Three products won the distinction of "best new product" in the sidelines display showcase at BookExpo America in Los Angeles. The common trait among them: each is an attractive variation on products that would seem to have exhausted all possibilities.
The Better Bookmark
Unlike the proverbial better mousetrap, the Better Bookmark is a reality. Kirby Andler, president of Better Ideas Inc. of Barrington, Ill., designed it. The Better Bookmark is an elastic band two inches wide and 22 inches long that attaches with Velcro and has a nylon pocket for a pen, pencil or highlighter. Because the bookmark is adjustable, readers can attach it around everything from pocket-sized mass markets to large notebooks.
"I created it because I like to read whenever and wherever I can—while in a car, on a plane, at home in comfy chair or bed," Andler told PW. "But I kept losing my place in my book and the pen that I used to write notes with in the margins."
A version of the bookmark was introduced in 1999, but it's been on the market in its current "more durable" form for just a year. "So far, the main customers are general independents, college bookstores and travel bookstores," Andler said.
The company was a first-time exhibitor at BEA, where Andler said she received "lots of orders, which I didn't expect."
The Better Bookmark sells to bookstores for $3 wholesale and is priced for retail at $5.95. It is available with red, blue, gold or purple pen holders (the rest of the bookmark is black). The company sells the bookmarks in quantities of a dozen with minimum re-orders of two dozen. Silk screens of company or school names and logos are available. The company offers a hang-card for display.
For more information and to order, call (800) 382-1445 or check the Web site at www.thebetterbookmark.com. Better Ideas Inc. is located at 1261 Burr Oak Lane, Barrington, Ill. 60010; fax 847-382-1447.
LittleBigBooks' Big Splash
BEA was a big event for LittleBigBooks. It was the Amherst, N.Y., company's first show and the place it introduced to the world its unusually formatted reference, guide and tip "books." These titles "take up as much space as a credit card," but when unfolded, the "book" becomes a poster measuring 24"×9". This double-sided sheet of paper can hold a surprisingly large amount of information.
Talk about a launch.
The company was "caught off guard" by the interest, said v-p Russell Benfanti. Not only did booksellers swarm into the booth and warm up to the little tomes, but publishers and a few authors came around with ideas for partnerships with the fledgling company.
LittleBigBooks's first list consists of Kitchen Tips; Casino Tips; The Carbohydrate Counter; The Cocktail Guide; The Periodic Table; two Mini Day Planners (one for 2003 and—for forward-looking people—another for 2004); and the U.S. Constitution"and its 27 amendments."
Each title uses bright colors and plenty of graphics to add to the basic information. For example, The Cocktail Guide identifies a variety of glasses (from shot to pilsner), gives measures in metric and English, suggests basic ingredients for a home bar; and overflows with nearly 100 drink recipes. The guide also contains tips on avoiding hangovers (including the sage "Just don't drink too much") as well as a short essay on drinking responsibly.
LittleBigBooks offers retailers a countertop display with nine face-outs that holds more than 120 fold-up books and a three-face display for more than 40 titles. The company is also working on a display that will hold 650 books in more than 54 facings and floor displays that can hold more than 1,000 books. The expected retail price is $2.99.
The company has the North American patent, trademark and copyrights to the format, and is considering doing titles in a variety of categories, including educational, comic book, graphic novel, study guides, reference, city and tour guides, stationery, inspirational, religious, government, medical and more—as many as "a few hundred" more titles within the next year or two, said Benfanti.
For organizations and corporations, LittleBigBooks also has a program to publish promotional premiums and "private label" versions of current titles as well as other content.
For more information, contact LittleBigBooks at 4246 Ridge Lea, Suite 65, Amherst, N.Y. 14226; (716) 332-6849; fax (716) 626-1823; via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The company's Web site is www.littlebigbooks.com.
Dealing an Invisible Deck
Best known in the book world for its beautiful Moleskine notebooks used by Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso and Hemingway, Kikkerland Design sells more than 300 strikingly crafted products, from lamps and clocks and frames to stationery, calculators, "critter" wind-up toys and travel games. One of the company's bestsellers is the "invisible cards" deck.
The decks are made of strong plastic and were designed by Pieter Woudt, a Dutchman who lives in New York City. The suits and values are printed on white circles in the center and two corners; otherwise, the cards are clear. Because of their durability, the cards should last longer than traditional cards used outdoors or while camping or hiking. They might even withstand underwater gaming.
Launched in March, the cards have "taken off more than anything else we've introduced," Kikkerland's Laura Kellner told PW. "We can't keep up. We have 70,000 decks on back order. Everyone has a deck of cards, but this is different."
Many of those decks have been bought by bookstores, which make use of the display boxes that hold 12 decks, Kellner added.
The wholesale price is $3.50 per deck. Kikkerland deals the decks to retailers in lots of 24. The playing cards come in a frosted box.
Kikkerland Design Inc., is located at 423—427 W. 127th St., New York, N.Y. 10027; (212) 678-2250; fax (212) 678-6296. The company's Web site is www.kikkerland.com. More information about the Moleskine notebooks is available at www.moleskine.com.
Those interested in submitting sideline product for next year's BEA's "Best New Product" round-up, should contact Lisa Austin at email@example.com. The submitted products are evaluated by BEA officials and the winners are profiled in a future issue of PW.