Posted on Nov 27, 2012 in Future of eBooks | 0 comments

I’m a habitual bedtime reader—especially my daughter’s bedtime. I’ve been reading to her almost every night for what is coming up on 10 years; since she was almost 10 months old. We have gone from Sandra Boynton to Dr. Seuss, from all the Magic Treehouse books to countless American Girl books, from timeless classics like the Little House on the Prairie series to fantasy classics like The Hobbit and of course Harry Potter. I dread the day, and I know it’s coming soon, when she’s too old for bedtime stories.

Read the series: “The Miranda Proposal: Tomorrow’s eBook Platform”:
Prologue  part 1   part 2   part 3   part 4   part 5   part 6   part 7   Epilogue

A few years ago we purchased our first Kindle, and then an iPad. My daughter and I both like paper books, especially hardcovers, but we have grown comfortable with eBooks. I personally find them easier on the eyes, not to mention far more convenient while traveling (some of those Potter books are over 900 pages).

A little over two years ago I wrote to a colleague, “Children’s online books need more than a black-and-white Kindle experience. Children need color and imagery, and the e-books of tomorrow will include animation and both sound and video narration. The technology is there; imagine sitting in bed with your child and an iPad, choosing what to read from among thousands of titles. Imagine a child not glued to a TV but to an e-reader. What kids and parents need is a safe and simple medium for discovering both old ‘static’ titles (perhaps enhanced by wonderful narrators with masterful storytelling skills), as well as a new generation of highly interactive books that resonate with the online world of tomorrow’s generations.”

Today we are much closer to that reality, but eBooks are still far behind where they should be.  Color and multimedia are making inroads, and there is some rudimentary social networking, although nothing particularly interesting yet: just the ability to express your likes and tweet happily to your social network (which assumes that they care about your reading habits).

Some of today’s eBooks offer text-to-speech, and Amazon Audible offers the premium-paid option of a professional narrator. Regrettably, digital rights management has made it all but impossible for my wife to lend me her Kindle edition of Hillenbrand’s Unbroken (the 14-day lending feature is not enabled for that title). So instead of being able to borrow her copy, I’ll have to purchase my own or borrow her Kindle (if you think it’s hard for working spouses to set aside quality time for each other, try setting aside time for each other’s devices!).

I admit that as a writer and educator, with multiple liberal arts degrees, I have a profound love of old fashioned books. But I’m also a card-carrying member of the tech geek literati, and I see a not-too-distant future where eBooks, powered by digital media and real social networking, will usher in a new Renaissance. Yes, put in the right ingredients, and eBooks will become truly magical.

And of course, just as the rise of literacy in the 19th century gave birth to the dime-novel, tomorrow’s eBooks will also reinvent wonderful new ways of wasting time that will compete with, or perhaps merge with, online gaming. After all, eBooks open up the potential to engage on multiple levels, with images, video, and multi-reader interaction.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where eBooks will take us; that will be the subject of the following series of posts. But I hope with the recent merger of Penguin Group and Random House, that they will have the inclination and the resources to invest in the next generation of eBooks. Because I for one am ready for far more than today’s Amazon Kindle experience.

My office in 2012, with bookshelves covering the walls. What will it look like in 2020?