Thursday, April 26, 2012

Re: [ACAT] DO PRINTED BOOKS HAVE A FUTURE????

Posting to Autocat

I don't know if printed books will really have a future, that is, once "books" are created with the primary thought of the virtual environment in mind. Today, books are primarily still made to be printed out and bound, but texts are changing surprisingly fast. I think that texts will tend to get shorter and more concise. What will take up the slack will be images, video and audio, interactive tools will be included in a whole variety of ways, perhaps game-type simulations, and of course comments that can be updated, links that go here and there, and so on. In this way, the "book" can be updated and never become obsolete, like physical books do.

My wife and I spent this last weekend in Paris and we went to the Louvre where we were able to see one of the most beautiful books ever created, the "Les Belles Heures du duc de Berry" http://www.louvre.fr/en/expositions/belles-heures-jean-de-france-duc-de-berry from the Cloisters. It had been disbound and many of the pages were available for viewing. It is absolutely magnificent to behold.

But I can't imagine really sitting down, reading the thing, and getting the information out of it. For that, I personally would need a different format. Probably most others would agree. Consequently, I can imagine that as the virtual environment becomes less and less unique, people will find that interacting with the electronic device will become more natural. The result will probably be that people will come to look at a printed book as something inert and dead, and as a result, very limited and boring.

One added point of course, is that an ebook should not be compared with any individual book, but with a library. For instance, I own a tablet, and I have dozens of books on it. I easily took them to Paris with me, where, by connecting to the internet with the Internet archive, Google Books, and all kinds of other tools, I have access to more books through my device than I could read in 20 lifetimes. Many of the newest books are not available yet, but that can all be changed by just a few people changing their minds. All of the technical infrastructure exists and it could happen almost overnight. Sooner or later, it will happen. Yet, the big question for us is: how do traditional libraries fit in?

Publishers are worried about Amazon (just looking at the titles of the articles from this search shows the disputes http://www.google.co.uk/search?tbm=nws&q=publishers+amazon+apple+agency+model), but libraries should be concerned as well. Amazon Prime http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=13819211 allows someone to pay a set amount (currently $79 a year) to get access to all kinds of ebooks. A logical extension with a few relatively simple improvements (e.g. being able to check out more than one thing at a time, lower price, more choices, more formats), this could be a *very attractive* option for some individuals and even some communities. It would recreate the subscription libraries of old.

All of this could happen today. Again, all it will take will be for a few key people to change their minds. And it will happen sooner or later.

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