Andersen M Studio has created this amazing stop motion animation for Star Alliance airlines, using boarding passes that transform into a intricate paper representation of their destination, through some nifty cutting and creasing.
They’ve also animated scenes from Maurice Gee’s novel, Going West, using the actual pages from the book. This one beggars belief.
On the fabulous The Literary Platform I came across this video Ideo have produced showing three concepts they have created around the future of the book. I love Ideo, they consistently come up with inventive and imaginative technological developments that take account of social factors and personal practices. However, I have to say, I am disappointed with their ideas for the future of the book and I’m surprised that they appear to have overlooked so many of the interesting questions around books as objects, the challenges of e-Readers and the augmented reading experience that are currently being considering in so much detail by others.
All three of the concept designs (called Newton, Coupland and Alice) are shown as prototypes for the iPad. This suggests to me that the idea that a book might be a souvenir of an experience (e.g. James Bridle) or an object for sharing (e.g. Bookcrossing) does not appear to have been considered in the design process. In my exploration of augmented reading over the past few months I have come to think of a book as the amalgamation of object, content, design, distribution method, author and reader. It might be getting a little pedantic but I would say that what Ideo have produced are prototypes for the Future of Reading rather than the Future of the Book.
So what will this future reading experience be? We are offered three versions.
Newton might best be described as an application for managing material already published on the Internet. It allows you to collate, compare and contrast different sources and materials around a particular topic.
Coupland is a form of book-related user-generated content and social network. Reading lists and recommendations can be compiled and shared allowing everyone to see and comment on the most popular books within a professional network. Individuals can contribute book reviews and content can be shared between different organisations and networks.
Alice combines hypertext, hypermedia and location-based services to create an augmented, reader-created narrative path through a story. Primarily presented as text-based Alice suggests that readers actions (in the example, tilting the iPad in a particular direction) might open up new branches to the story. Other actions might include being in a specific location where a particular set of GPS co-ordinates would trigger more of the story.
One of the most interesting aspects to me is how these future ‘books’ conceive of authors. While all three concepts require authors for the ‘book’ to be complete they each have a different model. Newton relies on writers who are producing content elsewhere on the Internet and Coupland relies on people within an organisation creating content for the ‘book’. Only Alice has bespoke writing and a dedicated author at the heart of the project which is then augmented by existing content. These approaches to authorship are not new of course but I find it fascinating that Ideo consider all of them to be examples of ‘books’ and I wonder how these fit with my concept of book-as-object-plus-content-plus-design-plus-distribution method-plus-reader. I can’t help feeling that the ecology of books is broader and more diverse than these concept designs acknowledge.
Andy demonstrating Tales of Things at Be2Camp Brum 2010; via Meshed Media
Today’s post is another presentation I heard at Be2camp Brum 2010 last week. (It was truly an inspiring and thought-provoking day!) Tales of Things was presented by Andy Hudson-Smith from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, UCL. Tales of Things explores social memory and asks what happens if we can tag objects in our everyday environment and track these objects – even after we’ve passed them on to someone else.
Entering details of an object into the Tales of Things website allows you to generate a unique QR code for that item which can be printed out and attached to the object. When the QR code is ‘read’ by a camera the web page for that object is triggered. Because Be2Camp Brum was loosely focused around the theme of libraries Andy used tagging books as an example, suggesting that tagged books would be able to use Twitter to keep previous owners up to date with the book’s current location and status.
The Tales of Things website suggests that:
“The project will offer a new way for people to place more value on their own objects in an increasingly disposable economy. As more importance is placed on the objects that are already parts of people’s lives it is hoped that family or friends may find new uses for old objects and encourage people to think twice before throwing something away.”
Promoting the sharing and exchange of objects in this way is obviously interesting in the context of bookleteer and I did actually tag a couple of eBooks with QR codes generated by Tales of Things for Pitch Up & Publish 10: Augmented Reading a few weeks back. Perhaps it’s time for me to go back and revisit that and see where it might lead..
If you want to read more about the project see here, or if you just want to get on and tag your stuff then look here..
The final picture of what a librarian might do if their library was taken away, as drawn by Alex Hughes via Meshed Media
Continuing yesterday’s library theme, I thought I’d tell you about Nick Booth’s (from Podnosh) talk at Be2camp Brum 2010 last week. Nick asked, what could a librarian do if their libraries close as a result of digital technologies?
Nick roved the audience collecting answers while Alex Hughes represented them as cartoon images drawing live onstage.
Answers from the audience suggested that librarians carry out searches, that they act as signposts pointing people towards the information they are looking for, they host public meetings, they have indexing and cataloguing skills, they provide social contact.
