For the second time, author, editor, and blogger Andrew Sullivan has taken reader content on his 10-year-old Daily Dish blog on the Atlantic Web site and created a crowd-sourced printed book published by Blurb and sold through its online bookstore. Last Friday Sullivan blogged about how the book, The Cannabis Closet, grew out of an extensive e-mail of Daily Dish readers writing candidly about their pot use. By early this week, Blurb had sold 1,000 copies of the print-on-demand paperback priced at $5.95.
In June, Sullivan and his four-person staff of the Daily Dish compiled photographs posted on its “The View from Your Window” feature on the blog into a full-color, $33.95 book with the same title with Blurb.
Sullivan called The Cannabis Closet’s unorthodox publishing route as the book equivalent of doing a “triple lutz” in ice-skating. “In as much as we could start with an e-mail thread that came through a blog, then turn it around in midair and make it into a book,” he explained. Sullivan provided the foreword for the book, Daily Dish executive editor Chris Bodenner edited the readers’ postings on marijuana use and Chip Kidd designed the cover.
As for its content, Sullivan blogged: “[The Cannabis Closet] is a compilation of first-person pot use testimonials, from top executives to responsible parents, from entrepreneurs to A-students, from unwinding suburbanites to the very sick… It doesn't glide over the downsides of pot-use... It shows how responsible pot-use is already compatible with middle-class life and its obligations.”
Since the book’s release, Eileen Gittins, Blurb’s CEO and founder, has been inundated with e-mails saying “how cool” it is that Blurb is Andrew Sullivan’s favorite publisher. Both Sullivan and Gittins pointed out how the technology was allowing readers whom might otherwise not be recognized by traditional publishers to be published. The Cannabis Closet, she explained, illustrates how Blurb delivers a publishing model that makes economic sense, comes out of the interaction of a community (in this case the Daily Dish’s 1.3 million monthly visitors), democratizes publishing, and captures an independent spirit.
Among Blurb’s top groups using its bookmaking software and e-bookstore are creative professionals (photographers, designers, agencies, etc.), and companies who are creating content not for sale but often for their employees or another distinct group. The key, as with The Daily Dish’s 1.3 million unique monthly visitors, is that Blurb books often come with a built-in target audience.
Sullivan said The Daily Dish will look to do more books or even pamphlets with Blurb, thereby using the new media to bring its content back through the old media. “I’d like to be part of reviving print, because I love print,” he said. “My view is mix and match; don’t be a purist. There are many different ways people want to read and a really good media platform is going to exploit all of them.”
Blurb is up to 80 employees and has experienced a big uptick in its international business. A couple of numbers Gittins will share is that the company has more than 120 million pages of content, and even more images. “This time of year we’ll see a new book title come in once every few seconds,” she said