Adaptive Text: The Book Deserves To Come Alive

A Picture of a eBookImage via Wikipedia
The Technium: What Books Will Become: a screen that we watch can watch us. The tiny eyes built into your tablet, the camera that faces you, can read your face. Prototype face tracking software can already recognize your mood, and whether you are paying attention, and more importantly where on the screen you are paying attention. It can map whether you are confused by a passage, or delighted, or bored. That means that the text could adapt to how it is perceived. Perhaps it expands into more detail, or shrinks during speed reading, or changes vocabulary when you struggle, or reacts in a hundred possible ways. There are numerous experiments playing with adaptive text. One will give you different summaries of characters and plot depending on how far you've read. ..... books with moving images. We don't have a word for these yet .... Text inside of moving images as well as images inside of text. .... This hybrid of movies and books will require a whole set of tools we don't have right now. Presently it is difficult to browse moving images, or to parse a movie, or to annotate a frame in a movie. Ideally we'd like to manipulate kinetic images with the same facility, ease and power that we manipulate text -- indexing it, referencing, cut and pasting, summarizing, quoting, linking, and paraphrasing the content. As we gain these tools (and skills) we'll make a class of highly visual books, ideal for training and education, which we can study, rewind, and study again. They will be books we can watch or TV we can read. ......... The current custodians of ebooks -- Amazon, Google and the publishers -- have agreed to cripple the liquidity of ebooks by preventing readers from cut-and-pasting text easily, or to copy large sections of a book, or to otherwise seriously manipulate the text. But eventually the text of ebooks will be liberated, and the true nature of books will blossom. ...... We can even filter the most popular highlights of all readers, and in this manner begin to read a book in a new way. I can also read the highlights of a particular friend, scholar or critic. ....... Reading becomes more social. We can share not just the titles of books we are reading, but our reactions and notes as we read them. Today, we can highlight a passage. Tomorrow we will be able to link passages. We can add a link from a phrase in the book we are reading to a contrasting phrase in another book we've read; from a word in a passage to an obscure dictionary, from a scene in a book to a similar scene in a movie. ........ Even a minor good work could accumulate a wiki-like set of critical comments tightly bound to the actual text. ....... dense hyperlinking among books would make every book a networked event ....... Wikipedia is the first networked book. ...... This deep rich hyperlinking will weave all networked books into one large meta-book, the universal library. Over the next century, scholars and fans, aided by computational algorithms, will knit together the books of the world into a single networked literature. ....... no work, no idea, stands alone, but that all good, true and beautiful things are networks, ecosystems of intertwingled parts, related entities and similar works ........ The complete universal library, all books in all languages, will soon be available on any screen. There will be many ways to access a book, but for most people most of the time, any particular book will essentially be free. (You'll pay a monthly fee for "all you can read.") Access is easy, but finding a book, or getting it attention will be hard, so the importance of the book's network will grow, because the network is what brings in readers. ...... A book is an attention unit. A fact is interesting, an idea is important, but only a story, a good argument, a well-crafted narrative is amazing, never to be forgotten. As Muriel Rukeyser said, "The universe is made of stories, not atoms." ...... In the long run (next 10-20 years) we won't pay for individual books any more than we'll pay for individual songs or movies.
Reducing price and enhancing quality is what businesses strive for. But the music and movie industries have been bummed out for years now because modern technology has managed to drive the price point to zero. That is like the price point attaining nirvana, no?

Technology has already made it possible for books to come alive, but we keep wanting to get the same old look and feel. Look at Google Books. Instead of taking the text and serving it as webpages, they give you what look like photocopied pages.

Kindle does one better, but only by a small margin.

And as for price, it has to be low. I think you should pay something like $20 a month and have access to any book ever written. And the authors should get compensated from that pool of money based on how many times their books got read.

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