I recently read about a book publisher that is experimenting with disappearing ink. Books published with the disappearing ink will arrive sealed in plastic. Once the book is open, the ink will begin its chemical interaction with the air, and it will begin to deteriorate. All the ink will be gone in about two months.
If you’re like me, you might be wondering — what’s the point?
The point, apparently, is to create a sense of “urgency” to read the book that other books do not carry. And it’s true — generally, books have no problem “waiting around” for you. In fact, I have over a thousand books, most of which have been waiting for years to be read and will continue to wait for many years more. Sadly, I will probably die before I’ve had a chance to read all my books. (Incidentally, that realization creates a certain “urgency” to reading for me — the ink on my books might not disappear, but perhaps I will.)
The fact that books will wait around for me is what I love about them. Knowing that a book will still be there when the time in my life that is right for it arrives is comforting. Knowing that I can return to a book to reread passages I love, or that I can pass that book on to a friend, are just a few of the reasons that I will probably always prefer books in their printed format. All of this goes away in books with disappearing ink, and frankly, an increased sense of “urgency” doesn’t make up for it. In fact, “urgent” books are annoying — it’s one of the reasons that I’m reluctant to borrow books from friends. I feel obligated to read borrowed books “first,” whereas I prefer to get to them in my own good time.
But if a sense of urgency with books is what gets you going, we’ve solved the problem of “disappearing books” ages ago. It’s called a due date. The invention of disappearing ink can never hold a candle to the invention of the library.