Penguin is betting on the iPad for the future of books

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the world that my kids will soon live in. Books will be like vinyl records – clever and beloved artifacts of an analog age, hoarded more for reasons of nostalgia and scarcity than value. I honestly think that the book I’m working on now will be the last physical book I produce and that future books – if anyone lets me write them – will be more like multimedia information sources rather than formal, 80,000-word masterpieces.

Clearly Penguin thinks the same thing. PaidContent had some interesting news and footage from a recent iPad presentation and their ideas for books are stunning. For example:

Many of Penguin’s iPad books seem hardly to resemble “books” at all, but rather very interactive learning experiences, from its Dorling Kindersley and kids imprints – the Vampire Academy “book” is “an online community for vampire lovers” with live chat between readers, and the Paris travel guide switches to street map view when placed on a table.

My concern? The publishing industry may not be able to keep up. When publishing becomes more like animation, new technologies will have to accrete over historical norms. The editor/writer relationship is already strained, but what happens when the writer also has to collect vampire pictures, star charts, and video footage? Are you really publishing a book, at that point, or are you doing something different entirely.

Where do you think books are going? I for one have been collected classics in print for my son to read (every nerdy teen needs a fat copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach to pretend to read) and I will miss the day when we’re no longer rustling the leaves of old books at the flea market.

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