Tomorrow’s eBook will become an interactive platform for third-party applications—software that delights targeted reader audiences. There are already a variety of apps in mobile and tablet marketplaces that would complement many genres: cooking apps, history apps, and Harry Potter apps. But the development of independent software applications that can be plugged directly into an eBook will drive a new type of app marketplace that will make eBooks more compelling, interactive, informative, and fun.
Prologue part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5 part 6 part 7 Epilogue
Books have historically been a static, linear medium: we progress from page one through to the end, and any interruption means a break in the flow. But society has been shifting to more of an interrupt-driven culture where multitasking meets multimedia. While Baby Boomers might have driven their parents crazy by watching TV while doing homework, today’s youngest generation is adept at combining simultaneous phone, text, web surfing, YouTube watching, and music listening (hopefully not while driving).
The eBook of the future will be poised to cater to this “ADD Culture” by changing the linear, personal nature of reading into a dynamic, multimedia-enhanced experience. A year ago the EPUB3 standard, one of the most popular and open (non-proprietary) eBook formats, developed definitions for how internal and external links will be handled within an eBook. This is an important first step that will finally let the barbarians through the gates.
My guess is, half of you are excited about the possibilities of interactive eBook apps, and half of you are cringing at the prospect of dancing, singing, self-interrupting eBooks. (I’d love to hear comments from both groups.) For the latter, let me reassure you that the nature of reading will not change for everyone. You can always read without apps, and I’ll even offer up that some books are simply meant to be read, period, in that wonderful linear fashion. But many books, and many readers, will be improved with the onset of embedded applications.
eBooks will feature companion apps to aid in networking, research, and play, and everything in-between. eBook apps will enable you to interact outside your book, pulling up relevant photos, maps, videos, reviews, and annotations. Imagine music pre-selected as ideal reading soundtracks…links to social networks…related articles and further suggested reading…related products that you can purchase…real-time connections with other readers engrossed in the same passages. There are few limits to the potential for interactivity.
eBooks with companion apps will become more fun to read. This will drive demand, and ultimately a host of noble results will be drawn into the mix from the powerful venturi effect of fun. Even the dullest schoolbooks (for me it was chemistry) will come alive, and great things will emerge: better learning, understanding, involvement, and community.
(This reminds me of the themes in Volkswagen’s http://www.thefuntheory.com/ web site, “dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.” It’s worth checking out.)
This is the future of the eBook: to become more interactive, social, and multimedia driven. Digital media is converging, and the possibilities for an eBook platform are almost limitless when cross-pollinated with other interactive technologies. Today, I am able to read a bedtime story to my daughter while I’m travelling, using telepresence on Skype. My iPad can record myself reading Dr. Seuss to my great, great, great grandchildren. I look forward to the day when I participate in a reading group with a diverse collection of personalities from around the globe. (Oh, the Places You’ll Go!)
The future will bring many happy collisions between books and technology as we engage with a new eBook platform. But what is this eBook platform? I’ll discuss this in my next post.