Celebrate and discover great books with the Call Me Ishmael Phone.

The Call Me Ishmael Phone is an interactive literary device that helps communities share books they love. Join the schools, libraries, bookstores, museums and co-working spaces around the world using Call Me Ishmael to inspire reading.


How it works

You curate a playlist of book recommendations by assigning different stories to the numbers on your Phone. Visitors to your venue press a button on the Phone and the corresponding story will play through the Phone’s receiver.

Included with your annual membership:

  • A Call Me Ishmael Phone for your venue, including the ability to make unlimited book recommendation playlists, choice of thousands of stories from CallMeIshmael.com to play on your Phone (like this one!), and the ability to add your own stories to the Phone. You can add book recommendations from your staff, customers, visiting authors or students.

  • Bookish content, including a custom video produced featuring a bookish story from your community, social and video features of your book recommendations and shout outs on the Call Me Ishmael social channels.

  • Access to the Call Me Ishmael community, including one-on-one setup assistance, technical support and weekly office hours with the CMI team for any questions, feedback, or ideas. You’ll also be invited to a private member group where you can build relationships with other innovative bookish venues who share our mission to celebrate literature.


Phones in the wild

Literary venues around the world are using CMI Phones to enchant their visitors, students and staff. Here are some examples of how to use the Phone to connect with your community and help readers discover their new favorite books. 

To reserve your Call Me Ishmael Phone, add both your annual rental and startup fee to your cart. The rental is a subscription and your startup fee will enable you to customize your order.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I reserve a Call Me Ishmael Phone for an event or short-term rental?

Absolutely! Drop us a note at ishmael@callmeishmael.com for more information.

How is my Phone powered?

Your Phone gets power through a standard wall outlet or a rechargeable USB battery that fits inside the Phone’s lockable coin bank. The battery will keep your Phone charged for 8-12 hours, depending on how often it’s used.

How do I add stories to my Phone?

Adding stories to your Phone is incredibly simple. Just log in to your CMI Portal (our custom dashboard for bookish venue owners) to browse our existing library of stories or upload your own. Then, drag and drop a story to assign it to a number on your Phone. These stories sync with your Phone over Wi-Fi.

How often can I swap out stories?

As often as you’d like! Just reboot the Phone by unplugging and replugging it, and the stories you’ve selected in your CMI Portal will sync to your Phone. Then, you’ll need to re-print the sign for the top of your Phone each time you change stories so that your visitors know which story they’re listening to.

Where should I put my Phone?

Every venue is different, but we recommend placing your phone in the middle of a table full of books or mounting it on a prominent wall. We also sell a floor stand. You can include the stand in your order under the options in your startup fee when you checkout to pay on this site.

Will the Phone work without Wi-Fi?

Connecting your Phone to a Wi-Fi network is the best and easiest way to swap stories. We do offer instructions for how to swap stories manually, but you will need Wi-Fi in order to use your Phone’s ringer function. However, once the stories are on a Phone they will play without a Wi-Fi signal, so you can place it outside, at a conference booth or in a bookmobile.

Can visitors record book recommendations onto my Phone?

Not directly, because we’ve found that recording a story in the middle of a crowded place isn’t ideal for getting a great audio recording.  However, anyone can call Ishmael from a cell phone or Skype to record a message. You can also upload a prerecorded audio or video file of a book recommendation to your CMI Portal, and we’ll convert it into a file that’s playable on your Phone.

Will my Phone ever ring?

Yes, but only if you trigger the sound by clicking a button on your private CMI Portal. The Phone will ring to entice a nearby visitor to pick up the receiver. If they answer the Phone, a surprise story will automatically play.

What if I break my Phone?

Call Me Ishmael Phones are very durable, but sometimes accidents happen. If your Phone breaks, mail the broken one back to us and we’ll send you a replacement for $100 and the cost of shipping.

Can I cancel my subscription?

Once your rental commitment has expired, you can cancel your subscription at any time by shipping the Phone back to us in its original packaging.

Why is the CMI Phone a rental subscription?

Our goal is to create an innovative and sustainable service that celebrates books at local literary venues. Your Call Me Ishmael Phone subscription allows us to add new stories to Ishmael’s library each week, process stories that you and your community create, and continuously enhance the CMI Phone and Portal. The subscription model also covers the costs we accrue each time you swap stories on your Phone.

For any other questions, drop us a line at ishmael@callmeishmael.com