ustarnovels_logoI’ve mentioned a time or two the personalized Disney’s Jungle Book children’s book tie-in that my parents got for me one Christmas. Printed in a rough font that I retrospectively recognized as coming from a mainframe line printer, it would never pass muster in the print-on-demand world of today, though as I pointed out when I first mentioned it, there are print-on-demand operations that exist to do much the same thing today in more polished form.

Well, lately I’ve heard (via Galleycat) about one that takes the cake for sheer chutzpah. Rather than producing original fiction with the names filled in, U Star Novels will take actual classic-domain books and put you and your friends into them through the magic of search-and-replace, producing a customized paperback book for the low, low price of $24.95. So, rather than a Disney’s Jungle Book tie-in, I could today be written into the original Jungle Book (though only in theory—actually, The Jungle Book is not one of the titles currently on offer, but the principle still stands. The company also offers customized romance novels for couples.

When you select a title, you get a questionnaire asking you to enter the first names of the people you want to cast in the roles of the characters. For example, when I added The Wind in the Willows to my cart, I got a questionnaire asking me to fill in names to rename Mr. Toad, Ratty, Mr. Badger, Mole, The Jailer’s Daughter, and the Chief Weasel. There are also some spaces to fill in information about who the book is dedicated to, given to, from, and the date and occasion.

I can’t say that I’m ever likely to want one of these customized books, and in fact it’s rather hard to see who the target audience is—any kid young enough to want to see his name in a book is probably not old enough to read the somewhat archaic language these works are written in. Still, in general terms it really is a bit of a clever idea, and it’s hard to object to someone making such a novel use of works that are legitimately in the public domain.

I would point out, though, that if anyone should actually want to make such a thing for himself, all this amounts to is a bunch of search-and-replacing. If you had access to an Espresso Book Machine, you could probably do it just as well and save fifteen bucks or so. (And if your intended gift recipient prefers e-books, you could save even more.)


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail