From The New Republic:
The Kindle might be the most important publishing object since the printing press, but its ten year anniversary passed with little fanfare two months ago. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who in 2008 mused that the e-reader could be the key to rebuilding our shrinking attention spans, marked the event with a tweet noting the device’s modest design change, rather than its cultural impact.
. . . .
But last week brought the first real consideration of the Kindle’s legacy. “The Kindle Changed the Publishing Industry. Can It Change Books?” asked Wired’s David Pierce. As he noted, the introduction of e-books transformed the publishing industry in a matter of only a few years, solidifying Amazon’s dominance over publishers. Technologically speaking, the initially clunky device was rapidly perfected, mimicking and sometimes improving an analog experience that had existed for centuries. Having achieved these goals, though, the Kindle has stopped evolving in substantial ways.
. . . .
“The next phase for the digital book seems likely to not resemble print at all,” he wrote. “Instead, the next step is for authors, publishers, and readers to take advantage of all the tools now at their disposal and figure out how to reinvent longform reading.” It’s high time, Pierce argued, for a new kind of book to emerge, one that accurately embodies the complex audio and visual possibilities technology offers. That’s an exciting possibility: the book, after hundreds of years, is finally on the verge of entering the twenty-first century. But it’s not going to happen.
Pierce’s argument should be familiar to anyone who has talked to someone who works on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley about book publishing, or who has had a conversation about the future of books with an uncle at Thanksgiving. “As platforms change, books haven’t,” Pierce argues.
. . . .
Electronic books, meanwhile, still look more or less the same as they did in 2007 because books are fundamentally out of step with the digital era.
. . . .
Writing two years after the first Kindle was produced, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg shrugged at the possibility that e-books could destroy the publishing industry, arguing that “reading without paper might make literature more urgent and accessible than it was before the technological revolution, just like [printing press inventor Johann] Gutenberg did.” Author Steven Johnson argued that the Kindle would make books populist again: “Expect ideas to proliferate—and innovation to bloom—just as it did in the centuries after Gutenberg.”
Publishers, authors, and agents, were similarly obsessed, but took on a more millenarian spirit. The rapid rise of e-book sales after the Kindle’s introduction caused panic in America’s most anxious, hidebound industry.
. . . .
Others have tried to push the book into the twenty-first century. Pierce proposed that readers be able to “participate in the book by texting with characters, going to important locations, and even helping write the narrative.” Sony’s Wonderbook“turned a hardback book into an augmented-reality surface,” while Google’s Visual Editions has explored the possibility of “unprintable books.” But only Amazon, with its practically unlimited resources and deep experience in publishing—it is both the largest retailer and, if you count its gigantic self-publishing operation, the largest publisher in the country—can accomplish the goal. By focusing its energies on experimenting with literary production, Pierce wrote, Amazon can inaugurate a new literary era. “Only Amazon has the clout to really drive what could and should come next,” Pierce concludes. “Not by making pixels just like paper, but by embracing the difference.”
The problem with this analysis, which Pierce never really seems to consider, is that this book of the future—a participatory, augmented-reality experience that blends a number of different kinds of media—is not a book.
Link to the rest at The New Republic
Random responsive thoughts bubbled up through the primordial ooze that is PG’s mind this morning, but the ooze seems incapable of turning them into any cohesive narrative regarding the OP, so here are some oozy bits and pieces.
– Hidebound is a lovely word PG hadn’t thought about for awhile and it is the perfect adjective to describe traditional publishing.
The original meaning was based upon having skin so tight it was incapable of extension. It applied to animals, e.g. an emaciated cow with hide stretched tight over the animal’s bones, implying inflexibility, the opposite of young supple skin.
Metaphorically applied to people, hidebound describes inflexibility, rigidity, parochialism, obstinacy, lack of imagination, pigheadedness, narrow mindedness, intransigence, obduracy.
PG could go on, but he won’t right now. However, keep a watch for future appearances of hidebound.
– Big thinkers always want to add video, sound, music, interactivity, etc., to improve ebooks and bring them into “the modern era”. (Note: “The modern era” always sounds like the 1950’s to PG.)
The OP argues this blend of media is not a book. PG agrees.
It is not a book because it is a video game. While PG does not play, he is occasionally interested by what he reads about video games. One of the latest interesting developments in videogames is professional e-sports.
In e-sports, skilled participants in online videogames are recognized as athletes and spectators will pay money to watch teams of e-sports stars compete against each other on a screen, ranging from small to theater-sized (but mostly the bigger, the better).
Appropriate sound effects, music, etc., will accompany the action to keep the audience riveted to the screen. (Commercial e-sports theaters will include gangs of the largest sub-woofers on the planet and cause lights to dim in the neighborhood during competitions.)
E-sports athletes and teams and leagues and theaters will make lots of money.
In PG’s mind, any sort of interactive max-action super ebook does not seem likely to arise from a hidebound industry like traditional publishing.
Obduracy is not your friend in the e-sports world.