January 8, 2016
Reddit publishes book, affirms print isn’t dead
by Kait Howard
If the news that Reddit has published a coffee table book seems absurd to you, you’re probably not alone.
Michael S. Rosenwald at The Washington Post reports that the entertainment/social networking site, which had about eight billion page views last month, has now curated a selection of their popular Ask Me Anything interviews with notable people in a handsome hardcover volume.
Beautifully produced and illustrated with hand-drawn portraits of the interview subjects, Ask Me Anything: Volume 1 gathers together AMAs by figures ranging from Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Spike Lee to employees at Waffle House and a woman who escaped a bear mauling. These are “the most interesting, provocative, humorous, and inspirational sessions,” reads a description on Reddit’s site dedicated to the book. In them “the mundane becomes fascinating and the outrageous suddenly seems normal.”
While an e-book edition of the volume is also available, some have taken Reddit’s decision to edit and publish a selection of texts generated in what was originally an organic, collaborative online environment as one sign that people continue to value printed books over digital formats. Rosenwald, for one, thinks Reddit’s gamble on a book indicates that print is thriving:
“For the last two years, I’ve been writing about the survival of print. Independent bookstores are flourishing, e-book sales are slowing, researchers are studying how we read more deeply in print…Even the most digitally inclined understand that there’s a permanence to paper that screens don’t have.”
However, there are others, like Jon Fingas at Engadget, who are ambivalent: “The whole idea sounds a bit silly, especially when you realize that you’re paying $35 for content that you can still read for free online.”
Interpreting Reddit’s move in such simple terms might be misleading. Countless websites and blogs have published books featuring material that was previously available digitally, and many of them have been hugely successful (Humans of New York, anyone?). As Joshua Cohen’s live-writing experiment, PCKWCK—a digital project soon-to-be published in (abridged) printed form by Useless Press—suggests, there’s nothing surprising about Reddit’s desire for a sense of culmination.
Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.