Home The Obama Time Capsule and the Future of Publishing

The Obama Time Capsule and the Future of Publishing

Just when you thought the Obama lovefest was dwindling, Photographer Rick Smolan released his latest book, The Obama Time Capsule. The book includes photography, maps and election results from President Obama’s road to the White House. What makes this project unique is that Smolan offers readers a chance to upload their own photographs and personalize their copies.

Said Smolan,”Half the people in the room picked up their cameras and took a photo of the television set just as Obama won.” With The Obama Time Capsule, pictures taken by friends and family will live alongside professional pictures of the campaign trail. Smolan is waiving any profit on the project in the hopes that he’ll provide readers with an affordable product they will cherish with their grandchildren. This user-generated component to the book ensures that The Obama Time Capsule becomes a time capsule for anyone willing to pay the $34.95 to Amazon.

Said Hewlett-Packard’s Andrew Bolwell in a recent ABC World News feature on the book,”We think a book like this that’s printed only after it’s ordered, that’s personalized for the end user, is absolutely the future of publishing. You can have your own family cookbook with Grandma’s recipe through to Martha Stewart’s recipe.”

It appears that unbeknown to Bolwell, the future (much like President Obama) has already arrived. RWW has already covered a number of companies where products are produced on an individual basis and personalized to the user. Below is a list of companies that allow users to upload, price and purchase their personalized books:

1. Blurb: Blurb offers users the chance to personalize books in a variety of formats. The quality of this product is extremely striking and buyers can opt for a number of page layouts and finishes. The company is one of the few businesses able to earn healthy revenue in our down economy.

2. Lulu: Similar to Blurb, Lulu also allows customers to personalize and create books. Users can upload photos from their Facebook, Flickr and Photobucket accounts as well as directly from their computers. The finished products are sold in the Lulu online storefront as eBooks or physical hard covers. The company even offers square, compact and wallet sized options.

3. CreateSpace: In late 2007, Amazon launched CreateSpace as an on-demand book publishing service. In addition to being able to create a personalized book and sell it in the Amazon storefront, users can also create Kindle-specific books, audio CDs, MP3s, DVD’s and video downloads. While the service isn’t as sleek as Lulu or Blurb, the potential to reach the Amazon audience is a huge draw to those looking to earn money with their creative talents.

4. Scribd: Another site with a large audience, Scribd recently launched their own store this past April. With 60 million unique visitors per month, the company is a great platform for those looking to publish their original works. Budding authors can price and publish their books alongside Simon and Schuster titles in the Scribd storefront. For now, the storefront only services the eBook audience.

5. Tastebook: Both Grandma and Martha Stewart’s recipes can live side-by-side in this personalized cookbook making site. Featured in a RWW article on recipe resources, this tool offers users the chance to personalize cookbooks and produce them on an individual basis.

The Obama Time Capsule is obviously a very cool project, but it’s clear to see that personalized book production is certainly not a new concept. That being said, regardless of whether or not it’s a paradigm shifter for publishing, the quality of The Obama Time Capsule, coupled with Smolan’s recognition as a TIME photographer and TED speaker will likely still draw fans.

UPDATE: It turns out Obama’s Time Capsule IS actually made possible by Blurb’s global print partner network, a partnership which exclusively uses the HP Indigo digital printing presses. Other partners include Google, Facebook, AOL, Glam Media and paper manufacturer NewPage.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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