Finding a Successor to Paper and Print

May 17th, 2010 |

I’m beginning to think traditional print may suffer from a case of poor design. Text itself has evolved with the medium that represents it, and with each evolution came an upgrade to the user interface. Digital text gives us another powerful evolution (hyper-linking, mass storage, and perfect indexing for starters) and with it should be a sufficiently powerful  upgrade to the user interface, one that no one has nailed down yet.

The benefits of digital text are obvious. Less money spent on physical books, less backs broken by those same books. Less obvious, are the the innovations which truly digital texts could allow. The current crop of e-readers  are dropping the ball when it comes to electronic text. In my eyes, the strangest of the lot is the near-ubiquitous iPad; beyond arguments regarding the application of purchasing books through Apple, the fact that they ask you to physically turn the pages of their digital books strikes me as fundamentally wrong (I understand that there is a mass-market to consider, but still).

My biggest issue with e-readers is not what they do wrong, but what they do not do. There is so much in the way of analysis, collaboration, class participation, and more that could be done with an digital text reader. What we need is a piece of software that runs on multiple devices, a standard for digital texts across platforms, and a new series of terms to deal with a post-paper work (for instance, how does one cite a selection when the text no longer uses pages?).  These are all issues I feel THATCamp is capable of discussing, and even attempting to correct.

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2 Responses to “Finding a Successor to Paper and Print”

  1. THATCamp 2010 » Blog Archive Says:

    […] in session proposals. When Rob Nelson writes about arguing digitally, when Alex Jarvis looks to whatever comes after paper as a design problem, and when Dave Parry implies that collaboration is a key characteristic of […]

  2. briancroxall Says:

    I think Alex has a good point about the problematics of e-reader design. But there’s a reason for the “near-ubiquit[y]” of the iPad: it’s because it’s metaphorically closer to what we are used to using. One of the problems for adopting Google Wave was that there was no immediate metaphor for working within the system. The problem for e-readers, then, is to find some middle ground that makes things as familiar as possible while trying to flesh out the possibilities of the new textual medium.


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