Thursday, October 16, 2008

The future of books is bright and rosy ...

Over the years, many doomsayers have pronounced the end of books whether it was through T.V, video or the Internet. Today, the humble but long lasting book is supposedly under attack from a new pretender - the eBook.

Yawn, been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt.

Whilst eBooks have their place they are no match for the tactile experience and versatility of the paperback. However, it does seem to be true that our use of the internet is changing our behaviour, as highlighted in the following Colbert interview with Nick Carr [no longer available]

One particular phrase struck me, the throwaway line of "have you ever tried pushing parts of the book" as though it was a browser. I had to respond with a video of my own.

By the way, Manolis (the designer of the bLink interactive book) is looking for funding just in case any Angel out there wants to extend their portfolio into the digital / physical world.

-- Update 4th July 2014

Despite the often predicted death of books, guess what ... books are doing fine.

Also, these days people are becoming far more interested in the whole physical / digital interaction of systems. I've been particularly interested in Hiroshi Ishii's work on tangible bits / radical atoms.

One example that I discussed with Manolis (mentioned in the video) was the use of electroluminescence in a two way process to make libraries quickly searchable i.e. search for a term, all the books with that term glow back at you. Anyway, interesting times ahead.


Anonymous said...

one area that has yet to be understood is what will happen to book signings and the pleasure of owning a personally autographed book possibly penned with a distinctive artwork and message. Ebooks dont actually fix how to answer that dilema instead they seem to accept that things will change. Theres a lot of good PR from a book signing.

Shrikeh said...

One of the things I find quite interesting is the book interaction. Book sentences always have a context, so searching or linking the topic in the book with something such as Google has advantages. If I searched on the words "large hadron collider" I would get a zillion hits, but if I selected the same term in a book called "Large Hadron Colliders in Quantum Mechanics: The Search for Sparticles" it would be good if the context of the book skewed the results to show more bias to sparticle-based topics in academic pages.

swardley said...

Hi Shrikeh, absolutely there is all sorts of contextual and physical information related to books which can used in a search. However, the context is wider and could include the local environment.

The word "Turkey" in the context of a recipe whilst you're in a supermarket probably means you want to know where the turkeys are.

The same word in a guide book probably means you're looking for holidays.

So absolutely, context is key.

swardley said...

Hi Nik,

I totally agree that there are physical benefits to books which ebooks cannot replace.

This is why I argue for interactive books which are actually books.

Anonymous said...

Simon, I think you hit the nail quite directly on the head. Books will never die out, as Nick Carr and so many others have pointed out. They will inevitably change and evolve, as one would expect.

I do find your suggestion of interaction fascinating and features with huge potential. In an education setting, of which I'm most interested, having a textbook or printed notes interacting in such a way would be incredibly helpful for students, but it would also make them engage more (hopefully). Using resources on the web is being integrated more and more with the classroom, and this would be a great addition to that.

swardley said...

Hi Mark,

Well, I'm doing some advisory work with Manolis (who is the designer and creator of these interactive books) and the potential for his work is quite significant. A key consideration in all of this, is the ability to manufacture the books inline with traditional processes (something which Manolis can achieve) and obviously the cost of manufacture.

I'm hopeful that we will see a range of interactive books (which still retain the feel and quality of traditional books) in the near future.

However, this trend of physical / digital is not just confined to books. I used to talk about this area in quite some detail along with fabrication technology and there are some very obvious opportunities which have not yet been exploited.

For example Greg McCarroll (who used to work for me back in 2005) built an alarm clock which looks up the local train service to see if his train had been cancelled before waking him. It would then decide whether to wake him or reset itself so he could get up in time for the next train.

You can read the details about this here but what surprises me is that no-one has actually put this into commercial practice.

I know that Manolis is looking for funding and I don't know what Greg is doing with his alarm clock. However there is lots of interesting potential in these fields.

Whilst I would be delighted if someone would build an iPhone alarm clock which mimicked these actions, the point of this all is that we are slowly entering a world where physical / digital interaction becomes of increasing importance.

Composing said...


do you know ?

You should particularly like Duckette.