Every word counts in Alex Epstein’s books. Not just because he’s a careful writer, but because Epstein crafts books that are tiny, miniature volumes with a total of some 3,000 words.
Epstein has published some eleven volumes under his name, including eight collections of short stories, some as brief as one sentence, that are known as micro stories — his specialty.
Over the last couple of years, Epstein has crafted miniature volumes of the micro stories, first in Hebrew and now one in English titled “A Thousand and One Cranes.”
Epstein created the miniature books upon realizing that a regular-sized book left too much empty space around the text. He thought that a miniature book made more sense, but there were no printers in Israel with the machinery to handle that kind of minuscule printing.
So he began crafting the miniature books himself, making them about 1.49 x 2 inches (3.8 x 5.1 centimeters) in size and weighing some six grams (about 0.2 ounces).
“It required a lot of hand work to create it,” said Epstein. “I love challenges like that: the need to create something and make it real.”
Epstein now prints, cuts, glues and creates each miniature book. As his readers began buying the books through his website, he discovered the added value in the act of designing and making his own books.
“It creates a more intimate experience,” he said. “When people first see it, they smile.”
Epstein’s stories are easily read — short, clever and pithy, leaving room for the reader to conjecture but still offering a reading experience.
He’s always been a writer of short stories, attempting to “narrow and capture things in a sentence or two or allow the reader to figure it out,” he said. “There’s a universe that fills in the gaps.”
Longer-form novels didn’t appeal to him, said Epstein.
“They don’t fit me and it didn’t interest me,” he said. “I don’t suffer from writing, I love it, I love to play with it.”
Some 20 years ago, after at least a decade of working as a full-time novelist, Epstein decided to return to his natural roots and narrow his stories as much as possible.
“It’s not a big secret that my work is good for digital times,” said Epstein, who began writing his brief novels before the advent of Facebook and social media posts.
He knows that his stories could simply be sent by text, but feels that his books are an experience that shouldn’t be digitalized.
“I’m creating a jewel with paper,” said Epstein. “There’s some value in that these days, when everything is AI and generated, to do something by hand, to recognize that a human has to make this, it can’t be done by a computer.”
Epstein’s stories have long been translated into English, so it was simply a matter of crafting the tiny tomes with their English translations.
The Hebrew and English versions differ from one another, said Epstein, as the Hebrew versions are more dense. He works closely with his translator, Yardenne Greenspan, carefully crafting the English translations.
“Because they’re so short, every word is important,” he said.
The books are only available online, through Epstein’s website. They are also limited in number, as it takes Epstein an hour or so to craft each one and clients sometimes have to wait for another batch of the miniature novels.
“You have to buy it through me,” said Epstein, adding that each book comes in a jewelry box to protect it. “It’s a nice gift, and I’m never insulted if anyone buys it for a present.”