Monday, March 22, 2010

Why You Shouldn't Run in Terror of Ebooks

I have never understood people who were afraid of technology. It's a point of much mocking and laughter in my family (as in: me making fun of my mom for not knowing what cookies are, and she taking away the homemade cookies for mocking her)--and I think it is, at least for my family, a generational thing that's a product of money. In short, my parents remember how much money we paid for our first computer, but I don't--so I was willing to play with it in such a way that might (and did) break it, all in the name of exploration.

But the long and short of it is that I actually quite like technology. Despite the fact that I got a minor in history. Despite the fact that I value old books in much the same way that some people value antiques. Despite the fact that I sometimes fear the rapidity in which technology is encompassing our daily lives.

Because I do think tech is pretty darn cool.

And I am actually pretty excited about the advent of ebooks.

But wait.

Let me clarify.

Not ebooks like this:

Because, really? That's just words on a screen. And slice it any way you like, that's not that different from words on a page.

No, I'm excited about ebooks like this:

Whatever your opinion on ebooks, that video is totally worth seeing. Because that's what we're looking towards. Not words on a screen. Ebooks aren't about that. Or, if they're about that now, they're not going to be about that in the future.

No, the future of ebooks, and tech's role in reading, is just starting to emerge because we're just starting to have technology that can catch up to the ingenuity of books developers' minds. We're just on the edge of it. If you check out the news site where I found the Penguin concept of ebooks above, you'll notice that most people's comments were along the lines of how unlikely they were to give a $500 gadget to a child to play with.

Sound familiar?

That's what I mean about tech just now starting to catch up with book developers--and readers. Because it won't be too much longer until the above picture is more commonplace. Etextbooks may very well replace paper textbooks--and hurrah for that! Think of how much cooler learning--and reading--will be for a student who can read about a scientific theory, then click on a link in their personal ereader to see a video of the experiment in progress? To learn about philosophy and zoom in on a personal picture of Raphael's School of Athens at the same time the teacher's lecturing about it? To not just read that Roosevelt believes the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, but to hear it?

But beyond that--how much more can literature be enriched if a reader has the option to toggle between just the words on the screen, and the author's notes on the inspiration behind the text? Or links to communities chatting about the book? Or the possibility to turn on the authors playlist while reading? Or an interview with the author embedded in scenes? Editor's notes?

This is what the future will hold. And so much more. Because technology is growing at a rate so fast that our ideas now may very well be outmoded tomorrow. Ereaders are just the first step. What our children will be reading from--and learning from, and playing with--has yet to even be invented.

And if you're still curious about what I, personally, am excited about in terms of tech, then just click here.
Post a Comment