It seems like there’s always something new and exciting for book lovers to totally geek out over — and from e-books to on-demand book printing, cool innovations for readers are almost as exciting as new books themselves (I said almost.) Plus, with the merging of digital technology and the world of print, books and all things book-related are more accessible than ever. If only Johannes Gutenberg could see us now.
Now, I’ll admit that I’m not the most tech-savvy of readers. I arrived very late to the e-reader party, was wary of audio books for years, and am still convinced the bathtub book holder to be the best of all the literary inventions (nobody likes a soggy book, amirite?) But with that said, after dipping just one toe into the literary innovation pond, it’s hard not to finally dive all the way in. There are just way too many cool, creative things going on in book publishing to resist trying them all. Including that perfume inspired by the scent of your favorite dead writers (when they were alive, of course, don’t freak out.)
Here are 10 of the coolest innovations for book lovers. And I just put together your entire holiday gift list, six months early — you’re welcome.
Brain child of bestselling author James Patterson, BookShots is one of the latest literary inventions setting readers everywhere a-buzzing. The idea behind BookShots, which released the first of their titles on June 7th of this year, is similar to that of your fave Friday night shots (you know, the festive kind.) They’re totally readable, lightening-paced stories, told in 150 pages or less — you get the literary jolt you need in one compact, concentrated shot. Perfect for the busy, on-the-go reader who likes to dive in and out of a story without too hefty a time commitment.
2. Book Vending Machines
Turns out the book vending machine isn’t as new an innovation to hit the publishing scene as most people think — but suffice it to say the technology has come a long way since Englishman and freedom of the press defender Richard Carlile invented the first book dispensing machine in 1822. The original idea behind the book vending machine was to allow readers to purchase controversial titles without having to put themselves or their favorite bookseller at legal (or social) risk — kind of like that time everyone was hiding Fifty Shades of Grey on their e-readers. Today, book vending machines are largely designed for the reader-on-the-go, and are found in places like train stations and libraries.
3. Little Free Library
This is one of my favorite literary innovations of recent — and with over 32,000 Little Free Libraries around the world today, it’s definitely an innovation that’s caught on big. "Take a book, return a book" is the basic principle behind the Little Free Library organization, and anyone can participate. All you need is a box, some books, and a strategically-placed location outside your home or business via which you can share titles with your community. Plus, whether you want to take a book, leave a book, or exchange the book you just completed for a new title, LittleFreeLibrary.org’s world map will help you find the Little Free Library closest to you — no matter where you are in the world. So cool.
4. Book-scented Anything
From book-scented candles by companies like Frostbeard Studio and Hearth & Hammer, to Wallpaper* magazine’s perfume that will leave you smelling like a freshly printed book all day long, and Sweet Tea Apothecary’s line of Dead Writers Perfume, you book lovers are obsessed with scented items inspired by your favorite reads. And who can blame you — love your e-reader all you want, but nothing beats that paper-and-ink smell.
5. The Plantable Book
If there are more of these little gems out in the world, someone please Tweet me and let me know — because I’m beyond obsessed with this literary innovation. Argentine publisher Pequeño Editor developed a plantable children’s book last year, meaning that when you’re done reading it you can tuck your book underground and wait for it to grow — into a tree! The title: Mi Papá Estuvo en la Selva (that translates to: My Dad Was in the Jungle) is hand-stitched, and printed with eco-friendly ink on acid-free paper filled with jacaranda tree seeds.
Upon first glance, these bed prism spectacles might seem totally LOL-worthy (as in, you probably don’t want just anybody to see you wearing them) but try them out and you’ll be convinced of their genius. For anyone who has ever struggled to read their favorite books in horizontal, pillow-encased comfort — without all that pesky arm and shoulder strain from holding your book overhead — these specs were designed with you in mind. Just don’t fall asleep wearing them. Or accidentally forget to take them off before leaving the house.
If you’re a diehard ink-and-paper reader who has yet to give into the temptation of a e-reader (but you know you're filled with linguistic envy for Kindle’s define-on-demand feature) then this pricey but totally worth it gadget should definitely make your next gift list. The pocket sized scanner, complete with a flip up camera, instantly looks up and defines any word you ask it to — and also provides audible word pronunciations, in case you want to impress all your friends with your new vocabulary later.
If you're a book lover who has a really hard time letting books go (so, all of us) Bookcrossing.com is a great way to keep tabs on those beloved titles that need to be passed along. The site invites readers to register their discarded books, label each title with a unique BookCrossing ID, and then leave the book somewhere for future readers to find. The ID label will encourage your book’s new owner to help track the title on BookCrossing’s site, before passing the book along as well. And voilà — you can follow your book around the world (or, you know, just around your hometown) from reader to reader. Love it.
This book stand from LEVO is just too much. And I totally want it. Hands free and perfectly sized for everything from hefty cookbooks, to your favorite fiction, to the latest edition of Cosmo, you can set this baby anywhere and read away, keeping your hands free to do whatever it is they’ve always wanted to do while you’ve kept them busy reading. Like knitting. Or holding chocolate in one hand and a cappuccino in the other.
10. The Espresso Book Machine
Speaking of cappuccino, if you haven't yet stumbled across the Espresso Book Machine during your bookstore wanderings, you should definitely Google search the one nearest you ASAP. And with over 70 print-on-demand machines available in bookstores all over the United States, you may not even have to travel that far! The Espresso Book Machine prints books in minutes, and the best part is that you can watch the entire process from beginning to end. A book lover's dream.