Customizable classics at Politics & Prose

November 15, 2013
Customers can choose from a variety of new covers for classic books at Politics & Prose bookstore.
Customers can choose from a variety of new covers for classic books at Politics & Prose.

Maybe you can’t tell a book by its cover, but now you can tell a book what cover you want.

Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington has announced a new application for its print-on-demand machine: customizable classics.

“Recovering the Classics” is a program that offers more than 30 books — from “Anna Karenina” to “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Customers choose from a catalogue of original artwork “from the minimal to the psychedelic.” Once they’ve made their selection, they can watch their paperback book being printed in the store. The whole process takes about 10 minutes. Each book in this series is $15.

Lena Khidritskaya Little, the director of marketing & publicity at Politics & Prose, said that the Recovering the Classics program “is a partnership between the Creative Action Network, a marketplace connecting artists with causes, and DailyLit, a platform for delivering great fiction in short installments.”

Earlier this year, DailyLit asked artists in the Creative Action Network to design covers for about 50 books in the public domain. So far, they’ve produced about 300 different designs.

Politics & Prose is the second store in the country to offer this program. The Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge was the first.

P&P began offering print-on-demand two years ago when it installed an Espresso Book Machine nicknamed Opus. It can produce paperback copies from a vast catalog of several million books or from customers’ own PDF files.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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