What’s Next – Roll Your Own Literature?

Alison Morris - July 24, 2008

I’m really not quite sure what to make of this idea…. In 2007 the U.K.-based TankBooks published a series of classic books in small form – cigarette pack-sized form, to be exact – and packaged them in, essentially, cigarette packages. They called this series "Books to Take Your Breath Away." Here’s how TankBooks describes the venture on their website:

As one habit dies hard, another takes hold.
The ban on smoking in public places comes into operation in the UK on July 1, 2007. Tank is launching a series of books designed to mimic cigarette packs – the same size, packaged in flip-top cartons with silver foil wrapping and sealed in cellophane. 

TankBooks pay homage to this monumentally successful piece of packaging design by employing it in the service of great literature. Cigarette packs are iconic objects, familiar, tried and tested, and over time TankBooks will become iconic objects in their own right. The launch titles are by authors of great stature – classic stories presented in classic packaging; objects desirable for both their literary merit and their unique design.
TankBooks are for people on the move, lovers of literature and connoisseurs of design. Try one and you’ll be hooked.

Um… okaaaaay.

I’m not exactly sold on the idea that these books will actually get people reading, though I do admire the cleverness of their packaging, and I definitely enjoy the humorous images this cigarette-to-book metaphor brings to mind…. Just think of all those literate people out there trying desperately to quit to break the habit of reading. How long have publishers known the effects that books’ content would have on their readers? And why do we sit idly by as they target their products to our youth??

All joking aside, the TankBooks venture has apparently been a bit TOO successful, at least in the design regard. An January 2007 article in the Guardian explains that the publisher is being sued by British American Tobacco (BAT) who claims that the pack containing Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Undefeated bears too close a resemblance to their own Lucky Strike pack. BAT is concerned that the public might mistakenly believe they’ve endorsed or sponsored the Hemingway stories, "which can dilute the goodwill in the Lucky Strike brand."

Sounds to me like someone at B.A.T. needs to be sent a certain t-shirt

5 thoughts on “What’s Next – Roll Your Own Literature?

  1. Becky

    I don’t think the comments are working…. Anyway, what I though of first was the gratuitous sales pitch. So now cigarette packs are iconic? Must’ve missed the memo. Also, I wonder if anyone’s gotten in trouble with police who, while trying to enforce the smoking ban, mistook a book for a pack of real cigarettes. All in all, I’m simply stunned. I don’t know what else to say.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *