The Institute for the Future of the Book has been involved on some interesting projects lately, not least of all the impending arrival of Sophie, a new online authoring tool – Book 2.0? The most recent e-book project that the institute has been involved in, GAM3R TH3ORY, has been a success, the commentary and active conversation that has helped develop the books content has rendered it a definite triumph. The layout of the site however, although innovative and allowing for a great deal of user navigation freedom, it is not the easiest medium for reading larger amounts of text.
The new wave of social input, conversation and collaboration have led to a large number of projects, Diane Duane, Neil Gaiman and Robert Bruce come to mind, it has allowed for idea sharing on a much greater scale, as well as giving the writer a greater access to an audience.
Collaborative authoring and the future of print has occupied a lot of space online and the Institute for the Future of the Book is tagging the new Sophie software as the next progressive step in web-publishing, this however, remains to be seen. The Sophie software will allow for a much greater reader input to an authors work, removing the writer from the previous seclusion of writing.
Alternative screen publishing – before the availability of Sophie – is limited and has not seen much uptake. Emulating the printed page on screen (magwerk and ipagez) are well designed but very stagnant methods of emulating print. The relatively still ‘printing’ is a hybrid of .pdf and flash that can incorporate some active components that allow for interactivity.
Downloadable .pdf files are also available but are digitally printed pages that do not really allow for much interaction (forms, hyperlinks and animations). The blog format is also a method of screen printing, but not really aesthetically friendly for such large amounts of text. It does allow for a large amount of interaction and reader input – but how much input into the writing process is wanted, a personal question really – how much criticism/input can you take? Writing collaboratively as a writer/reader partnership is interesting but how much influence can an audience have over a writer before they become writers themselves?
John Updike is not a believer in the digital era. (Via NYT, free-sub req.)