eBook As Stopgap?

According to ‘Viral Loop’ author Adam Penenberg, whose article ‘Forget eBooks: vloop.pngThe Future of the Book is Far More Interesting” ran today in Fast Company, not only are print books a thing of the past, but so too will be eBooks pretty soon.

Here’s what Penenberg says: “It’s the end of the book as we know it, and you’ll be just fine. But it won’t be replaced by the e-book, which is, at best, a stopgap measure. Sure, a bevy of companies are releasing e-book readers-there’s Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and a half dozen other chunks of not-ready-for-primetime hardware. But technology marches on through predictable patterns of development, with the initial form of a new technology mirroring what came before, until innovation and consumer demand drive it far beyond initial incremental improvements. We are on the verge of re-imagining the book and transforming it something far beyond mere words.”

Once we get over eBooks, Penenberg imagines, “A visionary author could push the boundaries and re-imagine these books in wholly new ways. A novelist could create whole new realities, a pastiche of video and audio and words and images that could rain down on the user, offering metaphors for artistic expressions. Or they could warp into videogame-like worlds where readers become characters and through the expression of their own free will alter the story to fit.”

For this blogger, this is indeed a trouble way of thinking about the future of books. While professor Wolf (from an earlier post today) seems to worry too much over the effects of digital reading, Mr. Penenberg seems to miss the point of reading altogether.

Of course we will have multimedia experiences that will combine aspects of books, games, the Internet, and other media, but those won’t replace books. Those multimedia experiences can’t do what books can do–allow each reader’s imagination, not just the novelist’s “pastiche of video and audio and words and images,” help create the reality of the book. There’s a bright and wild future ahead for books, but let’s hope it doesn’t exclude plain old reading.