Stop the ebooks vs. physical books debate for a minute, because some hardcovers could never exist in the Cloud. An innovative new book designed by humanitarian group WaterisLife and ad agency DDB is so much more than reading material — it's actually designed to save lives.
On the surface, The Drinkable Book is a book about water safety. Every page is perforated into two squares, and it's printed in two different languages — English on the top square, and a local language on the bottom, depending on where the book is distributed. (The first print run will be distributed in Kenya, so the bottom language is Swahili.) Each page has a distinctive orange color, and is meant to be ripped out of the book after the information is absorbed, because — believe it or not — the pages double as water filters.
Take a page from The Drinkable Book, literally, and you'll be able to filter enough water for about 30 days, meaning the whole book will last you up to four years. The filtering action comes from silver nanoparticles that coat each page, attracting toxins and bacteria; naturally, the other elements of the page, such as the ink, are also non-toxic.
The Drinkable Book tackles the problem of clean water from two very important angles: it fights both lack of information (many people without clean drinking water don't realize their water is unsafe) and immediately offers up a solution. In a world where the amount of people who die every year from waterborne diseases equals the population of Los Angeles, this book is a small but exciting step for clean water.
The Drinkable Book isn't the first book that asks you to do more with its pages than simply turn them. Not every ultra-physical book is designed to save the world, but they're all pretty fascinating:
1. The Real Cookbook
The German design firm Korefe released a cookbook unlike any other — each recipe is printed on a large sheet of actual lasagna, so you can have your cooking tips and gobble them up with tomato sauce, too.
2. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee
If you're a good enough novelist, you might be able to burst through the limitations of a 2D cover. Chang-rae Lee's stunning book was released in a signed, limited edition that transcends the bounds of space and time — well, okay, transcends the bounds of your bookshelf.
3. I Wonder What It's Like to Be Dyslexic by Sam Barclay
Well, do you? Barclay's gorgeous book "aims to provide the reader with a beautiful, design led experience of what it feels like to struggle with reading." It's a meaningful lesson: empathy through great design.
4. The Mechanical Word by Karen Bleitz and Richard Price
If you've got some extra cash lying around, invest in this five-volume series that pairs poetry with actual mechanics. Readers turn a crank to reveal "the forces hidden within the constructs of communication."
5. Codex Espangliensis by Guillermo Gómez-Peña
Unfold this book and it's about five times as tall as you are. The accordion structure hides 31 feet of collage images juxtaposed with poems and text about Mexican-American border culture at the turn of this past century. The title may very well be a reference to Codex Seraphinianus — possibly the most non-traditional book of them all.