What makes all this activity particularly striking is what is not happening. Some features may be getting a second life online, but efforts to reimagine the core experience of the book have stumbled. Dozens of publishing start-ups tried harnessing social reading apps or multimedia, but few caught on.
The article hits that lingering question: Why do people seem to prefer e-books to be just digital copies of tree-books when they could be so much more? Where is our “reimagining” and why isn’t it taking hold? Is there something we don’t get about why and how people read? Is it just comfort or nostalgia standing in the way?
An observation from the article:
“A lot of these solutions were born out of a programmer’s ability to do something rather than the reader’s enthusiasm for things they need,” said Peter Meyers, author of “Breaking the Page,” a forthcoming look at the digital transformation of books. “We pursued distractions and called them enhancements.”
I know we’re doing this all the time. When I was part of a workgroup hoping to improve e-books at my last institution, I was championing annotation features, search, links, and all sorts of other things. But when I myself actually read e-books with those features, I never use them.
On a related note, today the NYT introduced a new web app called Today’s Paper, which de-web-ifies the experience of reading the paper on their site, instead giving you the sections and order of the physical paper paper.