INDIANLAKE-At the science fiction book display at Indian Lake Central School, one work was different from the others. Sure, it had a plot and characters. But it was stored on a USB device the size of a credit card. Students could read the book on a computer, the district's e-readers or with a smartphone.
It's "Life After Sleep," a novella by Mark R. Brand, the son of Robin and Mark T. Brand, the ILCS home and careers teacher and district superintendent. And it's an experiment in alternate means of selling books.
The title can be downloaded online for free, though a donation of any amount is requested. It can be purchased for $10 on a USB device that includes the book equivalent of a DVD's special features: other samples of the author's work, and a making-of-the-novel video documentary, among other items. A handmade, paper copy of the book can be purchased for $15.
The younger Mark, 32, is a clinical massage therapist living inChicago, Ill. While he was attending Indian River Central School in Jefferson County, he was a star writing student, his father said.
"We've always been very proud of Mark and what he's been able to do that way," the elder Mark said.
The younger Mark said he started writing around age 14, and had really good English teachers in high school who encouraged his talent.
"I was a big science fiction fan when I was a kid," he said.
He attempted to write his first novel during his freshman year of St. Lawrence University and since then has published three books, two in print form, in addition to "Life After Sleep."
The pay-what-you-want system for the book was similar to that the band Radiohead employed for its 2007 album "InRainbows," the younger Mark said.
Putting the book on a USB device was primarily a marketing decision, according to the younger Mark. In that form, it could be more easily hawked at events.
"We wanted people to actually get the book if they saw me at a reading," he said.
In addition, the younger Brand said, he and his editor realized that readers often wanted a physical copy of the book, in some form, to hold onto.
The handmade, paper copies are intended for collectors, according to the website of the younger Mark's publisher, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography.
The younger Mark said sales of the book were good. The first run of the USB devices was nearly gone; 50 were printed about two months ago, of which ten or so were left.
He said there had been more than 100 downloads of his book. Though this figure might be understated, the younger Mark said, because a single downloaded copy might be shared many times over due to the nature of the medium.
He did not say how many people voluntary chose to pay for their downloaded copies. But he did say that each copy of the book, across all different formats, brought in, on average, approximately $10.
The younger Mark said he felt gratified to have his work highlighted in the ILCS library display.
"I saw the display and there were some really great titles I was proud to be alongside of," he said.
The display was up from near the end of April to near the end of May, according to George DeChant, an ILCS library media specialist. It was created byRichard Corrow, a junior who has a passion for science fiction.
Robin had showed DeChant the USB version of "Life After Sleep," DeChant said. Because he was so impressed and the novella fit the display's theme, it was included.
"People say all the time there will not be librarians in 10 years because there will be no books," DeChant said.
He disagrees. If librarians embrace new technology, they will stay relevant, DeChant said. And to some degree that's what the experiment that is "Life After Sleep" represents.