On How To Get There From Here

This last week has been crazy. Overwhelming, even. There seems to be a lot of excitement about the Open Book! Yet I feel that something is getting lost in the conversation — and to be perfectly honest, maybe that’s on me. I’ve always envisioned this as a DIY project, an ebook you build yourself, like a Jedi building their first Lightsaber. Ever since the contest, people keep asking “when is the book coming” and there’s a part of me that feels like hey, it’s here, if you want it!

At the same time, if I take a step back, I have to admit that actually building the book involves some knowledge and skills that may be unfamiliar or even scary to folks. I know this because a year ago, I didn’t have many of these skills. As of last May, the book looked like this: 

The only part I soldered myself was the board atop the board on the left; it’s a few buttons and some wires. Eventually, I decided I had to design a circuit board (more learning), and eventually ended up with the E-book Wing in July:

There’s a clear jump here. That first prototype was just buttons and wires that you could put through holes on a board (Through-hole). For the wing, you'd have to put down little blobs of solder paste and set tiny pieces down with tweezers (Surface Mount). And the Open Book board is an even bigger build, with more of those parts.

Anyway, the point is, something happened in between: I did some other, smaller surface mount projects, to gain experience with these techniques. Not going to list them all, but one milestone was the Hiking Log FeatherWing, which was a few surface mount parts: 

Another was the Simple Feather, which was a lot of surface mount parts: 

With each project, I was able to try these techniques on a small board that didn’t cost as much, and gain confidence and experience. Which is all by way of saying, if I’m being honest with myself, there was a time when I could not have built the Open Book, and if I’m going to say “You can build it,” maybe I need to take you along on the journey.

So here’s the thought process: in the coming weeks, I want to document all the little projects that I’ve done over this past year. Make them into little single-serving guides, things you can build and find useful (a computerized bike light, or a GPS data logger for camping). The goal is for each one to teach some aspect of the skills needed to build the Open Book at the other end.

We’re going to get this first run of 100 made, and I’m hopeful that there’ll be more after that, but in the end the point of this wasn’t to make a thing that you can buy, it was to make a thing that you can make. Even if you don’t think you can make it today.

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