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78. The Future of Digital Reading

78. The Future of Digital Reading

Here at 93 Studios we have a soft spot in our hearts for the idea of taking what would traditionally find its way into print and placing it online to be hacked, slashed and remixed. We are not, by a long stretch, the only ones who feel that the future of books lies in the marriage of digital with print in a way that takes advantage of the strengths of both – this article from Clive Thompson expounds on this concept,

“Every other form of media that’s gone digital has been transformed by its audience. Whenever a newspaper story or TV clip or blog post or white paper goes online, readers and viewers begin commenting about it on blogs, snipping their favorite sections, passing them along. The only reason the same thing doesn’t happen to books is that they’re locked into ink on paper.”

Release them, and you release the crowd. BookGlutton, a site that launched last year, has put 1,660 books online and created tools that let readers form groups to discuss their favorite titles. Meanwhile, Bob Stein, an e-publishing veteran from the CD-ROM days, put the Doris Lessing book The Golden Notebook online with an elegant commenting system and hired seven writers to collaboratively read it.

Despite the fact that books are, by necessity, read alone, the truth is that they are a community-driven medium. People want to share the stories that they love, they want to talk about them, they want to form communities around content that they are passionate about. Up until now, the tools haven’t existed for this to be possible. You have book clubs and forums, but there is no hub for content that links the canonical material with the community generated addendum’s.

I don’t believe, however, that the solution is to take the content wholesale and slap it on the web with creative commenting – as I’ve said before – it’s pointless to use a different medium if you ignore it’s strengths. Instead, I believe the future of reading will be a multi-channel experience, where the text represents the authors “best guess,” the core material, the canon.

What the web will do is allow people to take that core and correct, refine and build entirely new threads that the author may not have seen. New characters, new story-arcs, entirely new conversations that will not only serve to pull the readers into the universe but serve as new material for the author to draw on for future stories. The web is also a fantastic place for that author to build his world “outloud,” releasing sketches, notes and source material that might not find its way into a book but does serve to make the world richer.

Now I turn it to you, after reading the article, my thoughts and watching the video (a segment on CBS’ Fast Draw about reading’s future) what do you think? How will reading evolve and what role will the printed word have in it?

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