Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Future of the Book

Bob Stein (from the Institute for the Future of the Book) closed the 2011 HLA Conference by talking about what a book is, and how our concept of the book has changed through time and continues to evolve.

Stein reminded everyone that our idea of the book is mainly limited to that which has dominated this past century-- "a set of written, printed, or blank sheets bound together into a volume" (definition from Merriam-Webster's online dictionary). He pointed out that this idea--along with the habit of individual, silent reading--is unique to modern times and that for the majority of reading history, that books have been much more of a social experience (eg families reading aloud as entertainment, teachers using books with wide margins as starting points for discussion).

Stein noted that with the internet, people seem to be shifting back to a social experience of reading. He is excited about a beta program called Social Book which lets people highlight and annotate texts and share them within a group, or even with other users around the world.

Other points included in his talk:
  • Mr. Stein referred several times to the thinking of Marshall McLuhan, a visionary in the field of media studies.
  • Stein urged the audience to pay attention to gaming culture (eg World of Warcraft where players construct their own narrative).
  • He believes that there are changing notions of privacy, and that people have a strong desire to share things online.
  • He described his constantly shifting definition of "book," saying that we have to "redefine the boundary of the book." His current description of a book is "any place where thinking is happening."
-- Michelle Young

No comments:

Post a Comment