A few months back, I put the finishing touches to another book. This one was based on another if:book project and asked five writers to remix each other's work in series using a word processor with the track changes feature turned on.
I was pretty pleased with the title: Lost in Track Changes.
The writers featured in this book are all extraordinary and they ably rose to the task of creatively modifying in a riot of forms, genres, and styles. The challenge for me was keeping up with their activity throughout the project, then figuring out how to present the final work.
At the conclusion of the project, I wanted to take the book to print, but the last thing I want to do is make just a book.
I mean, come on.
So, the idea was hatched to do something that brings about the unique qualities of print, something near-impossible to achieve an ePub or mobi file sucked down from a faceless electronic retailer, something that wallows in its own bookishness. Taking a cue from the project's remixable nature, what I arrived at was a published book that looks more like a notebook: wire binding, margins wide enough to park a truck on. It's a book that in its first line asks you to take up pen (or pencil if you're chicken) and start changing things: cross out, annotate, clarify, illustrate.
And it's now available. It looks like this.
Another thing electronic distribution can't do very well is create the sense of occasion that accompanies a physical object. This is something cannot be easily replicated, or at least, not as easily as ⌘C, ⌘V. So the print run for Lost in Track Changes has been limited to a mere 100 copies. That's it. That's all will ever be made. To emphasise this I sat one afternoon and hand numbered every individual copy. Not the most stimulating job I've ever done, but it does kind of make each copy a one-off. If you've got 67/100, then that number belongs just to you.
When so much regular every-day reading takes place in electronic formats mediated by digital devices, writers and publishers have the opportunity to look more closely at print: to interrogate and explore what it's for and what it can do.
I've never really thought of print and digital as reading formats in opposition to each other, but this project has opened to door for me to to creating books that proudly and unapologetically inhabit their container. So maybe you won't be surprised when I tell you that a digital edition of Lost in Track Changes is on its way. And it's going to look nothing like what you see above.
If you want to pick up and mess around with your own individual copy of Lost in Track Changes, copies are still available from the if:bookstore, via Queensland Writers Centre.