Skip to main content

Beyond the book: ASU project explores books as knowledge systems

Sprint Beyond the Book - blending physical with digital
February 06, 2014

As bits replace pages and databases transform libraries, what is the future of knowledge? If we change the definition of “book,” does that change how we define knowledge?

Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination will continue its future of the book project Feb. 6-7 with a book sprint on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. At the book sprint, a diverse team of contributors will work together to write, edit, assemble and digitally publish a book in just 48 hours.

The volume will consider the future of books as systems for creating, organizing and disseminating knowledge, and it will be free to read and share under a Creative Commons license at the project’s website:

The center invites readers, writers, publishers and students everywhere to become a co-author and contribute their ideas to the project at The website allows people anywhere in the world to see the book take shape in real time. Participants can also contribute to the project and follow the book sprint’s progress using the Twitter hashtag #beyondthebookASU.

“This project imagines the future of knowledge – collaborative, transparent, immediate – as an experiment,” says Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination. “Bringing these experts together is a way to test new modes of scholarship while asking fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge and book culture.”

The book sprint is the second phase of Sprint Beyond the Book, a year-long series of public experiments in digital bookmaking designed to generate fresh insights on how reading, writing and literary culture will be reshaped by technological, economic and social change.

The first phase of Sprint Beyond the Book took place last October at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest book and media event. In Frankfurt, the Center for Science and the Imagination created Beyond the Book: The Future of Publishing with a core team of authors: veteran publisher and Virginia Quarterly Review web editor Jane Friedman, science fiction author Charlie Stross, journalist and ASU professor Dan Gillmor, English professor and novelist Lee Konstantinou, futurist Brian David Johnson and Corey Pressman, president of the digital publishing and design firm Exprima Media. It is also free to read and share at

The theme for the book sprint is “The Future of the Book as a Knowledge System.” Key questions that will be debated and expanded upon include: How will digital textbooks transform teaching and learning? What new kinds of reading communities will form around the books of the future? How can we archive and preserve digital books as carefully and lovingly as paper books? Does changing the definition of “book” change the definition of “knowledge”? How can we encourage playfulness and experimentation in book design and authorship?

Authors and editors will collaborate throughout the book sprint using a suite of digital tools that enables real-time collaborative writing, responsive feedback and revision, multimedia integration and an iterative publication process that builds a “living” book that can be updated and enriched continuously. The core team of writers for the project includes ASU faculty from: the School of Arts, Media and Engineering; Department of English; School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering; Hugh Downs School of Human Communication; College of Technology and Innovation, School of Letters and Sciences; School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies; New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences; Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication; Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes; and Learning Sciences Institute.

Experts joining the book sprint from outside ASU include:

• Amaranth Borsuk, assistant professor, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Bothell

• Torie Bosch, editor, Future Tense, Slate magazine

• Anouk Lang, lecturer, Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Strathclyde

• C. Max Magee, founding editor, The Millions online literary magazine

• Richard Nash, vice president of Community and Content, Small Demons; publisher, Red Lemonade

• Corey Pressman, president, Exprima Media

• Scott Selisker, visiting assistant professor, Department of English, University of Arizona

• Bob Stein, founder and co-director, Institute for the Future of the Book; Founder, The Voyager Company

• Dennis Tenen, assistant professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Additional writers contributing material remotely as part of the project’s global network include: journalist and ASU professor Dan Gillmor; Ariel Bogle, research associate at the New America Foundation; and David M. Berry, co-director of the Centre for Material Digital Culture at the University of Sussex.