Two answers didn’t make it onto the picture. One was that librarians watch over a quiet and neutral space and the other was that they watch over a potential dating space. Perhaps these didn’t make it into the cartoon because these are roles played by the library building as much as the librarian. To me this suggests that spaces have important social roles to play as well as people. If mobilising services means losing these spaces then I wonder what the social consequences of this might be? I feel that this is in some way related to the discussion we’ve been having about the role of books and eReaders. From finding that books have a number of roles that eReaders haven’t taken on I wonder if this is also the case for libraries and librarians where the relationship between the two has a very particular role beyond the obvious one of being a place where you go to borrow books.
Thing of the past? Oxfam books in (l-r) Huddersfield, Leamington, London
Over the weekend I found myself thinking – what if eBooks (for eBook readers not the bookleteer type of eBooks..) become the dominant way of reading? What will this mean for people who buy secondhand books?
It’s clear that many people are thinking about the possibilities of secondhand eBooks – and that this fits in with the 3 ways of sharing I wrote about last week. In their posts Nick Harkaway on Future Book and Chris Meadows at teleread discuss how secondhand eBooks aren’t currently possible because of their intangibility (when you download an eBook you essentially ‘lease’ the code which you can’t legally pass onto anyone else) and because secondhand eBooks are indistinguishable from new eBooks (so their value doesn’t decrease in the same way over time). Which is very interesting but I feel it doesn’t really address the potential social effect of increasing dominance of eBooks except to mention that the lack of secondhand eBooks is bad news for second-hand booksellers. And that’s true.. but I think it’s also bad news for second-hand book readers..
What if you can’t afford full-price books? Textbooks especially can be prohibitively expensive and often aren’t needed for more than the duration of the course. At the moment the cost of the book can be regained in part by selling the book on when you graduate. This option will be lost.. As will the option to buy a secondhand textbook for less than full-price. Or what if you’re a teenager beginning to explore the wide world of literature – secondhand bookshops are fantastic sources for classic books at low-cost. Will eBooks be able to match this? Not to mention of course that the teenager would have to be able to afford an eReader in the first place..
Perhaps this will all work itself out in the future when the entire publishing / reading experience has become digital and eReaders are as accessible as library cards. However, I imagine there’s going to be a transition before this happens that might need to be negotiated if secondhand book readers aren’t going to lose out.
Last week Proboscis got back a delivery of PPOD books commissioned by Cosmo China in Bloomsbury, London. The book commemorates 20 years of Cosmo China and its artists. The shop was begun by Josie Firmin and Christopher Stangeways and produces handpainted ceramics. During it’s lifetime three of Josie’s sisters have painted china for Cosmo (and continue to do so!) as has Josie’s dad, Peter Firmin, who’s perhaps better known as the creator of Bagpuss along with Oliver Postgate.
Pages for Josie Firmin and Peter Firmin from Cosmo China PPOD book
For the anniversary of Cosmo China 20 artists were asked to paint a plate and the book celebrates these special plates and the artists who created them. My favourite part of the book though is the front cover which uses the new attribute of bookleteer that allows you to have a full-cover image and features an illustration of the Cosmo China shop front.
The PPOD book is going to be sold in Cosmo China however because it was made on bookleteer you can download your own copy from diffusion.org.uk.
Photographs of Macleods secondhand bookstore, Vancouver, Canada and a bookshelf, from bookshelfporn.com
As if to emphasise James Bridle‘s point that books-as-objects act as souvenirs of the reading time, a few days ago I came across the blog bookshelf porn. The premise of the blog is simple – it shows photographs of bookshelves, contributed by readers, and adds a new picture of two every day. But I never would have imagined the variety of book shelves that exist, or how beautiful they look when they are collected together in this way.
This isn’t all about aesthetics – this is a blog with a message. While there’s very little text on the site occasionally, in between the photographs, there is a quote such as this one from The New Yorker’s The Book Bench writing about Bookshelf porn:
“Featuring a book on your bookshelf is akin to displaying a trophy. You’ve accomplished something in reading a book; it feels like a victory. The opportunity to display your literary conquests in unique or unexpected ways is something I will greatly miss with e-readers.”
This message – that bookshelves have a beauty and purpose that is not found in e-readers – is carried across the site. And looking at the photos I couldn’t really argue with that, however, I am excited to see how e-readers might begin to address that challenge…
Art Space Tokyo is an intimate guide to the Tokyo art world by Ashley Rawlings and Craig Mod and a very beautiful book describing the buildings and neighbourhoods of 12 distinctive Tokyo galleries. There are maps for each of the areas, illustrations of the galleries by Nobumasa Takahashi (the cover is a composite map of Tokyo by Craig Mod) alongside interviews and essays.
