I’ve been having lots of interesting conversations about the future of publishing and books and reading. Often, I find, these topics get mixed up in ways that aren’t always helpful, but they are clearly locked together in many intrinsic ways.
One friend of mine is working with a company developing a print-on-demand system for books that would exist at point of purchase – basically a book vending machine that will give you any title you can think of (as long as they’ve secured the license to sell it to you). Pretty cool. Though, as we discussed, it isn’t exactly changing the basic paradigm of the book itself.
What might do that is some evolution of the eBook, of which Amazon’s Kindle is the most visible at the moment. Writer Ezra Klein spent one month with a Kindle and has written a great account of his experiences for the Columbia Journalism Review:
“Compared to this [paper books], electronic text is a GPS system. You tell it where you want to go, it finds the route. The whole book is searchable. So, for that matter, are your notes, which can all be stored. Favored passages can be clipped and saved in a separate file to facilitate more rapid review. When text ceases to be fixed, when margins swell to an infinite expanse, when every word can be sorted and searched, the failings of our brains are hardly noticeable. Your bookshelf becomes your mind’s external hard drive. It’s a shiny new e-brain, a Google that searches your personal intellectual universe.”
This is a great read that raises a ton of potent questions for anyone in the world of writing or publishing books.