FUTURE OF BOOK
There is an increasingly pervasive notion that other forms of media are additive to literature, that they somehow improve it. Because, you know, books are just telling stories, right? We are witnessing a profound assault on book publishing and literature, on the text itself—not from ebooks, which publishers are slowly, painfully coming around to after a long resistance, or the internet, which is after all entirely made of text—but from applications, “enhanced” books and reductive notions of literary experience. As I’ve written about before, in the context of advertising , publishers’ reactions to new technologies betray a profound lack of confidence in the text itself. We are being distracted by shiny things. Text lasts.
Writers, artists, and public intellectuals are nearing some sort of precipice: Their audiences increasingly expect digital content to be free. Jaron Lanier has written and spoken about this issue with great sagacity. You can purchase his book , which most of you will not do, or you can watch him discuss these matters for free . The problem is thus revealed even in the act of stating it. How can a person like Lanier get paid for being brilliant? This has become an increasingly difficult question to answer.
2020: All Books Will Be Cross-Platform and Interactive. Future “books” will be bundled with soundtracks, musical leitmotifs, 3-D graphics, and streaming video. They’ll be enhanced with social bookmarking, online dating, and alerts from geo-networking apps whenever someone in your locality purchases the same book as you— anything so you don’t have to actually read the thing. Authors will do their own marketing, the reader will be responsible for distribution, the wisdom of crowds will take care of the editing, and the invisible hand of the market will perform the actual writing (if any).