The Future of the Book According to IDEO

Design firm IDEO has released its vision for the future of the book.  The concepts shown by IDEO are premised on the idea that “an increasingly digital context can add to our notion of books, instead of taking away from it”. Their video seeks to show us how these concepts can be brought to life and introduces three concepts that could make it happen: Nelson, Coupland and Alice.

Each new concept presented by IDEO is introduced with a particular challenge (question) in mind and I have included these in my summary of each concept below.

Given that publishing is moving toward a decentralised publishing model, how do you ensure that readers are adequately informed?

According to IDEO, Nelson would:

  • Provide a reading experience that accommodates and comprises multiple perspectives
  • Allow readers to discover writings based on the impact they’ve had on popular opinion or debate
  • Allow readers to double check source reliability
  • Provide insight into current debate
  • Examine how the discourse has evolved over time

According to IDEO, all the features contained in Nelson would allow us to form our own opinions of the issues that punctuate our times

What is truly worth knowing?

Coupland represents a future notion of the book because it would:

  • Use professional networks to determine key readings that may be relevant to particular readers
  • Allow readers to access college reading lists and recommended books
  • Enable readers to start book clubs and join discussions
  • Allow popularly purchased books to become available to everyone via the company’s shared library
  • Create a platform for users to stay in the loop with organisations that inspire

How do we experience written narratives in new and engaging ways?

Alice would:

  • Invite the reader to engage in the storytelling process (for example, by unlocking geographic locations)
  • Allow readers to communicate with characters in stories
  • Enable readers to contribute to the story itself

To me, Alice really stands out as a truly compelling and gripping concept for the future of the book.  While the vision presented by IDEO is just a snapshot of what the future may hold for fiction, IDEO posed some really enthralling concepts for avid fiction readers such as, the capacity to unlock parallel stories or secret plot developments. In this way, Alice seems to employ many methods of interactivity frequently found in games. Most notably, Alice brings to mind interactive movie video games (such as Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain). Here, in the present case, we are talking about an interactive fiction narrative that would employ the kind of methods often seen in video games (eg. unlocking parallel stories), but would also introduce new elements such as co-authorship, which is a relatively rare method of narrative development in video games.

Alice presents a very appealing possibility for the future of books and one that could be quiet enjoyable, recreational and absorbing. While it’s possible that readers would not feel inclined to engage in such heavy degrees of interactivity for all of their fictional reads, IDEO notes that Alice operates to invite “exploration beyond just turning the page”. Indeed, as IDEO significantly note, through Alice, a “non-linear narrative emerges, allowing the reader to immerse themselves in the story from multiple angles”. This is perhaps what I find most compelling about IDEO’s final proposal, Alice.


About Melita M. Pereira

BookBotics is written by a legal beagle and communication and technology enthusiast from Melbourne, Australia, currently undertaking a Masters about the business of book publishing in the not-too-distant future.
This entry was posted in e-book, Future of the Book, Games, IDEO, Publishing Models, Reading Practices. Bookmark the permalink.

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