Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Future of Books

An article from this week's Economist asks: "Now that books are being digitised, how will people read?" The author discusses Google's Book Project and other big book digitization initiatives and ponders whether people will continue to have need of the printed book. The conclusion is "yes" for certain genres, for example longer novels. However, for much non-fiction the electronic format will have a much more viable future:

With non-fiction the situation is more nuanced. Many non-fiction books express an intellectual idea. Traditionally, the only way to deliver such an idea profitably involved binding it into a 300-page book, says Seth Godin, a blogger and author of eight books on marketing. “If you had a 50-page idea, you couldn't make any money from it,” he says, so a lot of non-fiction books end up on shelves with 250 unread pages. Freedom from such rigidities may save a lot of authorial time.

Non-fiction books will also benefit from another change that comes with digitisation. Like web pages, digitised books can have incoming and outgoing hyperlinks. On at the moment, links are only to entire books. But in future, says Google's Mr Clancy, links will point to and from specific phrases or words inside books. Footnotes, citations and bibliographies are obvious points for live links.

This has several benefits. It will help scholarly research, since it makes primary sources much more accessible. And it will reduce the slog of academic book-worming—jotting down the location of a book, trudging through the library, pulling it off the shelf, queuing for the photocopier—to the negligible effort of clicking a mouse.

Such links will also make books much easier to discover, by helping search engines. As link structures develop around books, search algorithms can count incoming links as “votes”, giving more weight to incoming links from much-cited places and less to obscure ones. The (offline) citation culture of academic literature already works this way. This, in fact, is what gave Larry Page, one of Google's co-founders, the original idea for his search algorithm, which he cheekily called PageRank.



Javier Marti said...

I am Javier, the founder of, the fastest growing community of amateur writers writing about The Future of everything. We would like to invite you and your readers to join us and write an article on the website, perhaps "The future of publishing" (we don't have any on that!) or on anything you are passionate about...
It is up to you, you choose the subject.
You would get a link back when you link to your own article, if you wish.
(You can even re-use some of your already published material, in the last part of the article, "your view and comments". That would save you time and still be interesting for readers.)
And yes, I know you may not have the time. Theoretically, none of us do...;)

Failing that, if you like the project and you can help us spread the word -even if you don't write- it would be great.
Since we are starting, any help is appreciated.

By making this valuable information available online for free, I truly believe we are helping to make the world a better place.
And you could do your bit for the world too, by sharing what you know, as we already do.

Please let us know if you link or mention us, so we can link you back too if you wish.
You can even use our valuable articles on your websites, provided that you link back. Any better offer than that?! :)

Look forward to hearing from you or reading your interesting article at Trendirama!

Best regards
Javier Marti

Ayisha said...

nice site for more books I have some more gifts..

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