Evolving nature of books: 1

Books have played a dominant role in the evolution of human cuture.  Interestingly, technology played equally important role in the evolution of books.  Starting from the days of papyrus to today, technology shaped books.  Now the technology has brought us to a very interesting pint that is chalenging the nature of books from many perspectives and this is likely to result in disruptive changes in books.

A minor change is coming because of the nature of media.  Books were developed under an implied assumption that the medium used to store, archive, and communicate knowledge is text.  Photos found their way in books as technology evolved.  But in the traditional form of books audio and video could not find a place because of their continuous media (temporal) nature.  Now that technology has made it easier to capture, archive, present, and communicate information and knowledge in the form of audio, photos, and video the text dominant nature of books as the source of knowledge is strongly challenged.

Another change that is chalenging the nature of books is that traditional story teling was a predominantly sequential process.  Though books did allow some nonlinearity in reading, but authors assumed that most people will read it in the sequence they presented the content or will follow their suggestions about the sequence.  With Internet culture came the culture of ‘nonlinearity’ — now readers are used to follow their own instincts lot more than author’s suggestion.  They have started jumping left and right, up and down, and forward and backward.  They jump every way they can to make use of a book — particularly when it is available in electronic form.  Moreover, they are now getting used to performing different types of surgery on these books — also called cut-and-paste — to create the book that they consider more meaningful than what one or more authors presented.

One more factor that is challenging the nature of books is their bounded nature.  A book was of a finite size or length when it was finished.  This is being chalenged now.  Once the book does not have to be on a paper and be a physically bound volume, there is no reason to have a hard finish to it.  You may want to finish it and call it a finished book or you could keep it growing.  As new material and new thoughts come, the book keeps growing.  In a sense, the book is organic.  It has a state at any given time but the state keeps evolving based on what direction the author wants to take it.

But wait, the way things are becoming popular, there could be many authors of a book.  And these authors don’t have to have any preagreed roles and responsibilities.  Anyone could join in a book project that somebody else started.  Everybody starts contributing what they consider is important.  There is only loose control on what gets contributed by whom and what direction the project really evolves.  We have seen this happen in case of Wikis.  But now Wikis are going to become multimedia so any person can contribute what (s)he considers to be the appropriate media content to theis organic book. 

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