It was only a matter of time: the first 3-D printed book cover has arrived. Published by Riverhead Books on Tuesday, a limited edition of Chang-Rae Lee’s novel On Such a Full Sea features a white slipcover with the title’s letters rising off the surface, making the book double as a sculpture.
Designed by Riverhead’s art director Helen Yentus, the slipcover initially took 30 hours to print, until some streamlining reduced production to 15 hours each. Given this arduous creation process, the limited edition books are selling for a whopping $150–way more than the Kindle eBook edition, which is $11.99.
The slipcover “re-introduces the idea of the book as an art object,” author Lee said in a statement announcing its release. In a floundering publishing industry, elevating fiction books into the kind of luxury art object normally reserved for the coffee table genre may be one clever strategy for keeping print interesting to the consumer.
The sleek design is fitting for a novel that takes place in the future. “We’re looking for new ways to present our books that give people the opportunity to have something to hold onto that’s not available in digital form,” Yentus says in a video about the making of the slipcover.
“A couple years ago, we thought this was the end of print and we’d just be going cheaper and cheaper and cheaper until [the physical book] disappears, because you could just get the e-book,” Yentus told Time. “With these special editions, I can’t say 100% but I do think that we are trying to create a physical object that people would want to keep and have, probably as a response to the growth of the e-book. There’s a lot of pressure to innovate. For us, at least in my mind, this has turned out to be a really successful result of that search.” Until flat fluorescent computer screens can turn into 3D objects (and that day may not be so far away), the physical can still retain some edge over the digital.
The 3-D printed limited edition of On Such A Full Sea is available for purchase here.