Those clever devils at Customized Classics

When I first saw Customized Classics a few weeks ago I felt like kicking myself. It’s hard for most people to understand what “public domain” really means, and what value it can give us as a culture, and directly as capitalists and entrepreneurs.

Project Gutenberg has recently uploaded their 10,000th public domain book, and Brewster and the gang are working on the “million book project“. To demonstrate the potential of the public domain, and show people what movies, music, and stories used to be like when there was an active public domain (that at one time was only 14 to 28 years old — imagine making new movies and music from 60s stuff totally free of copyright), I’ve been kicking around ideas of how to exploit these free works (again, for demonstration purposes more than anything else).

One idea I called “judge a book by its cover.” Take these public domain classics, create exciting, artistic cover designs (perhaps by famous designers), and sell them via the new crop of print-on-demand services. A few months ago there was news of Oprah’s book club coming back to life and only selecting classics from the public domain, and how publishers would have to rush to meet the demands, but how anyone could print them up.

I’ve been coming up with other ideas but nothing is as good as customized classics. They just do a search-and-replace on names of your choosing, and spit out a custom book to you for 25 bucks or so. Brilliant and simple.