Electronic Popable Books from MIT

Pop-ups — or books with mechanical or movable parts – have been around since at least the 13th century. Designed so that images rise up from the page when the reader lifts a flap or moves a tab, pop-up books have been a special niche of publishing, partly because they are so labor intensive to produce. Once written and illustrated, the story has to go to a paper engineer to layout pages with nesting pieces so that the sheet can be run through a press. The nesting pieces then have to be die-cut, collated and assembled by hand. Dozens of workers are often needed to fold, insert paper tabs into slits, connect paper pivots, glue and tape, all to produce just one book. That was yesterday. Now thanks to students Jie Qi, Leah Buechley and Tschen Chew from MIT’s High-Low Tech Group, a few more specialists will need to be added to the production team. Electronic popables integrate paper-based electronic sensors that allow amazing interactivity — turning on lights and moving images at the touch of a finger. Will it catch on or will the line between printing on paper and electronic media become so blurred that consumers will opt to watch the story on a screen?