Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, 2004-06

USB Books

USB Books Photo


Every time we move house we face the task of packing and carrying our book collection. But is it still necessary to keep hold of such large physical items? Is there a way to reduce the weight we carry around with us, each time we move? How can digital content be given an evocative physical form, a form that still lends character to a space?

We take pride in our book collection. We want our guests to get a sense of what interests us and the breadth of our knowledge. A boring bookshelf suggests a boring mind. Scanning someone’s book spines on a shelf allows us to get a glimpse about how someone thinks. But books are heavy, and they weigh us down. Digitizing a book is possible, but placing it on a PC as a digital file – although lightweight - never has the visual impact of a real physical books on a real physical bookshelf in real physical space.


USB Books are USB keys embedded in a traditional spine of a book. Each USB key contains a single book or novel. It appears like a conventional book on a bookshelf – but without the weight and volume. Rolls of slotted, self-adhesive foam tape turn any surface into a bookshelf; even doorframes and window frames when space is at a premium. Heavy cook books are transformed into lightweight book spines, hanging from ribbons in the kitchen. Empty keys covered with blank paper can be personalized - adding a personal touch for friends.

The USB format means that any book can be read on any computer, without the need for cables or adapters. It becomes easy to lend one to a friend, or even take your entire collection on an overnight trip. People about to move apartments (or for those people who enjoy minimalism) can exchange their complete physical book collection for a USB Book collection.

Early Concepts

Exploiting the physical properties of computational media, a printed transparency turns a laptop monitor into a light.

Scribble on the back of your iBook with this whiteboard marker secured in a USB port.

With the falling costs of electronics, could your CD come with a built-in Walkman?