Mar. 18, 2015 | By Alec

We’ve known for a while that eBooks are rapidly taking over the world of literature. While sceptical at first, I’ve also found eBooks to be very pleasant, convenient and easy to use. It’s therefore hardly surprising that more and more works are being published as eBooks only, but acclaimed Polish sci-fi author Jacek Dukaj is already taking things to a new level. His new book The Old Axolotl (to be released on the 24th of March) aims to give his audience a whole new reading experience by including various interactive elements, including 3D printable stl files.

Widely considered to be one of Poland’s finest sci-fi authors, Dukaj has released numerous successful novels and countless short stories already and has become very popular in Poland and beyond. While the plot of his newest novel neatly fits in with his general style, it’s the book’s new format that sets it apart from all the others. The Old Axolotl tells the story of a post-apocalyptic future. Beginning with a mysterious catastrophe that wipes out biological life within just 24 hours, the book explores how computers, robots and the internet seek to build a new society. Among them are a few (un)lucky individuals who managed to store their consciousness in a game-playing technology moments before their own doom. Now they need to learn how to life in a digital world through mechanical bodies and anything else they can hack. It is shaping up as a compelling read that forces us to rethink what it means to be human.

Some of the art accompanying the book.

While that futuristic plot is more or less in line with Dukaj’s style, the author is also theorizing about the future of literature itself. The eBook will feature digital elements, different layers of hypertext, illustrations and graphic elements of logs and diagrams, that together form an experiment that engages readers in a completely original way.

As he explained to Polish interviewers, this approach is the logical next step in a literary world haunted on every side by digital distractions and repeated tropes. ‘Everyone has already seen the icy landscapes of the Arctic, the deserts of Africa, Manhattan and Hawaii, the palaces and dungeons, the Middle Ages and antiquity, the orbital panoramas of the Earth and the depths of the cosmos, the inside of the brain and the atom – why would you describe them again?,’ he asks himself. The only solution is to embrace and incorporate those new elements into the reading experience. ‘You read about the heroes walking up Fifth Avenue in New York – you open Google Maps Street View and you see what they see’, Dukaj says as an example. It's a new layer of reading that should ensure that readers remain captivated.

To further emphasize that interactive dimension, the new book is also strewn with hyperlinks in its footnotes that will enable readers to look up more information and even historical and political events and philosophical ideas if they want to. Multimedia elements, including a promotional flim and series of illustrations and bookplates are also released alongside the novel.

But perhaps most impressive is his inclusion of two 3D printable stl files, that have been designed by Alex Jaeger (of the Avengers and Transformers fame). Both depict robotic characters from the book. By 3D printing these files at home, readers can even physically experience the robots from the novel. The ones seen above and below have been 3D printed on a HBot3D printer by Polish 3D printing specialists Three Dimensions Lab. As each model is about 150 mm tall, it took them 10 hours to 3D print both on a single 3D printer in PLA.

This inclusion of 3D printing technology truly makes this book the most futuristic reading experience possible, coming at a time when reading is under attack. As Dukaj explained, he believes that even eBooks are just temporary solutions for the transfer of literature towards a new environment: ‘To read a book is a great feat. To read an e-book when everyday one is surrounded by million virtual distractions, is like walking on a tightrope suspended over an abyss during a thunderstorm,’ he says. Let’s hope interactive literature can return reading to the mainstream. 



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Fink wrote at 3/24/2015 12:39:25 AM:

Great idea! Just checked that "The Old Axolotl" ebook is avaiable now on Amazon:

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