Futures of the book

Dan Visel, a founder of the appropriately named Institute for the Future of the Book, points out that, first of all, a “book” can mean many things: A cookbook, a comic book, a history book and an electronic book are all animals of different stripes.

“It would be a mistake to think that these various forms have a single, unified future,” Visel says. “Rather, I think it’s more appropriate to say that there are futures of the book.” He sees some books, such as romances and thrillers, migrating easily to an electronic form.

Other types of books are not only meant to be read, but meant to be seen: Like when a New York subway rider whips out a copy of Going Rogue by Sarah Palin. “That sort of book largely has value as social display,” Visel says. “It’s not so much an instrument of revelation, because all the revelations in that book, for example, were posted online as soon as anyone could get their hands on it.”

Textbooks, phone books and other compendiums of information could perhaps serve readers better in electronic versions. In fact, Visel says, “I think the electronic book as it’s currently understood — basically a simple electronic text file — will take over a fair amount of the market that’s currently served by printed books.”

Dan Visel,
interviewed at NPR

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