The sad story of Push Pop Press

Let me begin by saying that it’s a sad story for most of us; it’s not a sad story for Push Pop, nor is it a sad story for Facebook. I’m not really sure Facebook is capable of having a sad story these days. Even when people erupt over Facebook privacy concerns, somehow we all quiet down soon afterwards, content with our toys. Even Zuckster just tells you about all of the other people in the business stealing your information, trying to divert our attention. And we usually look over there (“Squirrel!”), forgetting what we were originally talking about.

I know that sounds a little harsh, but still.

Everyone is lamenting the death of the book these days. Everyone, meaning all the people who care about publishing. So I guess that means like 47 people in the world. Whatever. And there’s good stuff out there. There are tablets to reinvigorate storytelling (and no, I’m not going to link to Apple, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. I mean, we all know who they are, right?), and there are platforms like the Atavist, helping publishers tell those new stories.

I love the Atavist stuff; I recently talked to them about working together for my future publishing projects, and while the terms weren’t mutually beneficial for the scope of my work, I still think that it’s some good stuff. I started thinking about a story I read a while back about Push Pop Press, who gave a pretty cool TED demo about their own publishing platform.

And so this morning I donned my interwebs spelunking gear and went searching for some prices for this platform that they were going to be releasing for publishers to help re-invigorate the industry.

Instead, they sold their platform to Facebook. Here‘s the release on Push Pop’s website. No biggie, right? Everybody’s gotta get paid; I can dig it.

But.

On the website, I noticed that Push Pop’s founders referred to Facebook as “the world’s largest book.” When I read that, I got up, went to the office, and started scrounging around for some Tums so I didn’t spew my breakfast all over the computer screen (and I share this desk with like seven other adjunct faculty members, so I didn’t want to be rude).

I thought Infinite Jest had to be one of the bigger books in the world. You know, besides the Bible. But there’s also this book, which apparently has 1460 pages, each of which is “three and a half feet wide, five feet tall and five inches thick.” So yeah, that’s pretty big.

Seriously, though: Facebook as the world’s largest book? Please. Only if the world’s largest book is a collection of what-we-eat-for-breakfast, funny looks our dogs make, and horrible pictures of us from when we were seventeen posted by that that girl from high school who we barely remembered but apparently has a helluva collection of pics of us with braces, gawky bone structures, and acne. But I digress.

The real concern in this story isn’t necessarily that the big guys bought up the fancy tech. It’s not that some really smart people who know their shit got paid. It’s that those of us who think that there is something valuable in working with books in all of its new potential forms wish the coming transition was going to be easy. Well it’s not.

I know nothing about making software and all that stuff, but maybe I need to start learning, because I don’t have the millions to wave at programmers, convincing them to let me use their knowledge to tell stories. All I got is way too much idealism. Mixed with some sadness at the thought of what could have been.

Oh Push Pop, we could have made some sweet, creative, and intellectual love together.

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