Book review: Sticker Nation by Srini Kumar

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For years we’ve admired the brilliant stickers, buttons, and shirts produced by Unamerican Activities (“quality rebellion at affordable prices”). So, when we came across a whole book about the stickers for $15 at Amazonwe though it was pretty sweet.
But what really sealed the deal was that we realized that it wasn’t just a book about the stickers but a book of stickers– 432 sweet stickers for fifteen bucks.

Sticker Nation: The Big Book of Subversive Stickers by Srini Kumar is an interesting experiment of a book. I hope that it’s a successful experiment.

Most of the stickers in the book feature slogans that are already available on high-quality vinyl stickers from Unamerican Activities for a buck each. Having this book is like having a great reserve of subversive stickers for every occasion handy– something that I hadn’t previously realized that I needed. Perhaps it works in reverse as well: you see cool stickers in your book and then you want to order vinyl stickers from the web site. (Fair enough.)

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Most of the pages in the book look like this: a set of sticker that you can pull out if you see one that inspires you. The stickers range between such notes as noble (“stamp out hunger”), activist (“support sustainable systems”), revolutionary (“stop living like veal”), and silly (“thank god I’m agnostic”). “Subversive,” as they call them, is indeed a good word to sum up the attitude.
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A few of the pages are dedicated to things besides stickers proper, including an appropriately short micro-rant about each and every sticker in the book, some with quotations or locations of relevant material on the web. There’s also a short introduction smack in the middle of the book with exactly the sort of over-interpretation (pictured) that you might expect in a book of this nature.
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The vast majority of the stickers in the book are single-line slogans, arranged seven to a page, and arranged alphabetically. A separate section at the end (also arranged alphabetically) has larger (mostly two-line) slogans at the rate of five per page.
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Here’s one of my favorite slogans, “Annoy the boring.” On the left is the sticker in the book and on the right is a vinyl sticker that I got from Unamerican several years ago, attached to the fork of my bicycle. (It’s a shiny and light piece of titanium, but it came without any stickers or decals, so I put some of these on it.) Sure enough, both stickers look about the same. The only substantial visual difference is that the URL on the sticker has changed to point to Sticker Nation (stickernation.com). Apparently Sticker Nation (the web site) is a spin-off from Unamerican (with a less-unamerican name) that sells custom printed vinyl stickers.
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I heart source code. (Hey, who doesn’t, right?)

So, you can indeed peel out the stickers and stick them to things. The stickers come out of the book very easily and cleanly, which is great.

As much as I’d like to say only good things about this book, there are certain tradeoffs that have been made in order to sell these four hundred stickers for $15 total instead of $400.

First of all, this is a regular book with pages– and stickers– made out of paper. If you want the vinyl versions you’ll have to get them separately. Secondly, the adhesive backing is a little bit disappointing, and they almost immediately began to curl up at the edge of my clipboard. The obvious solution is to seal it in place with a single piece of high-quality clear packing tape, and this works well and looks just fine.
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The other issue that I would point out about the book is also about its physical construction, not content: Every other page is blank! If you look at the spine of the book it’s clear that the book is built out of large folded sheets of stickers that are printed on one side only. That wouldn’t really be a problem except that the way they are folded, every other page is blank and something about the way the parts are folded together makes it so that when you thumb through the book you are more likely to open it to a blank, rather than stickery page.

Despite these minor flaws, this book is great fun and a great deal. The front cover is conspicuously labeled “Volume 1,” so I hope to see another volume in the near future.

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2 thoughts on “Book review: Sticker Nation by Srini Kumar

  1. I want one. BTW, any reason you are helping me buy this from Starbucks? I mean Amazon.

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