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Vol 20, No. 07, July 2016   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
The Drinkable Book™: A Book You Wouldn’t Mind Getting Wet

It is a given that water is a basic human need. The daily recommendation for optimum health is to drink 8 to 10 glasses of water everyday, as the average adult’s body is composed of 75% water. Water serves as an agent to flush out toxins and energize our immune system, which in turn fights off several diseases. Water is even more essential than food. According to the Medical Daily Pulse [1], we can survive for a month without food intake but only about a week or two without water.

Drinking water straight from the tap is a privilege not afforded to many. Did you know that about 780 million people in the planet do not have access to safe drinking water in this day and age? [2] For some third-world countries, the water from the wells and other natural sources would have to be purified before consumption. An effective filtering system would require hefty funding, a resource that these depressed areas are not always able to dispose of.

So how to solve this predicament effectively, that could both be lifesaving and economical?

It is not often that a breakthrough like The Drinkable Book™ emerges from the fray. The name itself was more than enough to pique my interest. How was anyone supposed to drink a book? Can a book actually become drinkable?

The Drinkable Book™ was one of the winners of the 2015 Innovation by Design Awards [2]. It was quite clever way to printing messages about water sanitation. This made use of the pages, thus indeed turning it into a book aimed to educate the user/drinker, but also the material is to be used as a filter, resulting to virtually zero waste. The more I read about the scheme behind it, the more I comprehended why. Should this concept get off the ground, the potential impact of alleviating the global issue of providing clean, drinkable water would be historic and vital.

It all began when Dr. Theresa Dankovich was part of a research group investigating biocidal coatings for different paper products during her Ph. D. studies. The idea of coating a paper filter to make it kill bacteria was so simple, she was surprised no one had ever done it before. The Drinkable Book™ concept came out of a collaboration with WATERisLIFE, a nonprofit organization, and DBB NY, an advertising company that wanted to create greater awareness of the need for clean water.

"All you need to do is tear out a paper, put it in a simple filter holder and pour water into it from rivers, streams, wells, etc., and out comes clean water - and dead bacteria as well," Dr. Dankovich explained. [4] "Silver or copper ions from the water come off the surface of the nanoparticles, and those are absorbed by the microbes."

APBN reached out to the team behind this brilliant innovation and they were kind enough to accommodate us and elucidate on some of our questions.

Q: Can one page of The Drinkable Book™ be used a few times (like that of a tea bag) or is it disposable (one-time use only)?

A: One filter can purify up to 100 liters, which is about one month of water for one person, or approximately a week of water for a family. After that it can be recycled, composted or used as kindling.

Q: How are the Drinkable Books manufactured? Are they made by hand or with the use of machines?

A: The Drinkable Books were all originally made by hand. The paper was made by hand in a church kitchen by Dr. Dankovich; the printing was done by students at Virginia Commonwealth University printed the pages of the book by hand on a letterpress printer. Our partners at WATERisLIFE helped to write the text and video script for the Drinkable Book.

Now through her company, Folia Water, Dr. Dankovich and her co-founder Dr. Cantwell Carson have worked out how to manufacture the filters at industrial scale. This is the key to making the filters available wherever people need inexpensive, lightweight, long-lasting, low-tech water filters.

Q: The Drinkable Book's purpose is to filter the bacteria or harmful particles in the water to make it safe enough to drink. Will it be able to filter other liquids such as colored drinks (assuming that these drinks would need further filtering) or only water?

A: The filters in the Drinkable Book remove waterborne parasites, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, algae and dirt. The ideal way to use the filters is to filter water, then use it to make beverages.

Q: The Drinkable Book is still in development. What are the aims and future goals of this project? How will it change the water crisis in the deprived parts of the world?

A: Dr. Dankovich: “The goal of Folia Water is to make clean, safe drinking water accessible wherever people need it. Our motto is 'Paper for pennies, water for billions,' because in addition to the billion people worldwide who lack access to clean water, at least two to three billion more are unable to depend on the purity of their water all the time, and so must purify their water at home or buy expensive bottled water. Making water purification inexpensive and available to all means more money to pay school fees for children, fewer days missed due to illness, and a brighter future for all.”

Q: What are some other water treatment technologies that you think are important to humanity?

A: Dr. Dankovich: “The most important 'technology' for water treatment and health is knowledge. People who know their water is dirty will do something to try to clean it, and this helps them be healthier. Even if their purification method is imperfect, it's better than nothing. Consistent handwashing with soap protects people from a wide range of illnesses, so this has to go together with water purification technology in order to have the biggest impact on health, but again handwashing is a habit built on knowledge. People also need information so they can protect their water sources from contamination. If they don't have indoor toilets and don't know to keep trash and feces away from their water supply, their danger of contracting waterborne illnesses skyrockets. Knowledge really is power when it comes to health, and nowhere is this more true than in the world of water, sanitation and hygiene."

Perhaps the water crisis cannot be solved overnight. However, the Drinkable Book™ began with a spark of an idea and came into being to serve its purpose of reaching out to people in need of it the most. That alone is already a massive and meaningful feat.


  1. Lack Of Drinking Water Deteriorates Human Body: Adverse Effects of Dehydration, https://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/lack-drinking-water-deteriorates-human-body-adverse-effects-dehydration-329640
  2. The Statistics are Staggering, https://waterislife.com/about/the-water-crisis
  3. The 13 Inspiring Winners of Our 2015 Innovation by Design Awards, https://www.fastcodesign.com/3049875/innovation-by-design/the-2015-innovation-by-design-awards-winners
  4. Bug-killing book pages clean murky drinking water, https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33954763

by APBN Writer, Catherine Domingo Ong
Catherine is a writer whose guilty pleasure is lounging in a peaceful location with a good book (or several) and a latte at hand.
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