"First 3D-printed book cover"
created with a MakerBot


3D-printed book cover of On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee created with a MakerBot

News: US publisher Riverhead has collaborated with 3D-printing firm MakerBot to create the first printed book sleeve.

A desktop MakerBot Replicator 2 was used to print the slipcase for Korean-American writer Chang-rae Lee's futuristic novel On Such a Full Sea, released on 7 January.

"We think the 3D-printed slipcase for On Such a Full Sea is a work of art, and one we are very proud to have helped create," said MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis.

3D-printed book cover of On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee created with a MakerBot

The case was designed by Riverhead art director Helen Yentus and members of MakerBot's in-house design team.

The title lettering is extruded and stretched across the white printed sleeve, as a continuation of the flat writing on the yellow hardback tucked underneath.

"What I like about this project is that it re-introduces the idea of the book as an art object," said Lee. "Content is what's most important, but this [3D edition] is a book with a physical presence too."

3D-printed book cover of On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee created with a MakerBot

The technology was used as an experimental proposal for the future of books covers, which the designer says are becoming less significant as digital books are more widely read.

"We've talked a lot about what's going to happen to books and cover designers if covers aren't necessarily going to be the focus anymore," said Yentis in a film about the book. "We're looking for new ways to present our books."

Only 200 copies have been produced with the printed covers, each signed by the author. These limited editions are on sale for $150 (£91) and the book is also available with an alternative hardback cover, as well as an electronic version.

When Dezeen spoke to Pettis in 2012, he told us that cheap 3D printers mean manufacturing can again take place at home - read the full interview here.

More information from the publishers follows:

3D-printed slipcase for hardcover of Lee's latest novel On Such a Full Sea

In an unprecedented and innovative format, award-winning and Pulitzer Prize–nominated author Chang-rae Lee debuts his new novel, On Such a Full Sea, with a first-of-its-kind 3D printed slipcase, printed on a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer.

This highly anticipated new novel, set in a dystopian future America, comes as a signed limited edition hardcover with a custom 3D printed slipcase, designed by Helen Yentus and MakerBot. Only 200 of the 3D printed slipcases will be sold.

"What I like about this project is that it re-introduces the idea of the book as an art object," said Lee. "Content is what's most important, but this [3D edition] is a book with a physical presence, too. Of course I hope what's inside is kinetic, but the physical thing isn't normally meant to be. This edition feels as if it's kinetic, that it has some real movement to it. It's quite elegant as well."

In talking about the 3D printed slipcase that was made on a MakerBot, Lee noted, "It's all about changing the familiar. That's ultimately what all art is about. That's what we all do as writers."

Though it won't be released until January, On Such a Full Sea has been lauded and highlighted in all of its early reviews: "An astonishing feat of encapsulated genius from the inimitable Lee... Brilliant... A heart-thumping adventure," said Library Journal. Booklist said On Such a Full Sea is "Always entrancing and delving…. Takes a truly radical leap in this wrenching yet poetic, philosophical, even mystical speculative odyssey…. Electrifying." And Kirkus described the novel as "a harrowing and fully imagined version of dystopian America... Welcome and surprising proof that there's plenty of life in end-of-the-world storytelling."

Chang-rae Lee using a MakerBot Replicator 2 to create his 3D-printed book cover
Chang-rae Lee using a MakerBot Replicator 2

Chang-rae Lee is a deeply influential writer who tells stories about race, class and immigrant life in America. He has built a dazzling reputation as "a spellbinder" (Hartford Courant), "a master craftsman" (Washington Post), and "an original: (Los Angeles Times), and has been honoured with top prizes, including a PEN/Hemingway Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Asian American Literary Award; been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; nominated for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature; and selected for the New Yorker's "20 Writers for the 21st Century" list.

"We are honoured to work with Chang-rae Lee and Riverhead Books," noted Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot. "We think the 3D printed slipcase for On Such a Full Sea is a work of art, and one we are very proud to have helped create."

On Such a Full Sea is a bold and thrilling departure from Lee's previous novels. In On Such a Full Sea, Lee has turned his acute eye toward the future of America. The story takes place in a chilling dystopia, a century or so beyond the present, where abandoned post-industrial cities like Baltimore have been converted into forced labor colonies and populated with immigrant workers. China is a distant, mythical memory. Environmental catastrophes have laid waste to much of the world, a cancer-like disease has infected the entire population, and stratification by class and race is more pronounced and horrific than ever. The fate of the world may lay in the hands of one tiny, nervy girl named Fan, an enigmatic and beautiful fish-tank diver who jolts the labor colony by running away.

Epic in scope, masterful in execution, and page-turning right to the shocking end, On Such a Full Sea fires on many levels: it is simultaneously a heart-stopping survival adventure across the wasteland of a wrecked continent; a deeply moving story of a girl's first love; and a searing, frightening commentary on where America may be headed if we don't strive to do better. The Boston Globe writes that Lee "asks the crucial and abiding question: How do we live a kind and decent life in this woeful world?" On Such a Full Sea imagines a future in which that question is more urgent than ever, and challenges us to ask what we need to change today.

Chang-rae Lee is the author of Native Speaker, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for first fiction; A Gesture Life; Aloft; and The Surrendered, winner of the Dayton Peace Prize and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Selected by The New Yorker as one of the "20 Writers for the 21st Century," Lee is professor in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and a Shinhan Distinguished Visiting Professor at Yonsei University.

  • Ugo Crazy

    Way too much fuss given over the 3D thing. 3D printing is a tool, not and end in itself.

    In this here proposition, what is the point? How does this add anything to the book? If anything it removes something: usability. Indeed, I can’t squeeze this thing in my library let alone carry it in a bag.

    On another angle, what about the book, the story, in itself? Don’t forget that first and foremost it is a story we are selling in the medium of a book. The book as an object being the tool used to deliver the story. This object moves the point of interest from the actual story to the container. That alone is enough to discard the whole concept if there was one.

    Don’t mistake the democratisation of a technology for anything else but the tool it is, the means to an end.

    Kind of like how Flash was used back in the 90’s: added nothing, made browsing more complicated and sites more shallow. By the early 2k’s flash was used pretty well as a tool to create online applications/softwares.

    I guess that 3D ‘printing’ with enter a phase of utter nonsense for a couple years and then will start to be used in a useful and integrated manner.

    • Simon Gerssen

      I approve this message.

    • Filipe Silva

      It made it’s way into the news. Period. If a book is only a story them let’s tear every cover.

  • A A Mc

    Formal masturbation.

  • Concerned Citizen

    “We’re looking for new ways to present our books.”

    That’s not a new way to present a book, but rather a modification of a centuries-old way. There are other covers with the third dimension added, whether it’s a lock and latch or embossed leather.

    No, nothing new here at all. Even 3D is old and tiresome.

  • boredof3Dprinting


  • generalpopulation

    That’ll fit really snug onto my bookshelf.

  • howtogetfamous

    Is it biosynthetic so that it can repair itself?

  • Tanuki

    Am I the only one who couldn’t even read the freaking title of the book on that cover?

  • hater

    Why bother using a 3D printer for this?

  • Actually, this is not the first 3D printed book cover. In October 2013, Belgian graphic designer Lien Dierckx presented ‘Inspiration’, a series of 3D printed book covers. They can be found here: http://i.materialise.com/gallery/d8cacb8a-a6eb-4604-806c-19e39c787fb3 and here:http://dierckxlien.wix.com/portfolio#!inspiration-point/c1dag.