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'Author Clock' Tells Time Using Book Quotes That Mention the Time of Day

Every minute a new quote is served up from a database of over 2,000 entries.

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When everything from your phone to your computer to your television can solve the mystery of ‘what time is it?’ a dedicated clock now needs to deliver more novel functionality to justify its existence. For the Author Clock, that involves replacing moving hands and ascending digits with quotes from books that happen to mention the current time.

It’s a fun idea, but not an entirely new one. In 2010, artist Christian Marclay released a film called The Clock that few have probably heard of, and even less have seen in its entirety. The film is 24 hours long and its entire runtime is made up of over 12,000 clips from thousands of different movies where the current time is either mentioned or displayed in shots of clocks and watches as it correlates to a 24-hour period. The Clock is completely disjointed and chaotic with no narrative to follow, but at the same time somehow fascinating, and a potential introduction to thousands of films the viewer may be unaware of. Unfortunately, due to copyright concerns, the film has never been released, and can only rarely be seen at museums and galleries in theaters specially constructed just for it—although short bootleg clips of it occasionally pop up online.


The Author Clock, by comparison, is much easier to experience. Made from recycled ABS plastic paired with an oak wood housing, an electronic paper screen refreshes with a new book quote every minute, from a database of over 2,000 that we’re going to assume are sourced from works in the public domain as selling a novelty clock that relies on them isn’t exactly fair use.


It doesn’t appear as if users can request their favorite authors as one of the benefits of the randomness of the quotes is that it can potentially introduce users to new writers, but there is the option to censor quotes that may contain profanity, and users will have their choice of different display fonts.

Two versions of the Author Clock will be made available, a 4.6-inch wide model with two weeks of battery life, and a larger 7.75-inch model with a much larger screen that can be seen from farther away, plus an expanded two months of battery life between charges. Otherwise, features seem mostly bare-bone as far as clocks go, there are no alarm clocks and no date functionality, but the screen can be inverted for improved contrast, and it can be switched to functioning like a basic digital clock that only displays numbers.

The creators of the Author Clock have turned to Kickstarter to help crowdfund the device, and backers can pre-order the small version for about $120, or the large for $230, with an expected delivery of April of next year. At the time of writing the campaign has already raised over $996,000, well beyond its $20,000 funding goal, but that doesn’t guarantee the Author Clock will reach backers on time, or at all. Mechanical Design Labs is very upfront about the challenges of bringing a new device to market at the moment, including struggles with securing the necessary components, and its backup plans of modifying the design to accommodate the parts it is able to access right now. But with supply chains and shipping services still struggling the world over, you’ll want to back this project with plenty of patience over when you might actually see it delivered.