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July 9, 2009

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Next Time, Bigger And More Humble

Selected early reviews of New Liberal Arts:

Kevin Kelly, “Innovative Publishing Model”:

It really doesn’t matter what’s in the book. The model is brilliant, if you have an audience. The scarce limited edition of the physical subsidizes the distribution of the unlimited free intangible… As it happens, the PDF reveals that the content is pretty thin. But it did not have to be. Their premise is great (the new literacies), and their biz model innovative. We can hope they try again. I am impressed enough with the experiment to use this model on my next self-published book.

The readers at Book Cover Archive: “This may be the only use of Century Gothic I’ll ever appreciate,” “friggin sold out! love that quarter binding…”

Court Merrigan, “Tiny Snarkmarket’s ‘free’ strategy: 200 hardcover copies of ‘New Liberal Arts’ sold in just eight hours”:

Aside from the PDF’s inherent weaknesses as e-book format, this is a pretty cool idea. The tiny press run gives value to the hardcover, certainly pays for the free PDF giveaway, and gets the interest up for the next book to be thusly released… In any case, given that it took only eight hours for New Liberal Arts to sell out, the Snarkmarketers might want to think of printing more next time.

Mark Allen: “New Liberal Arts is a free PDF ebook about things Jason Kottke often refers to as “Liberal Arts 2.0” and is written by a lot of really smart people about some really interesting topics such as brevity, micropolitics, mapping, reality engineering and a bunch more. It also has an innovative publishing model. It’s only about 35 pages of content, and each page is a discrete, bite size idea that will likely send you off in a completely new direction for the rest of the day.”

And nobody (besides late-rising Californians) has even seen the physical book yet! (Which, just to be clear, is a perfect-bound paperback, not a hardcover.*)

*Except for the special calfskin-and-gilt-vellum illuminated edition I negotiated for myself.

Posted July 9, 2009 at 4:58 | Comments (7) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, New Liberal Arts


I love that both of these reviews focus on the form rather than the content - for a book called New Liberal Arts, how perfect is that? (If ever so slightly disappointing...)

Well, there are some claims about content, but they're minimal and a little negative. (500 word entries are bound to feel a little thin.) But I would love to hear and talk more about content. I don't think any of us thought of this book as providing a definitive statement on much. It's a question mark, and sometimes an exclamation point, but otherwise it doesn't terminate really.

Yeah, I just think it's neat that the first thing that struck people was the new approach to distribution, plural forms etc. Normally that formal emphasis bothers me (how many times have I poured my soul into something to have them respond "It's so well written!") but here it seems less flippant and more significant. But yes, if the book is meant to initiate rather than a encapsulate a discussion, then obviously a focus on content will be nice too, and I'm sure once people start to receive/download copies, posts about the ideas will go up soon (I know I intend to write about it).

I've seen some nice blockquotes from the entries here and there, on Tumblrs, etc. -- so some people are digging the content. I disagree w/ the claim that "500 word entries are bound to feel a little thin" -- I think it depends entirely on your expectations, and to a certain degree, like, your mood. Sometimes (more often than not, I'd argue -- but again, it's temperamental) 500 word entries feel just right!

I should clarify: "a little thin" comes from KK, not me - and what I meant to say is closer to "at first glance, 500 word entries might LOOK a little thin" IF your expectations are for something longer. (In other words, the one-offs about content gathered here are actually still about form, but the form of the book rather than of the sale." The more you chew on these, the more you find.

Added Mark Allen's nice review above. Thanks, Mark!

I want to know what people thought of my piece! It's my first book contribution (that's not like a paragraph or a sentence) and I'm curious!

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