When you wear a T-shirt with a phrase or an interesting design, it's not unusual to catch someone looking at it for a few seconds. That's reasonable, right? It's why the words and graphics were printed on it -- to be seen. But if someone stares a little too long for comfort, you might be tempted to snap at them, "It's not a novel."
Except that's not true if you're wearing a Litographs T-shirt. They are, in fact, entire novels.
I first heard about Litographs when my friends Chris and Katie, a supremely cute married couple who work as a senior writer and a producer at CNN, visited BookExpo America back in May. I noticed one of Chris's tweets from the convention.
I clicked through on the link and found myself in instant agreement with Chris: I wanted them all -- "all" being their impressive collection of T-shirts combining the texts of beloved books with clever designs from an array of artists.
A month later, I was meeting for coffee in lower Manhattan with Litographs' CEO, Danny Fein, who immediately won me over by bringing me an "Anne of Green Gables" T-shirt.
Danny is a sweet-as-he-is-smart guy in his mid-20s who, in his senior year at UPenn, was accepted to Harvard's joint JD/MBA program with a two-year deferral. Instead of just twiddling his thumbs during those two years, he started Litographs and was all like, Meh, I'd rather do this and not spend a kabillion dollars on a couple more Ivy League degrees. And why not? Litographs is a brilliant idea, both as a concept and a business.
Each shirt is custom-made in the Boston area, printed on white polyester tees (they feel amazing) using a highly durable method called dye sublimation that allows the design to be permanently dyed into the threads of the shirt itself -- as opposed to sitting on top of it -- which means it will never fade.
The result is approximately 40,000 words covering the T-shirt, depending on the size, design and book. You can actually read the vast majority, if not the entirety, of your chosen book right on the fabric.
Currently, the majority of the designs available are classic books in the public domain. However, they've started working with contemporary authors like Kathleen McGowan, whose best-seller "Book of Love" is among the inventory. And Danny is letting me break the news that Audrey Niffenegger's "The Time Traveler's Wife" will be available by the holidays.
In the meantime, you can see some of the upcoming titles on their calendar -- "Black Beauty" and "Peter Rabbit" are two of them -- and, because you know you've already been thinking about it since you started reading this, suggest and vote for books you'd like to see on T-shirts, tote bags and posters.
Litographs' next project: literary temporary tattoos. Less than two weeks ago, they launched a Kickstarter campaign for them, inviting backers to become a part of the world's longest temporary tattoo chain, with each of the first 2,500 people to pledge at least a dollar receiving a temporary tattoo of a sentence from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."
Their goal of $7,500 was almost immediately obliterated -- they're up to more than 6,000 backers and $40,000! Danny told me they're planning to run more tattoo chains, and that before the campaign is over, they'll be rolling out about a dozen more designs (in addition to the 15 currently available) from which backers pledging $3 or more can choose.
So, yeah, you could say I'm pretty obsessed with Litographs. It's easily one of the coolest and most ingenious ideas the Internet has introduced me to, and I hope I'm doing the same for you.