The Financial Times recently published an article about the future of books. The article initially focuses on Amazon’s latest decision to pay authors per page someone reads of their books in a book subscription service. That way the more pages someone reads of a book, the more you get paid. That will encourage people to write more page turners and likely shorter fiction as well.
What’s more interesting is how the article says that the book has escaped its covers, which means books will no longer be limited by the physical constraints of paper. Instead, tomorrow’s books will include audio, video, interactivity, and changing text. Once you remove the linear, physical restriction of a printed book, tomorrow’s books will be free to incorporate practically anything. The real question is how?
Just as novelists learned that readers liked to read long manuscripts divided into chapters, so will tomorrow’s authors eventually learn how readers want to accept audio, video, and interactivity in tomorrow’s books. Most likely no one will want useless audio, video, and interactivity cluttering up a book, but how they will want this extra media added remains to be seen. The real question isn’t whether this will happen but when. For authors, this also means experimenting with multimedia today to get experience putting it into your books for tomorrow.
The multimedia book of tomorrow won’t resemble today’s printed books any more than a Maserati resembles a horse and buggy. The future of tomorrow’s books remains exciting and different, but it will still be a way for authors to impart information to readers. Non-fiction will likely adopt audio, video, and interactivity, but fiction may find these unnecessary in much the same way that adult books don’t need the added touch and play factors of children’s books that let children touch items in a book or slide items around to watch them move or pop out of the pages.
The book is definitely out of the cover. The only question is how will you take advantage of the inevitable?