Is the future of the book just more distraction?

The future of the book is a big theme and has been a particularly intense discussion for the last couple of decades. Though it was produced in 2010, this IDEO video and short article about The Future of the Book is clear, well-designed and interesting to watch.

They use three possible formats (Nelson, Coupland, Alice) to make guesses about where books are going from a readers perspective. This is not about what is happening to the publishing industry (lots and lots of that around) but is about the user experience, how you and I could experience the pleasure of reading in new and enriched ways. Of particular interest is the dynamic of linking the mostly-private experience of reading with a wider and deeper context socially and experientially.

Some of the suggested ideas may end up being more distracting than enriching, like reading a Wikipedia article where everything is hyperlinked. There is something convenient about clicking on "Waterloo" while reading about Napoleon but some of these additions can really distract from the flow, particularly with novels. I know that one of my pet peeves are academic titles where the footnotes take up more of the page than the body text or where there are so many of them that you have to stop looking at them and just concentrate on the line in the body if a proper flow of ideas and logic is to be developed.

Do these potential new connections deepen distraction or enrich thought? One of the things I like about an artefact book is that it demands of me only what is right there, right now. It doesn't beep, vibrate, jingle, blink, or offer "something better somewhere else" as do most of our digital devices. I do like the portability of my Playbook where I can drop a whole raft of online reading content to be read in the gaps and spaces of my life. We're experimenting forward and will begin to see the answer to the enriched book in the years ahead.

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