Thursday, 23 September 2010

Bookworms: Dying out??

I've been what's commonly referred to as a "bookworm" since I was about 3.  

But I've never seen a real one :-)  I've enjoyed imagining what they look like though.

It's a lovely term for an avid and passionate reader. I've almost missed flights as I've had my nose stuck in a compelling book. I've lost sleep over books, elastic promises of "just one more chapter before I turn off the light". I've missed my station or bus stop because a story has been so compelling I've been lost to the real world around me.

Somehow reading then ended up being a large part of what I do for work. Yet like most people, most of what I read these days is on a screen. Big screen, small screen, in-between sized screen. I fret that bookworm is a term threatened by the onward march of technology. Up there with cassette as a term that generations below will wrinkle their brows and look puzzled over. Worms in tech terms fill me with fear and dread of the blue screen of death.

Yet for all my digital immigrant book nostalgia I welcome the ways that technology can amplify and add depth to narrative, making it compelling in new ways.  Stories exist in so many forms. Stories swapped over coffee or a beer amongst friends, choose your own adventure stories - in paper or game format, stories translated into videos and pictures, stories reviewed and recommended in new ways and by new people.  Multi-player / media online games are just another way people share and interact in or with stories.

My two recent favourites (back to wearing my work hat) are:

1) the Touching Stories App on the iPad - choose your own ending multi-media adventure & very funny in places. Just nice to see touch being explored as an interface.

2) The Tipp-Ex YouTube takeover / commercial from a few weeks back that gave you the ability to interact and be playful or silly and also dictate your own ending. I particularly liked that for the retro product using new channels.

You could then throw in good ole' Huck Finn which I've been reading on my iTouch for a while now. Old story, new distribution platform. New preferences of when and why I choose to engage with them. I'm also looking forward to having a play with the Story Patch app later. It's designed for kids but I'm imagining it will be like me learning to use Keynote (Mac Powerpoint equivalent) on the iPad -writing presentations when you are much more reliant on tactile manipulation makes you think about how you convey the key point in different ways. Challenge is good sometimes.

Smartphone, tablet, laptop, hardback, paperback - I just now have a whole series of reading choices in my repertoire. Some I'll learn to have different expectations of over time. I'm now a repertoire reader in more senses than one. It used to be just having a few different books on the go at once, maybe one in several languages for pleasure and a business related one for inspiration or challenge. Now it's about what I'm reading on what device. No doubt before long I'll be keeping it all in the cloud not locally and just pulling it down on whichever device is to hand.   

I'm not sure if I'll become known as a content-craving consumer or a starving scanner or by some other nomenclature in the future but I'm pretty sure that it won't have the charm of identifying myself as a bookworm. I'm also sure the world won't stop wanting to swap stories.  So here's a nice video from the IDEO gang on how they see the future of books... I think they just misjudged the title - it's the future of storytelling and information sharing.  Books are merely a specific format.

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

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