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Cool Tools

A $40 print directory of gadgets and gizmos previously posted online for free is selling rapidly, reports David Carr in The New York Times (1/6/14). Cool Tools is a "472-page catalog" weighing "4.5 pounds" and basically turns "weightless pixels into bulky bundles of atoms." It is the brainchild of Kevin Kelly, "the founding executive editor of Wired" as well as the owner and editor of the Cool Tools website (link), which for the past 10 years has published write-ups on "neat stuff." Kevin "makes small money off referral revenue from Amazon when people proceed to buy some of those things."

The first printing of 10,000 copies "sold out immediately, a second printing of 12,000 will go on sale on Amazon next week and a third printing of 20,000 copies is underway." Kevin says that he, himself, was surprised by the response. "Paper is really unnecessary for a lot of things, but very good at certain things. And this turned out to be one of them," he says. "Having many different things you may be interested in on a page, as opposed to a single thing surrounded by ads as it is on the web, leads to the formation of different connections and leads to a different experience."

The effect is not unlike that of the Whole Earth Catalog, "a chatty, user-generated publication that prefigured the web and that Mr. Kelly once edited … it’s a big sprawling wonder of a book – half coffee-table tome and half Sears catalog of old." Kevin says the goal is not to encourage consumption, but rather to have access to tools that "make us better humans." He says he sees Cool Tools as part of the "maker culture" and that "a third industrial revolution is stirring." The catalog, he says is "aimed at small groups, the do-it-yourselfer, and the self-educated."