The Future of the Ebook

Singularity & Co. Is Basically the Super Friends of Out-of-Print Books

Their greatest weapon: Digital publishing.
 Singularity & Co. Is Basically the Super Friends of Out of Print Books

Classics. (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

Singularity & Co. is a new brick-and-mortar Brooklyn bookshop, devoted to science fiction and fantasy. But the team isn’t merely moving dusty dead-tree hardcovers and hosting IRL events. Rather, as Ars Technica reports, they’re using modern publishing methods to save Golden Age classics from death by neglect.

Early genre titles weren’t exactly printed to last through time immemorial–hence the term pulp fiction. The store’s website cheekily identifies the outfit as “team of time traveling archivists longing for futures past.” The members of that team: former Gawker media community manager Kaila Hale-Stern, lawyer Ash Kalb, musician-anthropologist Cici James, and stylist-writer Jamil V. Moen.

‘Fess up, guys. Who’s the Hulk and/or Thing-like enforcer?

Here’s the team’s actual job description (sadly, there’s no actual time machine involved–that we can confirm):

“Each month, our subscribers help us choose a vintage, out of print scifi book to rescue (with the rightsholders’ permission).  We’re bringing forgotten 20th century scifi into the 21st.”

However, rather than taking the New York Review Books tack, reissuing titles in lovely print packaging, the team publishes them in digital form. That’s easier said that done, however.  The tricky party is that bit about the rightsholders. One of the team told Ars Technica:

“We knew it would be difficult to track down the legal status of the books, but it’s simply much harder than we though it would be,” said James.

And sometimes the mere logistics of getting a copy of the book in question can turn into a Hobbit-style odyssey, hither and yon over hill and dale:

For its soon-to-be-released third book, Mr Stranger’s Sealed Packet by Hugh MacColl, the team tracked down the lone copy out of university archives and went on a thousand-mile drive just to scan it.

Singularity & Co. might want check their rear view mirror: We’ve seen enough superhero movies to know that Jeff Bezos’s laugh sets him up for an appearance in the sequel.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com