Here today, gone tomorrow…

I’ve heard over the past few weeks about a new wrinkle in publishing: books in which the ink disappears in a few weeks or months after you start reading.  That’s right, the ink changes to colorless from its usual (I assume) black so you can’t see it anymore.  After a while you can’t read the book; it’s just blank pages.   I can’t say I’m impressed.  It sounds like a gimmick that won’t stay around for long.  At least I hope not.

Apparently after the books are printed and bound, they’re wrapped in an air-tight package which keeps the ink from fading until the purchaser unwraps it and exposes it to air.  So, if you buy one of these ignominious books, you damn well better finish it within the time limit or you’ll never get to the end.  If it’s a mystery, you’ll never find out whodunnit.  You’ll have to wait for the movie.  Good luck.  I wonder if they’re going to make movies with images that turn colorless if you don’t watch them within a certain length of time.  That would be good for the Kardashians.  Or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This brings up a tremendous number of possibilities: CD’s with data that fades within a certain time period; DVD’s that go blank after a few months;  politicians that disappear a few days after election (I might vote for him).  Bullets that turn to dust a few weeks after opening the package.  What happens if the book wins a prize?  Do they take back the prize after the ink fades?  The prospects, encouraging and disheartening, are endless.

All seriousness aside, I don’t think I want any of my books published this way.  Actually, it’s almost an insult to the author.  After working so hard on the book, when someone buys the book and begins to read it, the author’s hard work is gone.  Vanished like a politician’s scruples under a microscope.  How does that help a writer?  How does that help a library?  The purchaser can’t keep the book for reference anymore.  (I wonder if they’ll publish dictionaries with disappearing ink.)  He can’t loan the book to a friend.  He can’t go back and read it again if he really liked it.  These are all hallmarks of great books.  Does this mean that if an author autographs a disappearing-ink book he has to use a pen with disappearing ink so his signature will also fade away?  There’s just so much negative about this process, I’m against it.  This is just another right we as authors will have to retain in our contracts with publishers.  I wouldn’t want my publisher putting out books in disappearing ink without my permission.

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