Monday, September 24, 2007

Dave Eggers's pet project breathes new life into the publishing world.
McSweeney's Issue 22 - good things come in beautiful packages.

Dave Eggers, best known for his novels A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and What Is the What, founded McSweeney's in 1998. These days McSweeney's has grown to become a publishing house. It produces this quarterly publication, a monthly magazine, a DVD "magazine" and an active website, as well as books, both fiction and nonfiction, published in four imprints.

It's an independent powerhouse that could only exist in a market as big as the US but there is still much that Australian publishers could learn from its success. For a start, with its innovative use of technology such as the internet and DVDs, as well as its integration of events including live music, McSweeney's breathes real life into the publishing world.

Then there is the beautiful design of its publications, of which this issue is a great example. At first glance it appears to be a leather-bound hardback. The hard cover encloses three paperbacks, each of which can be removed and returned thanks to an ingenious magnetic spine. Sure, it's gimmicky but it's also very useful. Instead of lugging around a heavy, 473-page tome, readers can remove a section and slip it into their jacket pocket.
Footnote: Bookman Beattie bought issue 22 of McSweeney's in New York in August and a local review will appear shortly.

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