In Buenos Aires, small bookshop and publisher Eterna Cadencia has been wrestling with the question of the role of books in a digital age. These days, e-books seem more important, more interesting, than their print counterparts. How can print books take on a measure of urgency?
Eterna Cadencia’s answer seems, at first, counterintuitive: It printed a book with disappearing ink.
The book, "El Libro que No Puede Esperar" (The Book That Can’t Wait), comes sealed in a plastic wrapper. Once the wrapper is removed and the book is cracked, the ink begins to age; it’s got a lifespan of less than two months. Just months after being opened, The Book That Can’t Wait is filled with nothing but blank pages.
That makes the book unputdownable in an entirely new way.
Who wants a book that will self-destruct in 60 days? Turns out, Argentine readers do. Eterna Cadencia sold out of its entire first disappearing-ink printing in a single day.
One of the reasons the publisher wanted to give the book urgency was that it wants readers to leap in and try reading works from new authors. The thinking goes, if new authors don’t get read, they can’t continue -- but if they do get read, they can find footing on a career path of writing.
"This time we had the guarantee that our new authors were read," Eterna Cadencia explains in the video above.
The publisher plans to use The Book That Can’t Wait’s disappearing ink platform for other books in the future. Until then, curious readers will have to wait for the next Book That Can’t Wait.
Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is a policy of planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time. Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because to obtain continuing use of the product the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor which might also rely on planned obsolescence.
For an industry, planned obsolescence stimulates demand by encouraging purchasers to buy sooner if they still want a functioning product. Built-in obsolescence is used in many different products. There is, however, the potential backlash of consumers who learn that the manufacturer invested money to make the product obsolete faster; such consumers might turn to a producer (if any exists) that offers a more durable alternative.
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Mr. André Goodfriend
Embassy of the United States of America
Szabadság tér 12
Dear Mr. Goodfriend,
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