Thursday, September 23, 2010

Crystal balls

by Michael

I love the future. Not the actual future, but the idea of the future. I love watching footage from the old World's Fairs or reading about futurists like Buckminster Fuller, and my favorite part of Disneyworld was Epcot, where I learned that the “future” would be all about maglev. Predicting the future is a tricky thing, what with all the variables that life has, but that didn’t stop us in the past, and it’s not stopping us in the future of today!

But how does this relate to books, you ask? I stumbled across this Gizmodo post the other day that contains video from a company called IDEO. In it, there are three different approaches to the future of the book, all of them interactive and social. Some of what they present is very compelling, and I could see parts of it being implemented—for instance, being able to share books and documents within an organization or group in an easy, visual manner. In fact, the second concept (by far my favorite), “Coupland,” seemed almost organic to me. How convenient! And the first concept, “Nelson,” could be very helpful in an education context, with its ability to show commentary, criticism and the connection between works. The third, “Alice,” is a fun idea, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the future of the “book.” The level of interactive storytelling described here, while compelling, exciting and definitely futuristic, isn’t a linear, immersive reading experience. And with fiction, frankly, I think that’s what a lot of readers want. It’s not that there isn’t a place for this concept (though the costs needed to develop something like this makes me think this kind of storytelling would be tough), but I’m not sure I’d call it a book.

What do you think? I fear I’m suddenly sounding like a technophobe!

4 comments:

  1. No wonder you signed me and my book set in the future! Ummm...no one who knows you could ever mistake you for a technophobe.

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  2. I am a strong believer that fiction that predicts alternate future worlds has actually influenced the inventors of today and inspired them to invent some of the items we use today.

    Obviously the ideas and engineering that the inventor use in our time is original but I think that some of their inspiration has to come from books that they read as kids. Maybe I am completely off base but I have read about fictional camera type telephones and now we can reach anybody we want with a few clicks of a mouse.

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  3. I saw the IDEO video earlier today and was pretty amazed. I like the idea of interactive books with subjects like science or history - that could be pretty cool.

    But the Alice one was very video game and it kinda defeats the purpose of a book and using ones own imagination.

    I think I'd get so sidetracked by "unlocking" all the cool new features that I'd forget what I was even reading.

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  4. Michael-- If you're interested, I posted some postcards from the 1939 World's Fair here: http://bit.ly/bj9Kx0

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