by Christopher Butler on in culture

Exactly one year ago (unplanned, believe it or not), I posted about a book I’d assembled of web articles, which I called “A Year of Ideas.” I wanted to take an idea introduced to me by Emmet Connolly a bit further—specifically in order to create something good enough that I could give to others rather than print once for myself. After a couple of rough drafts, I ended up with a 334-page book, printed about 16 copies, and gave them to colleagues and friends as holiday gifts. It went so well that I immediately began setting aside content in anticipation of a second volume for the upcoming year. Which, brings me to today…

A Year of Ideas, Volume 2 contains 29 articles that I read online in 2010. (Picture taken by Dave Mello)

A Year of Ideas, Volume 2 is this year’s version. I’ll be mailing out a few of them in the next week or so to friends. Its 254 pages contain 29 articles I bookmarked over the past year, as well as a brief introduction I wrote, making 30 entries total (one for each year I’ve been alive?). It also includes many improvements that I wish I could have made to the 2009 version, like a table of contents, better image quality, much better typography, and a very nice detail suggested by Mark—tinyurl’s for each article (much easier for readers to type in). I also am pleased with the cover, which I created by scanning in my idea book—the composition book I use every day (see image below). Of course, I had to clean it up considerably as mine is getting pretty beat up.

At some point I realized that “mixbook” is the perfect word to describe what this is. I used to make mixtapes for friends in middle school and high school, and would spend tons of time hand-making covers and liner notes. I loved the idea of making each tape a unique object. Making books like this is similar. Using a tool like Lulu.com, I can completely customize the interior and exterior of my book, and then print only as many copies as I want. (Just in case anyone is worried, this book is not available for sale in order to keep me within legal limits, and out of respect for the authors of the articles it contains.) Of course, making something like this takes much more work overall than a mixtape, and can’t be as easily reproduced. I wonder if we’ll ultimately have a more automated tool to do this kind of thing—maybe a drag and drop interface into which you could just drag tabs from your browser and submit for print right away. Even if something like that did exist, though, the control I had by manually creating the interior allowed for a level of quality I’d assume I couldn’t have otherwise.

I wish I could send far more copies out, but you don’t necessarily need the actual book to enjoy the material. If you want to read the content of the book too, here’s the table of contents:

  1. Our Digital Crisis
  2. One Small Step for Man…
  3. Will the Book Survive Generation Text?
  4. Beyond City Limits
  5. How to Snoop into a Personality
  6. In Defense of the Memory Theater
  7. What is Work?
  8. The End of Solitude
  9. Happy Ending
  10. What is Techno-Immortality?
  11. The Large Higgs Field Galactic Archive
  12. Portigal Consulting Talk About the Analog Human and the Digital Machine
  13. On Average
  14. The Science of Success
  15. 10 Years/10 Learnings
  16. Humanising Data: Introducing “Chernoff Schools” for Ashdown
  17. Meet Bruce Mau. He Wants to Redesign the World
  18. The Rapid Evolution of “Text”: Our Less Literate Future
  19. On Gospel, ABBA, and the Death of the Record: An Audience with Brian Eno
  20. Could Written Language Be Rendered Obsolete, and What Should We Demand in Return?
  21. How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write
  22. I Need to Talk to You About Computers
  23. When Books Could Change Your Life
  24. The End of Human Specialness
  25. A Brief History of Zombies
  26. At What Cost?
  27. Holiday
  28. Apple vs. Obama: Which is More Important, Politics or Technology?
  29. My Near-Death Experience

Here are a few more images of the interior of the book…

And here is my idea book. If you’re interested in what’s inside of it, go here

  • http://Website Heather

    Thanks for sharing. Love the concept, makes me want to create a “mixbook” of my own.

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Chris Butler

    Heather: You should do it!

  • http://blog.thoughtwax.com Emmet Connolly

    Chris, “mixbook” is a stroke of naming genius. It’s self-explanatory, and evokes exactly the right message: analogue, personal, for sharing, once-off, curated by true lovers of the medium. Lulu is to writing what cheap cassette recorders were to music. Which is really important, I think: my lifelong love of music began with mixtapes.

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Chris Butler

    Emmet: Thanks! I thought it had the right sound to it, too. I’d love to see the concept take off, and (perhaps with the right tool), mixbooks be much easier for anyone to create. Thanks for checking in. I hope your copy arrives soon!

  • http://www.bosacks.com Bo Sacks

    Great idea… Have considered offering as a web project?

    Scribed is just one of many possibilities. I think your mixed book is quite a brilliant idea.

    Bo Sacks

  • John

    Love the mixbook concept, and new tools are emerging for this type of thing, especially in the academic course adoption/course management space, but without of course the harmonious control you have achieved, as you point out. Question though: are you sure you are within “legal limits” just because you “give it away.” Giving content away doesn’t mean you can ignore copyright, though I suppose you are claiming “fair use” for this case?

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Christopher Butler

    John, that’s a good question, and to be perfectly frank, I’m not sure. I don’t think there’s a huge difference here between printing out the articles and stapling them together and having them formatted into a protected print-on-demand book. The other consideration is whether the original content itself was for sale. In this case, none of it was. I’ve attempted to look in to this more deeply, and as far as I can tell, there’s no hard line answer. I’d be open to anyone’s feedback, though.

  • SK

    I especially love the composition book aesthetics.

    I was wondering, have you tried Longreads?

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Christopher Butler

    SK: Thanks, and yes, I have! I’m all about longform content…

  • http://www.copyrightlaws.com Lesley

    I too like the notion but would definitely examine the copyright issues involved in such a book.

  • http://m.ammoth.us Stephen

    As the author of chapter 11, I, for one, promise not to sue you.

    (Glad you liked the post!)

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Christopher Butler

    Lesley: Any suggestions as to where to start?

    Stephen: Fantastic! Shall I send you a copy? If you’d like one, just email me your address (chris at newfangled dot com) and I’ll post it to you with a nice big Thank You on the envelope ;-)

  • http://Mixbook.com Julie

    You can easily create AND reproduce it at Mixbook.com :)


By Christopher Butler

Chris Butler is the COO of Newfangled. He writes and speaks often on design and the web. You can follow him @chrbutler. More by Christopher Butler