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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Book Printing: An Audio Book Precursor to the LCD Video Book

My fiancee just bought a Kid Connection Animal Songs book for her seventeen-month-old grandson. When I saw the book, which had been printed in 2002, I couldn’t help but laugh. It was clearly one of the precursors of the LCD video book I had just reviewed in the PIE Blog.

Structure of the “Play-a-Song” Book

Publications International, LTD, produced this book. It appears to be a well-crafted, four-color casebound print book. If I look closely, I can see the stitches holding the Smyth sewn book signatures together. This binding method is often used for library editions of print books when the books need to withstand hard use. It is ideal for a children’s book.

The back cover of this 9” x 12” text extends almost two inches beyond the face trim of the front cover, and this provides a “well” for a two-inch vertical sound bar. At the bottom of the bar is a small speaker operated by replaceable button batteries, and above the speaker are ten button switches, stacked one above the other. A face panel covers the switches and provides space for a horizontal, oblong color image for each button. Each image is a caricature of an animal in human dress and with human characteristics.

If you flip through the book, you will see a double-page layout for each of ten well-known folk songs or nursery rhymes about animals, ranging from “Hickory Dickory Dock,” to “Alouette” to “Pussycat, Pussycat.” Along with the dramatic event portrayed on each page spread, the author has included the lyrics for the song illustrated by the image.

Almost all of the characters are animals (an elephant dressed as the queen in “Pussycat, Pussycat,” along with a cat in courtly attire scaring a mouse in peasant’s rags enough to drive him under the feet of the elephant queen).

The images are exaggerated, humorous, almost grotesque. For example, for the “Alouette” page spread, three drooling dogs (or perhaps wolves) oogle a line of burlesque chickens dressed as dancing girls.

If you press the appropriate buttons on the sound bar, matching the animal characters on the bar with the characters on the page spreads of the print book, the electronic chip in the sound-bar will play the song. Granted, it’s rudimentary. After all, this was made in 2002. But you can recognize the nursery rhyme or song from the electronic music, and this enhances the experience of the print book—for adults as well as the children for whom they bought the book.

Why This Little Book Is So Appealing

I would have enjoyed this book as a child, and I even think it’s pretty impressive now. Here’s why:

    • The animal characters personify human traits or foibles. In some cases you could even say the drawings have a satirical edge. This works for me because the traits are both exaggerated and humorous.


    • The sound bar involves the reader. It makes reading the print book a more participatory experience. You can push the buttons and hear the songs while you read (or even sing) the lyrics with your child.


  • The print book is well crafted, so it is not only attractive, but it will endure harsh use over time.

And most importantly,

  • The audio component complements the printed portion of the book. I think you even get a more intense experience reading the book because it engages the senses of touch and sight with the print book component and the sense of hearing with the audio book component.

How Is This Like an LCD Video Book

In my mind, this is like a rudimentary LCD video book, since these new marketing tools also augment the experience of watching and hearing video content while reading the print book or marketing brochure that surrounds the LCD video screen. The LCD video book has more sophistication now, in the year 2013, than the electronic beeps and pulses of the 2002 children’s audio book, but both products engage multiple senses to make reading a book a more immersive experience.

Why You Should Care

I think this is very relevant to print book and brochure designers. Granted, this is like a Model T compared to the LCD video book, but the Internet has allowed print, audio, and video to converge and overlap in diverse ways. The more fluency you have with these individual artistic disciplines and the more effectively you can combine them to educate or persuade a reader, the more relevant you will be in the field of marketing design. I firmly believe this.

This is the direction of the future.

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