Print is dying. Print is dead. The publishing business is toast. I can’t believe you don’t have a Kindle/iPad. Isn’t that bag too heavy with a hardcover book in it?
Common refrains these days, especially here in the tech innovation center of the world: the Bay Area. And, wonderfully, the cool cats at McSweeney’s just keep on ignoring these doomsayers, continuing to produce printed matter that rarely disappoints those of us who still relish a reading experience that doesn’t require a charger. That McSweeney’s does this is probably not news to most of you. I was surprised, then, that their packaging design (with help from Jessica Hische) for Dave Eggers’ latest novel, A Hologram for the King, wasn’t fawned over more in the press, design or otherwise.
Sure, the last thing these guys need is more adoring publicity; and I’ve come to expect that each new issue of their eponymous quarterly will pull off another feat of production previously thought impossible. Yet upon receiving King, I was basically stunned—not only by its beauty, but that I couldn’t begin to figure out how the hell they actually fabricated the thing. I was loathe to even crack the spine for fear of upending its sensual, aesthetic gestalt. It’s no actual hologram, but it comes pretty darn close.
The book’s packaging seems to reference a bygone time (early 20th century? the Victorian age? early Gutenberg era? all three?) when books were rarer specimens—sacred tomes of knowledge and wisdom. McSweeney’s has always been deft at shuttling this influence through the wormhole of time and having it emerge as something that feels fresh and new today. Hologram’s packaging is no exception.
Finally, my jealousy would stop here if the writing failed to live up to this finely rendered setup. But damn you, Dave Eggers, you’ve given me yet another reason to be (delightfully, of course) teal with envy.