The Pickle: A Conversation About Making Digital Books

14: Make a Book, Even Just One

I think ’s given us a trenchant summary:

“For as long as there have been books, haven’t those boundaries been nudged and nudged? Sometimes this is due to evolving technologies, but more often it’s just individual writers and artists fooling around and finding new ways to tell their stories.”

What’s extra fun about now is that nothing is really off limits or clear cut. Against their ever chiming death knell, traditional books (printed simply or with great complexity) are still fantastic to make, touch, collect, trust, build relationships with. Heck, they may even still be a great cornerstone for business models. And with print-on-demand services better than ever, they’re more accessible to more people than ever before. Print a book. Even just one. It can be gorgeous. Or ugly. Doesn’t matter. You only made one!

“Classic” digital book stuff is pretty staid, and unlikely to get exciting anytime soon, but it does certain things really well: seamless, effortless worldwide distribution/accessibility. They may be less typographically pleasurable than even a badly printed book, but they’ve got infrastructure covered, which is something.

And then there’s the goop of The Pickle Index. What is it? We don’t know. It’s a “bonkers” app that could never come from an OmniBlarp Matrix but requires skills coveted by all Major Blarps, and yet it exists. It is both a “live” thing and a static printed book — paperback and hardcover. It’s literally all forms of contemporary “book.” And as correctly postulates: There are undoubtedly oodles of other folks who would love to make a digital Index but don’t know how.

The tools to pull this stuff off are still wonky — opaque, baroque, bespoke — but books like The Pickle Index show it’s possible to pull unexpected delight from that world. To nudge. Nudge enough for us to whack out thousands of words exploring that nudge. What a remarkable time to be able to play in this space, when little nudges can inspire so much chatter.

— C

Note to readers: This was a long, loopy conversation. The Pickle Index is punchy like a racquetball. Consider sampling its boingy delights.

The Indexed Pickle

  1. Opening Salvo [Robin Sloan]
  2. Blank Slates! [Craig Mod]
  3. Opportunity Cost [Robin Sloan]
  4. The Struggle (Sorry) [Russell Quinn]
  5. Self Selection & The Jaws of Venture Valley [Craig Mod]
  6. The Many Futures of Storytelling [Eli Horowitz]
  7. Recruitment [Robin Sloan]
  8. Blarp [Eli Horowitz]
  9. That Oracular Feeling [Robin Sloan]
  10. Benevolent Leaders of the Frothy Kingdom [Craig Mod]
  11. The Left-on-the-Floor Weirdness [Russell Quinn]
  12. Territory of the Book [Eli Horowitz]
  13. At This Moment [Robin Sloan]
  14. Make a Book, Even Just One [Craig Mod]

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