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Chef Wed Sep 26 2007
Chef Grant Achatz and his business partner Nick Kokonas have turned down million-dollar offers for an Alinea cookbook in order to go DIY. You can pre-order the book -- due next fall -- at alinea-book for $50, which entitles you to a copy of the book signed by Achatz and everyone else involved in the project, early access to the companion site, alinea-mosaic.com (nice retro web reference, guys) next May. My order is in; yours should be too.
Serious Eats' Ed Levine spoke with Kokonas about the project. Their decision to go independent with the book (which will be published under contract by Ten Speed Press) had a lot to do with the limitations publishers wanted to place on the project.
It's unsurprising that a chef who's pushing the boundaries of cooking would also want to challenge the conventions of publishing; if the gamble pays off, I predict a very cool future for cookbook publishing.
Kokonas: "Grant and I regard this whole process as an exercise in mass customization. We wanted to do the book our way. The publishers we talked to would have imposed their vision and their way of thinking on us. We didn't want that. One of the key components to us is the online component. On the internet, you can create something rich and hopefully special. When we explained to the conventional publishers what we wanted to do, they all thought we were nuts. They thought that if we put big chunks of the book online, we would be cannibalizing our own sales. But I have tons of cookbooks at home, and I go on the web all the time for cooking and food info, and those are two distinct interactions, and one doesn't come at the expense of the other.
"What we are trying to do here is much more than publishing a book, because with the website, we're going to be adding to the book continuously after the publication date. What we're most excited about is the chance to build an Alinea community. We've already started to do that with the restaurant, and now with the book and the website, we can take that community to a whole new level."