[HOT ITEM]Author! Author! Word is out on designer books

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[HOT ITEM]Author! Author! Word is out on designer books

If you're lousy at picking romantic gifts for your beloved or beloveds, you know that feeling of dread that sets in when a special date on the calendar is coming up, like a birthday, anniversary or Christmas. You need to get that special someone that special something that says you put heart and soul - and maybe wallet - into the search. And forget perfume and jewelry; your dearest is already buried in the stuff.

The search for that unique gift often degenerates into a big pain in the neck. You have to find something personal, something that shows how much you care. A touching letter or poem, though perhaps anachronistic, still has tremendous appeal. But if you've already worked that angle, you need to try new marketing, like packaging your love letters in a custom-made book. That's what Hwang Woo-suk did for his girlfriend, Jung Ji-seon.

To mark the couple's second anniversary, Mr. Hwang ordered a "couple's book" containing some 1,000 of the love letters they've written to each other. Though it sounds like a massive effort to get a book printed and bound, it took Mr. Hwang just three days and 48,000 won ($36). Mr. Hwang had the job done by an online company that handled everything from printing to delivery.

Mr. Hwang learned about the company from an advertisement he saw in the subway - with uncanny timing, since he was fretting about what to get his girlfriend. Less than a week later, Ms. Jung was overjoyed when the book was delivered to her office, and her co-workers strained to smile through their envy.

The publishing company, Dasan C&I, said it has sold nearly 13,000 custom-made books so far. Lee Seung-whee, a public relations manager at the firm, told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition, "The printer-on-demand system we use enables our customers' content to be printed as a book in as little as three minutes." The company started the system as a publishing alternative for systems that dump clients with stacks of unsold books. But now the focus of the system has shifted to fill demand for custom-made books. And the most popular books are those for couples, followed by child-raising records and poetry compilations.

As well as in Korean, the company can print books in English or any other languages that use the Roman alphabet, Mr. Lee said. Once you send the material you want printed to the Web site, www.iolive.com, choose a cover and font size and style, the book will be printed in a day and delivered two or three days later. There are 150 cover designs, while the number of pages is up to you. Mr. Hwang said he was quite happy with his book, but was disappointed that he could not add images to it.

What about the unromantics who've never written a love letter, not to mention poetry? They can buy "ready-to-go" books of poetry, which are just waiting for a name to be printed after "compiled by." Mr. Hwang called that cheating, but Mr. Lee said it's quite popular, even more so than the original works.

by Chun Su-jin

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