Did You See This?

Calling Call Me Ishmael

The people behind the beloved YouTube series reach beyond the Internet.

As chronicled in the Kickstarter video above, the Call Me Ishmael (CMI) project is ingeniously simple: People dial in to 774-325-0503, leave a message about a favorite book, and CMI produces the simplest YouTube video in the world, showing a manual typewriter typing the caller’s words. That’s it. Seems like nothing much to it. And yet the project has resulted in a wonderfully rich collection of readers’ stories about the books they love since it launched in 2014. For people with an abiding love of books, the Call Me Ishmael videos are fascinating, warm, and often provocative and inspirational. Maybe you’ll want to leave a message of your own.


The Kickstarter focuses on the Call Me Ishmael Phone, an old-fashioned rotary-dial pay phone installed at a local library, an independent bookstore, and maybe in a school. All someone has to do to listen to a CMI recording is pick up the handset, put it to their ear, dial a story’s number—there’s a paper directory stationed above the phone—and enjoy.* What a way to find your next great read, right where you are. Librarians and bookstore owners will program what the phone plays, and they’ll refresh the selection at least once a day.

They’ve already exceeded the original Kickstarter funding target, so the CMI people will be able to put together and install more of these phones. That’s good news. Call Me Ishmael is a very sweet way to share your love of books and reading.

*Correction, Nov. 18, 2015: This article originally misstated that users can record new stories with the Call Me Ishmael Phone. The phone plays back stories previously recorded.