The Future of the eBook
Alternative title: How can the eBook be the future?
Only a few days ago I came across this video, produced by IDEO, narrating this particular organization’s vision on the future of the book. By presenting three different designed interfaces on e-book, each one serving a distinguished purpose, IDEO portrays the concept of multimedia, multidimensional reading experience. Interested in Nelson, Alice or Coupland?
As described in the abovementioned video, those three different models can be used to assist the user be “adequately informed” on all verses of the subject of his choice, to provide the user with recommended reading lists on his field of study or career or to create a literary reading experience based on exploration. In other words, these interfaces aim to create a new experience, based on text but also using the proximity of the eBook to multimedia, focusing on gaining the reader’s attention and educating him- by offering a constant flow of information on the subject of the book.
There are various visualized futures of the book and eBook; all available online. What is significant is that, in the endless discourse on eBooks, most of the people involved agree that the present form of the digitized book is only a transitional phase of the eBook in general. Many of the participants in the “future of the eBook” discussion argue on the ways current e-readers should be improved to fully accomplish their potentiality. For example, the following video refers to the improvements a tablet should bear in order to evolve the e-reading experience into a procedure of constant learning, even proposing a different function of future reading: social reading.
Taking into account Sellen and Harper views on e-reader devices, we understand that e-reader manufacturers have so far focused in developing the hardware and the software of the device itself than focusing o the fundamentals of the eBook as an application by making it reader- friendly[i]. In “The myth of the Paperless office” the authors argue that the current applications on e-reading have not considered certain important practicalities (e.g. how to make the reading audience comfortable with the e-reading technology by developing a user friendly environment similar to reading from paper) and that is why they prevent the masses from embracing the practice of e-reading. In other words, what is suggested is: “Instead, let’s focus on the fundamentals. Improve e-reader typography and page balance. Integrate well considered networked (social) features. Respect the rights of the reader and then — only then — will we be in a position to further explore our new canvas”[ii].
Moving back to the alternative title for this article, let us now ask the question: How can the eBook be the future? Based on our experiences so far, the technology of eBooks and e-readers is not profound, as many of the potentialities that a digitized and electronically manipulated text offers haven’t been actualized in concrete forms. Based on what I acquired from my personal research, there are two different proposals showing the way to the future: firstly, significant alterations on the e-reading applications should take place in order to simulate the traditional paper book reading experience[iii]. Secondly, what is suggested is that the interface of the eBook should not be reificated only because of the e-reader device but through the interaction of the text, the user and the interconnection of all users that read on the same subject[iv].
Ps: Not quite relevant but personally, I was intrigued by the fact that the focus in digital reading is not as traditionally expected. Although the basic dimension of the text is still prioritized, it is not as vital as the theme of “Readily offering the reader all the information on the subject” or the importance of creating a unique reading experience using images, videos, graphs. Nowadays, socially connecting the user to a personalized proposed reading list or other users- readers, even offering open access to public databases is perhaps more important than the text or the book itself. Naturally enough, we can comprehend the shift from the traditional textual culture and the traditional (paper, printed) book to the more contemporary one of oral (not exactly oral as text still exists) culture and the (yet not fully developed) eBook[v]. More specifically, the features of intertextuality combined with the common practice of hypertext and the use of information technology brings us back to the “communally performed fluidity of the oral culture”[vi].
[i] Sellen, Abigail J.; Harper, Richard H. R. (2001), The Myth of the Paperless Office,pg 79-105, Cambridge, MA, USA: The MIT Press.
[iv] http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/adam-penenberg/penenberg-post/say-so-long-book-we-know-it, last accessed on 16/10/2010
[v] http://www.virtualschool.edu/mon/Economics/BrentHistoryOfOwnership.html, last accessed on 16/10/2010
[vi] http://www.virtualschool.edu/mon/Economics/BrentHistoryOfOwnership.html, last accessed on 16/10/2010