The Unwritten Future?


Ever since my hesitant interview for the ISHUSH blog (Link) last year, I’ve paid a bit more attention to how others believe books might evolve in an increasingly digital world. My first pass at giving it any real thought beyond “Uh, they’ll be e-books”, was in response to a question asked of me at that time:

W> As you know, I think the concept of the kirkyan may be very useful for libraries. But what I’ve tried to write about it has so far been abstract — just pie in the sky. Can you suggest any specific, real-world kirkyan applications for libraries?
S> Well, off the top of my head I think e-books that allow every individual to add comments and notes which can then be tagged, searched, and interactively overlaid might be interesting. Imagine if that book had a physical Master and multiple virtual instantiations available to people everywhere through an immersive 3D space (like how Second Life now has virtual books) or through other platforms that allowed them to add their own notes, have them both automatically aggregate and self-distribute and then perpetuate and perhaps even evolve with the original language. It’s almost like peer-to-peer knowledge sharing or something. I don’t know what you call that. But it’s the opposite of one lone researcher sitting in a library and scribbling notes in the borders of a book that will be seen by few, if any, people.

Two weeks later I sat up and took notice when the New York Times carried an article by Kevin Kelly, “Scan This Book!” (Link – registration required), which indicated that perhaps my off-the-cuff answer wasn’t so far-fetched after all.

Not too long ago, on the O’Reilly Radar blog (Link), I became aware of a neat little effort by designer/engineer Manolis Kelaidis to turn a regular book into a kind of networked e-book. And last week I was reminded of that effort – and my earlier comments – when I caught another entry on O’Reilly Radar titled “Future of Interactive eBooks” (Link).

This latest post points to a video that’s worth watching (Link). It’s in French, but it’s not difficult to understand what’s happening. I especially find the bookstore scenes interesting, since they seem to stand in for the “kirkyan master” repository I was imagining in some earlier, related comments on the ISHUSH blog (okay, so maybe the above was a second pass).

{Image Copyright © Editis}

4 thoughts on “The Unwritten Future?

  1. That’s not exactly what I’m getting at here, Jan. That “magic book” video is basically just the real book’s content with what seems like virtual overlays added to what the viewer sees through a set of goggles. Not much different than what companies have been working on for over a decade; only instead of a book they’re overlaying buildings and planes and such.

    The core idea I’m discussing above is that as someone interacts with a future book in *either* a virtual world or via some connected e-book platform (augmented or not), their notes and comments are distributed to everyone else. So the “book” isn’t just what the author created, but becomes that and the history of what readers contributed. When you think of it, that kind of book becomes its own distributed virtual world, just like Second Life.

    This idea is similar – though not quite the same – as how I understood Stephenson’s Primer from The Diamond Age. Primer’s were linked to their owners and prevented others from interacting with them. What I’m imagining is more library-like, where Stephenson’s Primer was tied specifically to one user (though a group of users could interact; like the Mouse Army).

  2. Thank you very much for the kind reply – and the amendment. After taking some time to go through the various aspects of the topic above, I understand that I shouldn`t have posted the video quite uncommented.

    But, don´t you think, that marker tracking could be one easy way to make my own data / comments / whatever accessible to others? So, my “handwriting” could be one little tag and in combination with a webcam (mobile) the consecutive reader would gain insight to all my information (including my links) about the book? So, even if the information load is huge – as the storage is within the web, the link between these two wolds could be interesting…

  3. But, don´t you think, that marker tracking could be one easy way to make my own data / comments / whatever accessible to others?

    As much as marker tracking allows that for other implementations. I’d venture that what you’re describing may already be part of some system being used by a company to track maintenance history/notes collected as part of an augmented reality program combining the typical components plus a tablet with handwriting recognition.

    When I was doing work for Telxon in the mid-90’s, their subsidiary was doing VR/AR stuff while they were doing data-tracking/collection/wireless handhelds and pentop computers (I’ve mentioned their spinoff, Aironet, on several occasions). Seems like they would have been looking at synergies while they were in business. Now that they’ve been swallowed by Symbol, and Symbol was purchased by Motorola last year, we might finally see some consumer-level products… assuming there’s a market.

    So the big difference between what I’m discussing and the video to which you linked, is the ubiquitous nature; and peer-to-peer sharing and that didn’t appear to be addressed in the video.

Comments are closed.