Redefining the book experience

We all love physical books. Paper books (p-books) are ingrained in our psyche, imprinted there by an educational system based on that model. However, observe your grandchild using an iPad and you will see, to quote Bob Dylan’s song, “The Times They Are A-Changing.”

Books, in general, are more in demand now, probably a result of their widespread and low-cost availability. Much of that popularity is credited to the e-book experience. Amazon recently reported they are selling 115 e-books for every 100 p-books. The decline in popularity of physical books is real and accelerating.

The Nook and Kindle e-readers are popular because they mimic the printed page with glare-free, e-ink that makes reading easier on the eyes. However their real popularity is often credited to the ease of buying new books (downloaded in 60 seconds or less). With some models storing as many as 3,500 books, it’s easy to tote around your entire e-book library and then increase your cache with a quick download.

But, these e-readers just mimic the p-book experience. Text and only text is the experience of many e-books. Photos are scarce with only the color e-ink reader displaying vibrant images. Videos are generally out of the question.

Redefinition of the book is largely taking place on the multi-purpose e-reader. Tablet computers offer large color screens with gorgeous photo and video renditions. So, redefining the book concentrates on using text as a backbone with many divergent paths leading to color photos, videos, graphs, and slideshow adventures. Reading an enhanced e-book is an experience that leads to multiple paths that are rarely the same.

Our granddaughters love their iPad for the illustrated children’s books that moo and whinny with the tap of a finger. Some of our youngest granddaughter’s first books are on the iPad where she is learning to read. Just tap a word to hear it vocalized. She sits mesmerized by the iPad, although she stills loves to read those pop-up print books with mommy. The girls watch iPad children’s videos for hours, causing their parents to limit its use, much as our mothers limited our TV time.

Innovations on the e-book have flourished but the underlying theme is still rooted in the format of the printed book. There is one such innovation that is changing the format and redefining the book in a big way.

Push Pop Press recently released a rework of Vice-President Al Gore’s book “Our Choice.” The San Francisco startup, developed by two former Apple Computer employees, has transformed Mr. Gore’s book into an IOS App (application for iPad or iPhone).

As Mr. Gore puts it, his 2006 book “An Inconvenient Truth” was 90 percent about the climate crisis problem, and only 10 percent about solutions. “Our Choice” swaps that ratio, presenting a horde of solutions to well-defined problems.

Graphic images are important to Mr. Gore’s book and dominate in every way. Text is interspersed between and around photos with graphs and informative videos making their point. One color illustration invites the reader to blow into the iPad microphone to make a windmill rotate and electric transmission lines light up with action. Other photos use Al Gore’s deep resonate voice to make a point.

This e-book makes major use of an index along the bottom of the screen. Everything starts with the reader choosing from the index by touching to expand chapters and fill the screen with text and color video. Readers are encouraged, almost demanded, to skip around the lengthy book with a simple touch to the screen index.

So, Push Pop Press would have you believe that future e-books will be apps instead of simple computer text files. Their direction is one which allows, and even demands, future updates of the app book. Changing the book content with a new app release, in their opinion, will provide current substance updates, lengthen the commercial life of the book, and make the reader want to revisit frequently.

I find the thought of a book changing its content a foreign and repulsive idea. My internal filing structure (memory) is filled with love and memories of books as static entities. I cast meanings on book titles which, in turn, formulate my world view. Heck, having a book as a changing experience would certainly muss up my filing structure — one that my wife says is mussed up enough already.


One thought on “Redefining the book experience

  1. Tom Spencer

    I remember when paperbacks took off when I was in junior high and how excited I was when you could buy quality fiction at a reduced price. And I remember how excited I was was when I got my Nook and later on my Kindle and how I read even more ebooks than I did paperbacks. I speed through books counting down the percentage of the book I’m currently reading and wondering what book I will read next. Also I love being able to adjust upward the size of the type as wet macular degeneration has taken away the sight in my best eye.

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