Writing an e-book about e-books for fun and no profit: Feb 1-14, 2012

The Future: What E-Books Might Become

The Future: What E-Books Might Become

by Richard Schwier -
Number of replies: 3

We've had a great discussion about how we use ebooks, about how we make them, and what they may mean to us looking forward. Well, let's have a little fun imagining what e-books might become.  Let's really go out on a limb with this idea and create a wish list of what we wish an e-book might do.

For example, I would really love it if e-books could start taking advantage of augmented reality in the future. You probably already know about augmented reality -- the mashup of real-world and computer generated material to build some kind of composite treatment.  

A-R example of information overlay

In the tradition of "show don't tell", here is a google page of images of different augmented reality applications. This stuff really  makes my head spin.  I have all of these Hogwarts-inspired fantasies about three dimensional characters rising out of a page and talking to me. I can  imagine choosing different combinations of chemicals and mixing them together and experiencing the reaction in real time.  I could see a collection of hockey cards, where if you lay them out on a table, the players knock a puck back and forth. I fantasize about holding the page of a recipe, and being guided through my supermarket to buy the ingredients. I would love to see Mark Twain sitting atop my page, complete with rocking chair and pipe, and talking to me about writing Huckleberry Finn.

What about you?  What would you love to see an ebook do?

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAugmented_GeoTravel.jpg

By GreySmallHorse (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In reply to Richard Schwier

Re: The Future: What E-Books Might Become

by Susanne Nyrop -

Richard, the photo wall with examples from possible and existing digital augmented reality gives me the opportunity to share my impressions of a recent visit with granddaughters age 10, to the State Museum of Art here in Copenhagen.

It was on a stormy rainy day, so getting indoor felt really nice. The building is huge and impressive, there were some practicalities around getting rid of winterly outfit in the wardrobe, some typical  and outspoken twin negociations around turn taking of the closet door with the coin insert and key, taking the stairs or the elevator, etc . Not very much attention to the fact that wthey were going to have a great time with old paintings.

The traditional permanent exhibitions are on first floor, with four posssible starting points (and free entrance). I let serendipity rule and we entered the European paintings from about 1400 to 1850 I think. The kids were instantly drawn towards a large touch screen, placed horizontally like a work table, and without asking for any sort of instruction, they just started experimenting. There were many different layers - all paintings from a certain period, related motives, or by artists who had influenced one another. by finger touch, the kids were able to browse the collection and find their own ways into this new world of art. The table had two sides with independent workplace, but some moves would influence on the whole screen. They could listen to spoken descriptions with headphones, which they really enjoyed. There were also written notes with factual knowledge about the artists and their works, but as they are both still in the phase of making sense of unknown words, this did not hate the same appeal as the image based inspiration.

After about ten minutes of exploring the digital marvel scren, they turned wround - and found the walls around them covered with paintings that they already knew by proxy! Now they were ready to walk (or run) around an explore details, ask all sorts of questions and learn a great deal of the cultural history that the painters have enriched and interpreted. We spent three full hours doing about eight large room, we ended up at the touch screen where they repeated a lot of their favorite pieces and little details -  and they did not want to go home! They did not ask for snacks or stuff from the museum sho but enjoyed granny's nice raw carrot; this was right after christmas so I guess they had had enough of all that crap.  I feel that their eyes were wide open after their intuitive exploration of the touch screen. Insight and knowledge that not the best printed catalogue would have helped them obtain. And, I had to promise that our next tour would go back to this museum. As Cecilie said: " You know - we are very curious about everything in this place!"

In reply to Susanne Nyrop

Re: The Future: What E-Books Might Become

by Richard Schwier -

Such a cool story, Susanne!  It reminds me of a study done on museum users from a long time ago -- the 1980s I think.  Anyway, the research found that there were three kinds of museum patrons, and they classified them as Strollers, Studiers, and Streakers.

I designed some touch screen kiosks for a local cultural centre in Saskatoon in 1986 and 1990 -- yes, using the big 12" optical videodisc technology that was the bleeding edge of technology and the time. I loved working on the project, but enjoyed even more going back to the centre and eavesdropping on kids and parents who used the displays. Hard to believe, but one of those projects is still running today, 22 years later.  I think the secret to its success was exactly what you described -- it invited kids to explore, and it didn't present a bunch of static information.

In reply to Susanne Nyrop

Re: The Future: What E-Books Might Become

by Alice Macpherson -

What a wonderful experience for them! Thank you for this story!

It inspires me to think about what a (n e-) book could become...