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Ideas are the Only Currency in the New Economy

The Future of Books

January 14th, 2010 · 6 Comments · Ideas

With the success of Amazon’s Kindle and the hype around upcoming versions of tablet PCs, it is not too difficult to predict that our notion of what constitutes a “book” is about to drastically change.

Consider music for a moment. Songs used to be etched onto vinyl. They were plastic circles that required big stable machines to play them. Then we had reel to reel, 8-track tapes, cassettes, compact discs, Minidisk, MP3, iPod and iTunes. Music has been completely transformed in the last three decades. Books are just getting started.

FastCompany magazine offers an interesting forecast in, Forget E-Books: The Future of the Book Is Far More Interesting.

Instead of stagnant words on a page we will layer video throughout the text, add photos, hyperlink material, engage social networks of readers who will add their own videos, photos, and wikified information so that these multimedia books become living, breathing, works of art. They will exist on the Web and be ported over to any and all mobile devices that can handle multimedia, laptops, netbooks, and beyond.

I am actually quite surprised at how little experimentation has been undertaken with books. Even with online ebooks, the format is essentially the same except with the occasional video or link thrown in.

I think we are still a little bit stuck in the paradigm of blogging. We think content should be updated regularly in short chunks. That works for news and diary style posts like, what happened yesterday or where I went on my vacation, however it is not particularly suited for other content.

I don’t want to read 50 posts about how to use twitter for business. Some of those posts will be dated and no longer relevant. Many of the articles will cover the same material. Some of them will be completely useless.

I would like to see a single website or ‘Unbook’ that is a comprehensive collection of ideas and best practices that begins with easier topics first and progresses to more advanced issues that will take time to master. I would like this unbook to be constantly updated. It would be great to have comments on the different sections for users to add ideas or disagree. I would like notices of when new tools or applications come online to help with my desire to master Twitter. I would like to be updated about which Twitter related services have stopped. It would be even better if there were a wiki so that users can add content themselves. An unbook should be a community, not just a product.

I don’t want to subscribe to Twitter focused blogs and spend all my time studying how to use the tools. I just want to learn once then have only changes updated. The ‘unbook’ should have video, text, links to other sites and a directory of relevant blogs. It should screen content from other sites and tell me what is important.

Most of all an ‘unbook’ should be dynamic. It shouldn’t be written once and never updated. It should be an active online repository that is constantly being revised in a way that I don’t have to keep rehashing the same simple topics over and over. I just want to learn new things.

I feel this is the future of the book or blogs for that matter. We need hybrid blog-books for non-fiction content. It is a mess online to find reliable information. We need knowledge curators more than we need authors. Most business books are not particularly original anyway. Instead of saying the same thing in a slightly different way, how about organizing all the important ideas around a topic and keeping it current?

Maybe the unbook is here and it is called a Vook. Seth Godin wants to be the first author to use the new platform.

There is an entire website devoted to the unbook. I should have known!

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Comment by Anastasia
2010-01-27 13:45:26

Agree we spend far too much time and effort duplicating research efforts of those who share our interests when we could be building something new. Love this concept of the future of books.
.-= Anastasia´s last blog ..What expat bloggers are made of =-.

Comment by John
2010-01-27 15:14:27

Thanks for the comment Anastasia! Most appreciated.

I personally would love to see ‘unbooks’ on nonfiction topics. I am surprised that the blog format is still predominate.

Comment by Jarred
2010-01-27 21:52:12

I think you nailed it exactly. If you look a the iPad they have already begun integrating newspaper reading this way and books will be soon to follow. Vook is a good start, but its inevitable that books will change to adopt to users habits…I wouldn’t expect it to be next year, but in the next 5-10 absolutely!

Comment by Dave Gray
2010-01-28 18:25:54

I couldn’t agree with you more. Plus I’d like to see the option of getting an unbook in print or digital format, now possible due to print-on-demand technologies such as Now if there were only an online platform where curators, authors, editors and their reader communities could easily collaborate to develop this kind of content, my life would be complete!
.-= Dave Gray´s last blog ..The unbookend =-.

Comment by John
2010-01-29 15:31:58

@Dave Gray
I am curious as to why an ‘unbook’ should be published? In my mind it defeats the purpose of locking in a version when you can be constantly improving it online.

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