I’ve moved three times in the last two years, each time schlepping heavy boxes labeled “books” with me. As someone who works in online content and downloads e-books regularly I often ask myself: Why am I still so attached to printed books?
Our love of books rests on more than the stories they carry. We like the way they feel in our hands, the way their spines crack when we break them open, even the way the pages smell. In other words, our defiant and often impractical attachment to printed books is about the physical object, the codex itself.
But as the platforms through which content is delivered and consumed evolve – think e-books and e-readers, audio books and apps – it only makes sense that the stories themselves should evolve too.
A brief history of the book
The early history of printing and bookmaking is a highly mechanistic one with workers performing individual and repetitive roles that came together only at the end. Hundreds of years later, the industrial revolution mechanized this process, launching an entire industry devoted to manufacturing and selling books to an increasingly literate public.
The birth of the publishing industry spurred a parallel revolution in storytelling. Books were written with the independent and tactile reading experience of print in mind.
Readers could turn pages at their own pace and scribble notes in the margins. They could find them in libraries or bookstores or in their grandparents’ personal libraries. In turn, the content within books became more complex, bringing us encyclopedias and comic books and almanacs and, of course, the novel – that most intimate of literary forms.
The new storytelling
As books find their way onto tablets, smart phones and e-readers, technology is influencing content once again. Rather than simply lifting text from page to screen, content creators are experimenting with completely new ways of telling stories
“The 39 Clues,” a mystery series with integrated games from Scholastic, and iPad apps like Nosy Crow and Fourth Story Media that invite readers to delve deeper into a story with share buttons, sound and video, have re-imagined the reading experience for the social media era.
Just as blogging platforms created new forms of journalism and MP3s changed how we listen (when’s the last time you downloaded a full album?), we must create and support new storytelling models that reflect and engage the technology on which we choose to read.
The fact is that a story written for a page may not translate to a screen and expecting that it would ignores the core relationship between platform and content, medium and message.
Editor’s Note: Check out our interview with Nina Lassam on the Dx3 Digest (a Sparksheet Events publication).