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Beyond the book: How will we read and write in the future?

October 18, 2013

A series of Future Tense articles for Slate magazine examines the future of the book and the publishing industry as we plunge deeper into a digital age.

The articles are connected to Sprint Beyond the Book, an experiment in digital publishing that was hosted by ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Oct. 9-11. At Sprint Beyond the Book, a small team of authors created a multimedia digital book about the future of reading, writing and publishing in just 72 hours, featuring video interviews and crowdsourced text responses collected through the project’s website.

Ed Finn and Joey Eschrich of ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination argue that digital reading is a fundamentally different experience than reading with a traditional printed book. “We need to embrace digital reading as its own medium, not just a book under glass," they write. "That means imagining a new language for reading as an experience, starting with a new word to use instead of book.”

After significant trial and error, Finn and Eschrich nominate codeX, a slightly altered version of codex, a word deeply steeped in the history of the book. To find out what codeX captures about the future of reading, visit Future Tense.

Dan Gillmor, author and professor at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, writes that our current tools for collaborative digital writing and editing are “relatively primitive and often discouragingly awkward,” and that we need to develop more intuitive alternatives. He suggests that GitHub, the version-control system used by many software development teams, could be a promising model for creating books that are living documents that can continue to be enriched and updated after their initial publication. To find out why Gillmor is hopeful that we can hack the ISBN system and move toward true online collaboration, check out the full article.

Ariel Bogle, a research associate at the New America Foundation, a partner in Future Tense with ASU and Slate magazine, profiles Apple’s recent patent to enable authors to digitally autograph e-books and explores the difficulties inherent in getting authors, readers and booksellers on board.

Bogle closes by arguing that the future of digital publishing “would be more exciting if [Apple and other e-publishers] didn’t simply take all the traditions of print as their template, and tried something slightly more innovative.”

Read the article to learn more about how e-books are really leased, not owned, and the challenges of making digital signatures feel like the real thing.

Article source: Slate magazine

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