Not everyone is keen to take home a bookstore’s “browsing copy”. Despite being the most read, the fate of this book is to rest on the shelf never to be purchased nor loved. Inquisitive individuals may thumb through a “browsing copy” but only to return it to the shelf, then buy a mint-condition copy.
Every year, more than two billion books and magazines are unsold. That’s in America alone. For most major retail bookstores, unwanted publications are generally discarded rather than kept, as a more economical option.
So with a focus on unloved books from local bookstores, The Browsing Copy Project began in 2009. Creative individuals from around the world are invited to use these books as canvases for creative expressions, thus giving the books a lease of new life. The “before” and “after” impressions of the book are documented and uploaded online for display. Each edition of this on-going project attracts about 25 participating designers.
As an extension to the online exhibition, their work is also compiled into the publication For Browsing Only. So far, 45 contributors have participated in two editions. Only 300 copies are printed and circulated worldwide. They are found in bookstores, boutiques, cafés, libraries and design studios. The concept is to present a “mini exhibition” as a book for people to pick up, browse and read.
Both local and international designers share in equal parts to make For Browsing Only. All are well-known graphic designers, illustrators, product designers, fine art practitioners, graffiti artists as well as embroidery experts. This project creates opportunities for fellow local creatives as well as those from around the world to showcase their work side by side. It also allows for multi-disciplinary experimentation. The forthcoming third edition will feature a reputable local chef as well as an architect.
Each edition is 280 pages, in full-colour with a customised cover. Each edition also contains 18-layered pages made from the bark of a variety of trees. No one cover is the same as each is individually crafted with the access pages used as invitations or notes for participants, leaving nothing to waste. Minimum paper wastage is observed during the printing process. Rejected print copies are also used, giving the catalogues a unique and distinct disposition.
For Browsing Only has received international praise for its novel approach to saving unwanted books. It was featured in The Wall Street Journal, IDN’s post of the month, as well as in numerous design books and online news portals, and mentioned on the Graphics News Network in South America.