Future heads© DAVID SIRVENT/Goethe-Institut© DAVID SIRVENT/Goethe-Institut

Rose Epple and Alex Valder of roseapple

“Some books want to be purchased for the coffee table, while others, such as travel guides, would be much more convenient in digital form.”

Rose Epple and Alex Valder are one of the winning teams of digivis contest, which is endowed with a total of 30,000 Euro. The Senate Department for Economy, Energy and Public Enterprises/ Project Future launched the contest “digivis – Making digital content visible” in cooperation with the German Publishers and Booksellers Association and the regional association of Berlin/Brandenburg. The aim of the contest is to find concepts that can increase the visibility of the digital products or applications offered by the creative industry, and in particular the book industry. 

You are one of the winners of the “digivis contest”. What does this contest mean to you? 

It was great to win an award, since our ideas and concepts were introduced to a broad audience. Moreover, the jury, who was convinced of our concept, communicated our ideas further to the right places (thank you). We do, of course, hope for implementation and will continue to pursue our work. 

With your competition entry and project “BEYOND PAPER”, you allow publishers to present their digital products in one central reading room. Can you explain this in more detail?

The idea was born during a visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair. Being a book designer, I was curious to see what was new on the e-book market. All books around me, however, were paper books. You could not even have a look at the winners of the German e-book award. 

When I asked if I could have a look at the e-books from the publishing houses, I was told they were digital after all. So, we were wondering if that was one of the reasons why the future market of digital books was stagnating, simply because invisible products are difficult to sell!

The digital reading room BEYOND PAPER will, similar to listening points for audio books, give providers of digital books the opportunity to present their digital products easily, without having to develop costly customized solutions. 

We are speaking of a modular trade fair booth – how does it work?

We were wondering what would be possible if “book” does not necessarily mean ink on paper. Beyond Paper can help texts explore new forms and materials. We were going through this approach, taking a group stand at the book fair as an example. The individual modules, however, are scalable and portable. You could also use them to install a shop-in-shop for bookshops.

Digital books do not have any presence in analogue spaces. This is something you want to change by introducing books you can “touch and feel”. To do so, you have developed some modules. How does that work?

We have designed a spatial interface between the digital and the analogue world. The booth consists essentially of three elements: one curtain made of soft book spines, creating some kind of acoustic and physical wall for the central reading room; cube seats with permanently installed reading devices and display units that can be connected to the tablets. 

What people miss about digital books the most is the look and feel of a real book. Rummaging in our book curtain is a physical activity. Every book that is presented on our booth is part of the book curtain. Just as in a thoroughly mixed box of books at the flea market, you will find recipe books right next to philosophical tracts and collections of essays right next to romantic novels. After all, rummaging is more about the pleasure in searching than in finding. 

You are working on various projects. Can you tell us a bit more about them?

Rose Epple: I have just written and designed an analogue interactive book for children, based on my work at the museum. On 2nd May 2018, the exhibition “Eroticism of Things” will be opened at the Werkbund Archive – Museum of Things, for which I am currently working on the exhibition design. 

Alex Valder: I am currently working on the development of two new objects, which, however, are not connected with books or reading. They simply make our life better. Moreover, we are currently designing a new office and workspace for a customer from the music scene.

Where do you see books, bookshops and libraries in ten years from now?

I think digital and analogue books will continue to exist side by side, and I hope that each form will be chosen more deliberately. Some books want to be purchased for the coffee table, while others, such as travel guides, would be much more convenient in digital form. I look forward to a time when book designers and programmers will develop new book formats – there is so much more potential to unlock! Bookshops could present this parallel existence in a much better way, not leaving the trade with digital products to online retailers. This is something we would like to work on with them! 

Libraries in the bigger cities will offer a better amenity value. Similar to museums, they could become atmospheric places where people can meet, read together, look at books and then have a cup of coffee. They could even send mobile branches into the city or schools. The digital book makes all this very easy. 

What book is currently on your bedside table?

There is actually always a stack of books! Currently among others: “The Semiotics of Emoji” by Marcel Danesi, the wonderful book “Seeing Things” by the photographer Joel Meyerowitz, which is made up as a children’s book, and the eye-opener “The Politics of Design” by Ruben Pater. On my iPad, I’ve just read the experimental Ambient Lit novel “Breathe” by Kate Pullinger.

You live in the Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg. What do you like about the city? And what do you miss?

Berlin remains an exciting place, also because many people from all over the world come here. However, for designers in the cultural field it is not easy. They are rarely seen as strategic partners, but too often as cheap service providers. 

I wish we had free entry to the city’s museums, so that the contact with culture becomes an everyday experience for everyone. If you could just say hi to Nofretete for a minute, that could be the beginning of something. 

Last but not least, can you finish the following sentence: “Berlin is…”

… the world’s most beautiful city in the springtime!