Yesterday I spent the entire day at the annual IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) conference. I sat for eight hours in a conference room with publishers, authors, programmers, and tech people from all over the world listening to the best of the best from each field try to explain to one another what a book is now. And the verdict is in: no one knows. So I’d like to call the conference IDKY (I Don’t Know Yet).
One of the most lucid individuals on stage was Richard Nash who said things like, “Enhanced eBooks are a unit price preservation mechanism. We add doo dads – it’s a producer driven impulse, not an artist driven impulse. Until artists come along with transformative uses we are going to leave publishers to aping video game companies. I know I’m not good enough to do truly enhanced work. I’m waiting for someone who is. Then we’ll have a model.”
This couldn’t have been said better. Nothing I’ve seen on the market thus far counts as a book of the future. They are all just doo dads and sparkles – Merlin’s magic. I want a book with a full soundtrack that takes me deeper into the narrative. A book where you can hear the author’s thoughts outside of the text. Full length videos that tell transmedia stories. Game engines built into the book to advance the story. Character choices controlled by the reader. Fully collaborative story creation processes. I want books to mimic the power of thought without the textual constraints. That hope, for me, is in newquill.
Our country has lost sight of its communities. The influence of the media makes us so afraid of one another (is my next door neighbor a terrorist?); the funnel economy of consumer goods keeps us from supporting local creation (Costco is twenty times cheaper than the farmer’s market!); and the competition instilled in our children through testing at such a young age (99th percentile is the only way I’ll get to that swanky high school which is the only way to get into that swanky college which is the only way to get that swanky job – that means I’ve got to step on 99 percent of the heads I see!) That’s bad. We need one another. We can’t create anything if we don’t have community. Kickstarter has shown that when you have a community that helps each other out you get really cool things made. That needs to happen more.
The moderator of one of the sessions asked, “What is the future of libraries in the next few years?” Statistics show that 64,000,000 Americans read – a lot. But Richard Nash was more interested in another statistic: “18,000,000 Americans engaged in creative writing last year.”
So he thinks that “the future of libraries in particular is to conceive of themselves as supporters of that intensive level of creativity.” I agree with him. Libraries, traditional community spaces, will help people discover writing tools and one another. Libraries will become production studios. They will provide help and advice for how to self-publish. And they will need a tool kit to do it.
The future of business is in paying for an experience. There is nothing new anymore, everything is a remix of a remix of a remix. Businesses must ask the user, “How do we make your experience better? How do we help you connect with the old product in a new way?” Focusing on reader experience is the opportunity of this new era of publishing. Reading is about a personal/private experience, but it’s main motivation is almost always social. Why pretend anymore? Reading, and writing, can now be openly social.
Another impressive individual (impressive enough to make me follow her on Twitter) was Liza Daly of ThreePress.org who opened up her talk by charting out the next generation of storytelling – a highly interactive, gaming world that is highly accessible. Recent studies about gaming habits with children show that practically 100% of kids ages 8-18 play video games. 1 out of 6 of those kids writes about video games. Games have tremendous plot and narrative power and are immersive worlds to the young people today in the same way books were for the baby boomers. And, even with the generational divide, the baby boomers still play “Angry Birds.” We’re finding common ground.
The last sweet human I’ll talk about is Bill McCoy, the director of the IDPF. His talk highlighted that ePub is important because it brings the world together. It also helps to advance global web standards by allowing new thought and experiment within eReaders which are, essentially, just web browsers. ePub brings people of different languages, abilities, learning styles, and generations together to learn and imagine. Bill is totally committed to the unification process, but he is also willing to admit that he doesn’t know what it will look like.
“We need support from the open source world and guerilla tools. We need to get a tool kit out there. You won’t always have to use something like InDesign. We need more.”
newquill wants to be the innovation tool kit that helps others to create the future of the digital book. We want to support ePub3 in moving ahead as a universal standard. Then we want to build a community for the authors and artistic innovators of the globe, the storytellers of the world, to participate in connecting, creating, collaborating, and circulating their stories – the books of the future.
In order to do that, though, we must first be humble and willing to say, “We don’t know what the book of the future is.”
Which is why we need you to help us find out.