By Ellen Florian Kratz

(FORTUNE Magazine) – NEITHER SUN, NOR SAND, nor surf, nor tanning lotion shall keep this tome from being read this summer. That's because The Beach Book, a collection of short stories from Melcher Media, is waterproof, impervious to yellowing ultraviolet light, greaseproof, and stain-resistant. It's the latest in a series of so-called DuraBooks, which use a technology involving plastic resins and inorganic fillers instead of the usual wood pulp or cotton fiber to make pages. The book is sewn together with a special thread and attached to the cover with equally special glue (the process is patented). Bottom line: When you're done reading, it makes for a clever little fish- tank display.

But why waterproof for adults? Isn't that something for careless, sticky-fingered children? "A lot of people read in the bath but often won't take a good book with them for fear of destroying it," says Charles Melcher, the company founder. "That's what made me think it's time to come up with books that people can enjoy in places where they like to read." Those places include the pool, the beach, a boat, and the wilderness. He may be onto something. It's been just four years since he started making them, and already half a million are in print. Not bad for a 12-person company. (Of course some of that success could be attributed to the fact that two of the 11 books are called Aqua Erotica and Wet: More Aqua Erotica.)

Melcher is eager, however, to expand the library of tamer titles and is looking to license the technology to other publishers. He envisions possibilities for manuals, field guides, cookbooks, maps, even books for soldiers to take into the trenches. Perhaps someday soon you'll even be able to sink into a hot tub with such bestsellers as The Da Vinci Code. And what a comfort it will be to know that if you drop it in, you don't have to throw it out with the bath water. -- Ellen Florian Kratz