I was thrilled to be able to contribute a chapter to Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto, a compilation of essays edited by Hugh McGuire and Brian O’Leary. (Incidently, it was great to see how much the text was improved by their editorial work.)
In the essay, I highlight some advantages and affordances unique to digital books. The conversation is too often about the deficiencies of the electronic form, as if parity was the best that ebooks could hope for.
Generally, digital books can’t be lent or resold. You can’t curl up with them and smell them, nor can you pass them on to grandchildren.
Many of these limitations have nothing to do with the intrinsic qualities of a digital book, but are instead a reflection of the difficult transition between an old, established medium and a new, to-date undeveloped one. We compare the physical to the digital and quickly spot the differences: digital’s shortcomings.
Ebooks do not have to be mere simulacra of printed works. What are the unique qualities that being digital, especially born-digital, add to the reading experience? In what way is literature being transformed? What can we do with these new kinds of books?