kottke.org posts about Cool Tools

Cool Tools book a sleeper hitJan 06 2014

David Carr writes about the surprising success of Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools book, which is based on his long-running website of the same name.

But last year, he had what sounded to me like a dumb idea. Mr. Kelly edits and owns Cool Tools, a website that writes about neat stuff and makes small money off referral revenue from Amazon when people proceed to buy some of those things. He decided to edit the thousands of reviews that had accrued over the last 10 years into a self-published print catalog -- also called "Cool Tools" -- which he would then sell for $39.99.

So, to review, his idea was to manufacture a floppy 472-page catalog that would weigh 4.5 pounds, full of buying advice that had already appeared free on the web, essentially turning weightless pixels into bulky bundles of atoms. To make it happen, he crowdsourced designs from all over the world, found a printer in China and then arranged for shipping and distribution. It all seemed a little quixotic and, well, beside the point.

Except the first printing of 10,000 copies, just in time for Christmas, sold out immediately, a second printing of 12,000 will go on sale at Amazon next week and a third printing of 20,000 copies is underway. So, not so dumb after all.

I haven't had a chance to dig too deeply into my copy yet, but my six-year-old sat down with it a few weeks ago and had about a million questions per page for me. Which seems a like a positive sign.

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