Pulp Fiction

books in browsersThe future of books may be more distant than predicted, reports David Streitfeld in The New York Times (12/2/13). The concept of ‘books’ is “apparently embedded so deeply in the collective consciousness that no one can bear to leave it behind.” Apple may have filed “a patent to embed autographs in electronic titles,” and Amazon may have developed Page Flip, “which mimics the act of skimming.” However, “efforts to re-imagine the core experience of the book have stumbled. Dozens of publishing start-ups tried harnessing social reading apps or multimedia but few caught on.”

Among the stumblers is Social Books, “which lets users leave public comments on particular passages” and Push Pop Press “whose avowed aim was to reimagine the book by mixing text, images, audio, video and interactive graphics.” Peter Page, author of Breaking the Page, says the issue is that many “of these solutions were born out of a programmer’s ability to do something rather than the reader’s enthusiasm for things they need … We pursued distractions and called them enhancements.” This has not stopped digital entrepreneurs from developing new platforms, however.

For example, Safari Flow “offers chapters of technical manuals for a $29 monthly subscription fee.” Another service, Inkling, lets users buy single chapters for $4.99 – for instance the pasta chapter of a cookbook. Citia reduces lengthy tomes into a series of “digital cards that can be read on different devices and sent through social networks.” So far, it has “done cards for only four books,” but sees potential for brand storytelling. Peter Brantley of Books in Browsers, says the innovations are coming not from publishers but from technologists who think in terms of “storytelling platforms” rather than the stories themselves.

 

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