The Vanishing Line Between Books And Internet
Hugh McGuire, 09.15.10, 06:00 AM EDT
The inevitability of truly connected books and why publishers need APIs.
A few months ago I posted a tweet that said: "The distinction between 'the internet' & 'books' is totally totally arbitrary, and will disappear in 5 years. Start adjusting now."
The tweet got some negative reaction. But I'm certain this shift will happen, and should happen. (I won't take bets on the timeline, though.) It should happen because a book properly hooked into the Internet is a far more valuable collection of information than a book not properly hooked into the Internet. Once something is "properly hooked into the Internet," that something is part of the Internet.
Yahoo! BuzzIt will happen because: What is a book, after all, but a collection of data (text + images), with a defined structure (chapters, headings, captions), meta data (title, author, ISBN), prettied up with some presentation design? In other words, what is a book, but a website that happens to be written on paper and not connected to the Web?
E-books to date have mostly been approached as digital versions of print books to be read on a variety of digital devices, with a few bells and whistles--like video. While the false battle between e-books and print books will continue--you can read one on the beach, with no batteries; you can read another at night with no bedside lamp--these battles only scratch the surface of what the move to digital books really means. They continue to ignore the real, though as-yet unknown, value that comes with books being truly digital; not the phony, unconnected digital of our current understanding of "e-books."