My new 300-page tool recommendation book

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I looked through some of it online; I wholeheartedly agree with the Zerodust stylus cleaner and the Okki Nokki record cleaner. I did a lot of research on record cleaning machines and it’s the best I was able to find for less than $2K several years back.

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You guys need to do a tool subscription service much like the clothing outfit Stitch Fix.

…Curated tool collections for men, women & kids that sends tools and gadgets to your door (with free shipping & returns). Get started & find stuff you’ll love!

(I get a cut if you go with it!)


Good idea.
Divorce rates would skyrocket, though.

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Sorry, Mark, (@frauenfelder) but I’m just going to put a word of warning here.

I bought the Kevin Kelly previous version of the Cool Tools book and it was very disappointing.

  • Absolutely zero copy-editing had been done, so all the typos, mis-spellings, grammatical errors, etc., from the original Cool Tools blog posts submitted by readers, were left intact. It may be ok to do this online but not when I shell out hard earned cash for a printed publication. All in one book, the craptitude of the text became overwhelmingly depressing.
  • The graphics/photos were often awful. Really low-res pics blown up beyond all sense. No attempt to find appropriate resolution pictures for an ink-and-paper process. Again, everything was as per the website’s original presentation, and again being brought together on the page all in one place made it even worse.

The whole thing was just a website scrape with some crude page layout and zero attempt to adapt it to a publication format. I bought two copies - one as a gift, and I still have that one as I was too embarrassed to give it to someone, the quality was so poor.

Now, I cannot tell if this latest book suffers the same problems - impossible to say from the Amazon look inside. But I do know that the weekly Cool Tools email I still get almost always has some pictures that are enlarged way beyond anything the underlying resolution can support and just look crap, and so I have no reason to suspect they won’t look the same in the book.

This may not deter you from buying it (apart from the fact it will all be on the website and more easily searched, anyway) but make sure you know what it will look like if you plan to give it as a present to anyone.

ETA the physical book/page size/format here appears to be maybe half the previous version so that may help with resolution. The previous one was almost tabloid-sized.

Thanks for your comments and I respect them. The Cool Tools Catalog is a celebration of amateur enthusiasm, much like the Whole Earth Catalog was. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I think you would probably be disappointed in Four Favorite Tools, too. It’s also rough around the edges.

BTW, here’s a video Kevin made about the Cool Tools Catalog (Kevin work on the original Whole Earth Catalog series).


Thanks, Mark. I cannot see the FFT book, of course, but my general response to the CTC book and your comment that the FFT may also be rough around the edges is: Why? It’s so unnecessary.

A day or so’s copy editing, and identifying and replacing the worst low-res pics would improve things so much, demonstrably improve value for money for the customer, increase buyer satisfaction, and reduce the risk of bad reviews.

Yes, I’m a career cynic, but the only answer to ‘why?’ I can come up with is that it’s all about a cheap, cheerful and quick way to make some cash, not about how to produce a quality publication with some added value (over the website version) to be proud of.

Obviously I am not privy to your publishing economics and the business case for doing this. But merely recycling existing web content, on paper, without apparently adding ANY value in doing so (as was the case with the CTC book, to my mind) smacked, just a tad, of a rip-off. That was what most disappointed me - it seemed like a cynical manoeuvre to exploit the CTC web content and nothing else. A lot of value could have been added for relatively little effort.

Anyway, thanks for your comment - I get the idea that you do at least understand why I’m saying what I am - and thanks for being up front about expectations for the FFT book. I do wish you well with sales - after all, a ‘portfolio income’ guy’s gotta make a living, eh? :wink:

PS and I sort of disagree.

The CT website is that - completely agreed, 100%. The Catalog purported to be a proper publication and ought not to have reflected so much amateurishness.

I have to say that as a consumer I assumed from the post headline and the image of the book cover that this would be a real book produced with the editorial and layout standards we expect from books, especially since I know Mark as the editor of first rate publications like Wired and Make.

