Here's to 2023

A new short story to celebrate the new year

TLDR: To celebrate the new year, we commissioned a new short story by Robin Sloan, best-selling author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough. It's a bit of a love-letter to Lawrence KS, and a celebration of learning new things. We printed nice copies and gave them to clients and Friends of BNB. You can read it here.

I love the new year.

I love the arbitrary change of dates, I love the feeling of new possibility, I love setting new goals. And so: instead of generic holiday cards, every year at BNB we make and send New Year's cards. I'm always on the lookout for ways to turn these into interesting projects... and I am very, VERY excited about what we put together this year.

It started way back at the very beginning of 2022! The writer Robin Sloan (best-selling author, AI-powered musician, fellow Ruby programmer!) linked to a short story of his that was commissioned by a small magazine, and I wondered: could WE commission a short story? That seems wild - but maybe it's not? I reached out to Robin and he was game.

We gave him free rein, with the requests that the story just mention Lawrence (where the majority of BNB employees have been based). He came up with a bunch of good ideas, and I'm sorry we couldn't pursue all of them. I LOVED the one that he went with though - and I'm excited to share it with everybody.

The story features a Big Red Synthesizer - a fictionalized version of an actual red modular synthesizer at the actual Lawrence Public Library. In fact, we took one of our Brand New Box Final Friday outings a few years back to learn how it worked and make some music together.

Real Red Synthesizer

So, for our friends and clients who are not in Lawrence (and that's most of you!), we built a Small Red Synthesizer - a little toy you can play with to make some music. (It works a little differently than the kind you connect with cables and stuff.) This was so much fun, and I have spent an irresponsible amount of time messing with it and making robot music.

Small Red Synthesizer

And of course, because this was sparked by our New Year's card project - we printed copies. It's a short story, so this print edition fits into a small 4x6 book, at 24 pages. Aaaaand we went a little overboard making it.

Lots of copies

Let's look at some details.

The cover naturally takes its inspiration from the synth in the story. It's a heavy paper, diecut and letterpressed, and has a folded pocket inside. This was all executed by Christy Schneider at Inkello, who is always a joy to work with. She nails these details every time.

Letterpress is a very physical process - and this included a custom die for the cover and pocket, as well as the a grid of punches for the diecut holes.

Diecut Punch Grid

Through the diecut holes a white card is revealed; this is the back side of a custom fake library checkout card I mocked up. It's modeled after a collection I have of real checkout slips that I've surreptitiously removed from books over the years. Did I mention I'm kind of obsessed with libraries?

Checkout Card
The dates are have a little built-in meaning to them too, but they're a secret.

Monica designed this cool title page for the book, which informed the full cover too.

Title Page

This was such a fun project, and I'm so excited to share it after a year's worth of coordination and planning. Here's to learning new things in 2023!