the book if they are the best of kind, the cheapest, or the only thing available that will do the job.”


There’s another intriguing twist. Every featured tool is associated with a QR code that lets readers to scan and buy the object from their mobile phone.


“Publishers who turned out under-designed and under-edited books and magazines in the Internet age have learned the hard way that consumers expect excellence in print,” says Carr. “Just as McSweeney’s grand experimental newspaper Panorama suggested in 2009, and as big, beautiful magazines like Vogue prove every month, print is not dead, it simply has some very specific attributes that need to be leveraged. Good printed work includes a mix of elements in which juxtaposition and tempo tell their own story, the kind of story best told with ink and paper.”


There’s another instructive angle to this story. Kelly created, published and printed this book himself. Designs were crowd-sourced and “Cool Tools” was printed in China. Given his Wired background, Kelly was probably better suited than the average Joe or Jane to take on all of these roles. What about you and your customers? Last week, I wrote about the self-publishing opportunity—is there something here for you?



What’s the take away here? When done well, print sells! I’ll leave you with these final thoughts from the NYT’s Carr: “Print continues to be a remarkable technology, if not as lucrative as it used to be, with its own durable glories. . . I spent time showing my daughter’s boyfriend “Cool Tools,” with its advice on hitchhiking, finding the most practical stapler, renting a bulldozer or building an igloo. With a frantic, jam-packed design and improbable juxtapositions, it’s a big, sprawling wonder of a book — half coffee-table tome and half Sears catalog of old. Having it in my hands made me happy.”


How about you, have you seen other books like “Cool Tools” that show print’s awesome power?

ShareURview and insights below



We learn so much more, and faster, when we go into a bookstore, or open a book, or catalog. 
As a gift to my granddaugher, I gave her my 2" thick Metropolitan Museum of Art --- a treasure for a youngster with artistic talent --- she couldn't put it down, page after page.
Posted @ Friday, January 10, 2014 6:35 AM by Sid Chadwick
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