I think that a “rough around the edges” book can be justified in some cases, but that there should be some expectation management about the quality of the book. If I were to buy what looked like a normal book on Amazon I would be negatively surprised were it to be just web clippings.

300 pages for only four tools? That must be a hell of a flowchart.

Seriously though, this is a great book idea.

We actually put a ton of work into the book. I’m proud of the books we’ve made and our Amazon reviews are overwhelmingly positive. I am always happy to hear complaints, but you are making a lot a aggressively negative assumptions about our motivations that aren’t true, which is too bad because now I can’t have a productive conversation with you.

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You can have a productive conversation - that’s what we’re having, isn’t it? I caveated that I had not seen your book to judge, and my cynicism was driven almost entirely by the disappointment and feeling of being ripped off that the CTC book generated in me. I could see little purpose in it - given it had pretty much zero added value - other than to squeeze money out of already existing material, with little consideration for the reader/buyer. I suspect /am happy to grant that your book will be higher quality and your ‘rough around the edges’ comment may have been false modesty. But given its antecedents and lack of insight available from Amazon’s look inside, I thought it reasonable to comment for the sake of others.

If I were in your shoes the one thing I’d do would be to add a few more ‘look inside’ pages on Amazon so people can judge the quality directly.

Re motivations … perhaps you could share your motivation for reformatting existing web content into paper, and talk about the added value you feel it brings? That would help. The answer is in all probability at least in part ‘to bring it to the attention of those who live in the paper world and might not invest time in searching out and reviewing the website’, perhaps?

Thanks again for your comments, which I am always happy to hear and take into consideration. Please email me at so I can issue a refund for the copies of the CTC book. I’m sorry that you didn’t find it useful.

Shan’t do that, Mark. Thanks for the gesture but it’s ancient history, now. And I did find it useful, just not of the quality I anticipated.

ATB for future sales of the newer, improved publications.

PS but the odd image, now and then, in the Cool Tools emails could be reduced in size to make them look less fuzzy, sometimes. :wink:

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As a co-author of the book in question I wanted to chime in. Proof reading is an essential art. Our new book Four Favorite Tools was proof read by proofreaders twice. Our Cool Tools book was proofread by 5 proofreaders. My books published by Random House/Penguin in New York are proofed by proofreaders. Wired had full time proofers. Yet all of these publications will end up having typos when they reach readers. But hopefully not many. Cool Tools sold 52,000 copies. I’ve seen only one complaint about it having “too many typos”: that is the comment above that I am replying to. On all my books when someone alerts me to a specific typo, I eliminate it in the next printing. That way we can reduce the number to as close to zero as possible. Since Four Favorite Tools is printed on demand we have the chance to eliminate any typos someone might notice. Tell us specifically where it is and the very next copy sold and all those thereafter will cleared of those imperfections. No matter how many times something is proofed in house, it is not 100% clear, and it does not compared to being read by many thousands of readers. We are eager to remedy any typos found. One caveat: be sure to read the actual book, or ebook, and not a sample pages, because those pages (including Amazon’s Inside the Book) do not represent the current best edition.


Speaking as someone who has lived a good chunk of my life before the internet came about, I can see value in having a physical copy of something like this, even if the website is easier to search and looks better. The website may not be around forever. The internet may not be either, at this rate.

Hell, I have a book that goes into great detail about the online games available to play through AOL. It’s like a fascinating time capsule of sorts.

Also, having created book layouts I will agree with you that improvements to design where possible are certainly preferred. But again, I’m willing to get this book as it is since it’s what’s available, rather than do without.

That said, the single Amazon review for the B&W edition is a bit concerning. Not that I will be buying that one. I like color.

Another thing collecting this information into a physical book does is provide income that can be applied back into the site – if that’s what this does. Unless I’m mistaken, the Cool Tools site and newsletter, like BB, is free to access.

If BB would put out books collecting past articles – maybe centered around a theme over time – I would buy those to support the site as well.

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Thanks, Kevin. I’ve replied ‘offline’.

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