Brainstorm on 2nd Year Research
I am interested in devoting this year to books, mainly ebooks, but also paper books and the cross-overs between the two.
First of all because it is a recent technology, a recent container for the written word medium, that seems to be gaining popular acceptance.
New technologies often trigger quite some speculation on is possible uses and experimentation until it get into a standardized form. And although there is a certain amount of speculation on the possible end of paper-books, there is not many futuristic visions of how ebooks will change the world we live in. However we are begging to fell its effects.
Curiously there is also not many experimentation going on with what ebooks can be. It seems almost like technology born standardized. Perhaps this is merely a consequence of ebooks being a cross-breathe of a very mature technology - the book - and more recently one - the web -, which has been striving for standardization. But perhaps we should be surprised by this lack of innovation. If we look at the initial developments of print, there were also not much aesthetic innovation. Gutenberg's bible appears not much different from a hand-written manuscript from that period. Only later on see aesthetic innovation appearing. And perhaps it is happening the same with ebooks. We see them as being a great technology, we can store many books on one small device, read them with ease, take them with us, share them with friends, etc; However we don't seem much aesthetic innovation from paper-books. And rather the focusing on innovations we spend most of the time thinking about what ebooks can't do that paper books can, as if they were the same thing, and digital books could substitute paper ones.
However I see with great excitement the changes in we are begging to interact with books, namely:
- DIY book scanning and online publishing of ebooks
- Collaborative book authoring and publishing
- Print on the demand model
These recent trends seem to be changing human relation to books, bringing readers to engage more closely with the process of book manufacturing, and dilution of the boundaries between reader, author, editor and publisher (a similar movement to what happened within music and cinema, and in which most us became prosumers). Since these changes are happening now, it appears to be an interesting period to observer how audiences and the industry are responding to these changes and what strategies are being put into practice.
Besides more traditional research on the aforementioned topics there are two approach I'd like to take in the course of the project development.
- The construction a of book mobile scanning unit. This should be easily transportable and taken to a public space (say a bookshop, a library, a gallery, a cafe). The device would be there to be used by visitors to digitize theirs or the location's books. The resulting ebooks could be stored in the project sever but also uploaded to other archives, such as Open Library.
- The unit must not only serve as a scanning facility, but as meeting point where visitors and guest can meet, learn and discuss on topics such as book scanning (DIY scanner, orc software, ebooks), books' licensing issues, online ebook archives and sharing, the book industry, trough organized talks and workshops.(These activities must be documented and latter made available).
- Interviews with various people involved with books (writers, designers, publisher, sellers, readers, software developers), trying to understand how the current changes and the future of the book and how we interact with it.