Tuesday, December 15, 2009
What is the future of the Book?
On Saturday, I was on a panel, where one of the audience asked what was happening with the E-books and traditional publishing. All the authors on the panel looked at each other. It was one of those classic moments where we hoped someone else would jump in with an answer.
Finally, I piped up with, 'No one knows. The major publishers are all scrambling. We're all waiting to see which E-book platform is the most efficient and reasonably priced. The whole industry is in a state of flux. But I don't think the traditional book is dead.'
At which point, the librarian who was hosting the panel cheered. She said they sit around at lunch time in the library staff room and debate the whole thing. As the Chinese curse goes, 'May you live in interesting times.'
Over here in Brisbane, Australia, the Queensland Writers Centre has set up a branch of Bob Stein's Institute for the future of the Book. Kate Eltham, CEO of the QWC, announced this at the Melbourne Writers Festival. There are other institutes one in London and one in New York. If you are interested in this topic there's a blog at if:book.
One of the blogs that I found interesting was about a book on what happens in the human brain when we read. 'Reading in the Brain' by Sanislav Dehaene.
'As I started to do experimental research in this domain, using the different tools at my disposal (from behavior to patients, fMRI, event-related potentials, and even intracranial electrodes), I was struck that we always found the same areas involved in the reading process. I began to wonder how it was even possible that our brain could adapt to reading, given it obviously never evolved for that purpose. The search for an answer resulted in this book. And, in the end, reading forces us to propose a very different view of the relationship between culture and the brain.'
And there's a post on 'Vooks'. Books that are a combination of text and video. They note it works best if the books are about self help subjects like '90 Second Fitness Solution and Return to Beauty: Old World Recipes For Great Radiant Skin, which probably make a much better case for integrating video into the page.'
I think, in the future we will look back on the the first couple of decades of the twenty-first century as a watershed time in many ways. Academics will make it all seem dried and obvious, but to those of us who lived through it, it will be complex and confusing because 'we live in interesting times.'
Do you have any idea where books in all their various forms and publishing will be in ten years time?