Ideo on the future of the book

IDEO's Future of the Book video shows three different concepts for near-future books. I confess that I found this somewhat disappointing, given IDEO's exemplary track record for innovative thinking. These concepts all seem rather tame to me — a book that has links to critical reviews, for example — the sort of thing you might find in the feature-list for a tablet today. I also found the suggestion that a book could overcome bias by having links to objecting points of view to be pretty thin; there is always editorializing — even if it's just the editorial implicit in deciding what other materials to contrast.

There's also not much attention to the economics of publishing here — adding extensive, ongoing curatorial marginalia to a book after publication could be free, if all this stuff was picked by algorithms from RSS feeds, for example. But IDEO's vision highlights something that appears to be picked by hand, and I'm not sure who they think will be doing this, and who will pay for them to do it.

Meanwhile, there's not much attention to present-day novel forms of narrative — MMORPGs and ARGs (the former being not very narrative at all, the latter being very narrative but extremely expensive), for example. There's nothing half so exciting as present-day experiments such as the Mongoliad. There's nothing about physical objects that might accompany these virtual books — nothing about the Google/Espresso print-on-demand experiments; nothing about high-end art-book remakes from networked communities like Etsy.

In short, it feels more like the kind of thing you'd get if Time's business reporter put in a couple calls to the tablet vendors and a couple of corporate futurists and built from there. There's nothing here that excites, nothing that projects much past the present-day, and nothing that has that "out-of-the-box" frisson I get from the best of IDEO's designs and provocations.

IDEO's Future of the Book