15 January 2014
Is print a 'cool tool' again?
TORONTO—The success of Cool Tools, a 472-page $30 book of gadget reviews culled from material already available for free online, is a head-scratcher to many.

Among the confounded is New York Times columnist David Carr, who initially dismissed the print project as "a dumb idea." He's since come around, and his about-face was examined by American Printer's Katherine O'Brien in a recent article.

Why do people, including Carr, love Cool Tools? "The design and editing are excellent and the material is far ranging and irresistible," writes O'Brien.

The book is the brainchild of Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired and an early proponent of online community building. He runs Cool Tools the website, which served as the source for the book's thousands of reviews.

The first run, 10,000 copies, sold out immediately when released in time for the Christmas season. According to Carr, a second printing of 12,000 copies was set for sale through Amazon, and a third run of 20,000 copies would follow.

"There is something about having that large expanse of real estate in your lap, something about the format, that is extremely satisfying," Kelly told Carr. "Having many different things you may be interested in on a page, as opposed to a single thing surrounded by ads as it is on the web, leads to the formation of different connections and leads to a different experience."

While print isn't the gold rush industry it may have once been, the medium is proving nonetheless viable as users and producers rediscover and repurpose its strengths. A recent article in The Globe & Mail, for example, looks at the launch of the Pitchfork Review, a high-end magazine companion to the popular music criticism site, as well as the 2014 return of Newsweek.

Likewise, here in Canada, Random House of Canada's online magazine Hazlitt recently ventured into print for the first time. Like the Pitchfork Review, the publication boasts strong design and regard for look-and-feel, and carries a hefty collector's price tag, at $17.95. 
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