Inside pages from Art Space Tokyo
In the Preface to Art Space Tokyo Ashley and Craig write:
“We believe that art is not just an end goal, but a process involving all manner of people. Aside from the artists themselves, the art world is made up of collectors, curators, architects, businessmen, npo organizations and the patrons — those of us who gain pleasure from simply viewing and interacting with art — all taking part in some way to foster the creation and consumption process.”
Although here they were referring to the people who work in and with galleries and art they also applied this philosophy to the creation of Art Space Tokyo. Originally printed in 2008 the book was sold out by Spring 2009. In 2010 Ashley and Craig decided that they would like to update and reprint the book as well as create a free web edition for the iPad extending the original concept with videos of the spaces and interviews with local characters, sound-recordings that reveal the ambience of the neighbourhoods and rich interactive maps.
Illustration for GA Gallery, Yoyogi / Harajuku
In the spirit of shared making, it was at this point that they turned to Kickstarter as a way to raise the money necessary to achieve their goal. Kickstarter allows people to advertise their project and ask for contributions towards realising it. Requested contributions for any project range from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars – with your reward increasing alongside your contribution. For example, a pledge of $25 Art Space Tokyo would have got you a PDF of the book plus access to all project updates. At the other end of the scale for a pledge of $2500 you would have received all of the rewards of the other pledge amounts (e.g. copy of the book, original artwork) plus a 1-day tour of the art spaces of Tokyo with Craig Mod.
Is this shared making? Well, yes, I think it is.. As they write in the preface art – or making – is a process not just a product and through Kickstarter Ashley and Craig were offering the opportunity to become part of this process. And I hope the benefits were mutual – they got to reprint the book, contributors got a tangible reward (and presumably a warm fuzzy feeling from helping out two artists).
p.s. If you were thinking of contributing you’re too late… Ashley and Craig wanted $15,000. By 1 May when the pledges closed they had 265 backers and had raised $23,790!
I’m not sure if Choose Your Own Adventure books count as shared making or shared reading (or both?) but I would certainly claim it as an augmented reading experience. The Choose Your Own Adventure series of children’s books was published by Bantam books between 1979 and 1998, however, the format was used for several other series of books including Fighting Fantasy (which was the Choose Your Own Adventure books of choice for my brother and I when we were kids).
In case you’ve never come across them, the premise is that you – the reader – take the role of protagonist in the books and at the end of each short section of narrative you are presented with a number of options representing your next actions. For example, in The Cave of Time, the first choice you are required to make is:
If you decide to start back home, turn to page 4.
If you decide to wait, turn to page 5.
Turning to the page for your chosen option the narrative continues, eventually leading to one of multiple different endings. Like I said, my brother and I read these a lot as kids and while the narratives tend to be quite similar and the range of options can be frustrating (“But why can’t I throw my frying pan at the King of the Ants?!”) they were also truly engaging as we tried to figure out the potential consequences of our actions.
Of course, the branching structure and constrained options translate easily into computer programs and computer games might be seen as the multimedia, all-bells-and-whistles version of Choose Your Own Adventure. In my current reflection on the nature of books though I begin to wonder if the format of these books creates a different experience for maker/readers? For my brother and I these books were very definitely a collaborative experience – just as computer games can be – but they are also slower paced and with the opportunity to take a sneaky look ahead and see what happens if you choose a particular path. While I wouldn’t say that Choose Your Own Adventure books are more engaging than computer games (we gave them up around the time we got our first computer..) I think they might offer a unique type of reading – constructive, collaborative and accountable.
A set of Bookcubes generated using the bookleteer API
James Bridle of booktwo.org was one of the participants at the Pitch Up and Publish: Augmented Reading a couple of weeks ago, and he talked a little about the idea of books as symbols and the related BookCube project he’d done using the bookleteer API.
Here, I’ll just give a summary of the project. James has written a post on booktwo.org describing the project which I really recommend you to read because it’s seriously interesting and covers more topics than I describe here…
James started with the idea that the lifespan of a book looks something like the drawing in the image above. There is a short period of the book-as-object acting as it’s own advertisement, then a period of time where you are reading the book and taking in the content, then during the final, and longest, amount of time the book-as-object acts as a souvenir of the reading period.
James has already begun to address the idea of digital souvenirs for eBooks with his bkkeepr project and with the bookleteer API he extended this to create automatically generated Bookcubes. These cubes display the information collected by bkkeepr and includes an image of the book cover. Over time James imagines the Bookcubes to build up on your shelf as a visible and tangible souvenir of your eBook reading. For bookleteer, this is an interesting tangent – instead of being an object to read it becomes an object that marks the fact that reading has taken place – and the content becomes separated from the form.