toccon-bug.gifPeter Meyers, A New Kind of Book. Even Apple is focusing on the “dark ages” Epub standard which just recreates old fashioned paper books.

How to reconfigure books the way that modern brains have been reconfigured by the web and technology. All this can be done with current software. These are ideas that can be used to “enhance” a book in new and different ways.

The Colonel Fitzwilliam problem: keeping track of many characters in a book can be tough. Put into each book a “tap” that will take you to a quick summary of the character whose nome you tapped on. Enhancing doesn’t have to mean super multimedia.

Give me back my notes: for note takers, the current tools make highlighting and note taking easy, but it isn’t easy to find them later. No easy way to browse notes on current reader. Build into the book a simple browser for all notes and highlighting.

Shiny, happy poems: for poems create an interface that is fun to play with by shining light on interesting content- need to see the slides to understand this. Makes sense when you see it on the screen.

Table of contents: current state of the art is that toc is boring and limited. Can use it to improve a books browsability, and inspire the reader to jump to interesting parts of books. Use the toc to draw the reader into the book rather than just provide info. Use an “inspire me” button, for example in a cookbook, to take reader to something new.

Create bite-sized entertainment: create “books” that are full of short stuff that are like reading Twitter and Facebook.

Tune in, next week: from the sitcom format publishers can take the “hooks” that drew people back time after time. Short story given away for free and then charge for a new story each week, like a continuing sitcom series. Combine stories and tweets, for example.

New media, new messages: how about IM-inspired fiction as a base for a book. Chat fiction.

Active scripts: developed a way to read a stage play with extra information flowing along side of the action.

Sidebars and footnotes: make this an active part of the book rather than a pain. Allow them to inject themselves into the text, for example a footnote challenging the claims of the author could push the author’s words off the screen and display an alternative view.

The point is to take “standard” elements of the book and use them on the iPad in ways that would be impossible in a normal book or on a plain text reader like a Kindle.


  1. Good stuff Paul! I think most of this is spot on. Its not about reproducing static books, its about taking it to the next level.

    I don’t know what it does for literature aesthetically but being able to mash-up. link and search texts; and have a tune-in-next-week format will definitely (IMO) change the way we read. The book, newspaper, magazine, web page, encyclopedia, and blog are all going in to the mixer together, we’ll see what comes out!

    Wish I had seen the poem slides. Sounds very similar to what we are doing with Poem Flow – poetry as TextTelevision – see


  2. Sounds like plans to give people innumerable distractions from simply reading the story. Hopefully, anyone building all of these capabilities into a story will also provide a way for users to turn them off, either selectively or altogether, for those who don’t want or need those extras.

  3. Any format requires some skill at design. The more complicated the project, the more design skill needed. If you thought it required expertise composing a book with tables, figures, and art, imagine doing something in multiple electronic formats (with different sizes!). There certainly may be gorgeous “books plus” in our future, but they’ll be rare. Most early attempts are almost guaranteed to look absolutely miserable. Instead, it’s user-focused tools such as annotation that will be the “value-added” apart from the portability.

  4. I enjoy reading books. Only VERY rarely would I care about having a video of the author explaining what he meant, live action of actors portraying the characters, or out-takes. As for twitter-style writings, yuck. I get enough of that sound-bite/clever without saying anything stuff already.

    I have no doubt that the book will evolve. Over the past decades, most books have gotten shorter (but a few have gotten very long…who heard of a zillion page young adult book like the Harry Potter collection?). But I hope books will never go the way of video-games or movies where it takes a team of engineers and technicians years to roll out a new product. One of the joys of books is that they’re one of the few things an individual author can still create on their own (with a little editing help, etc., but it’s still recognizably the work of a single author).

    Rob Preece

  5. I agree with Rob Preece. I’m a long-form reader and don’t want things broken up in little bites along with distractions like video. On the web, I am often annoyed when I hear of a story, click the link, only to find it is a video. I would rather READ it than wait for someone to tell me about it. That said, I would love to have an easier way to remind me who a character is in those books which introduce a lot of characters too fast for me to absorb. On the Kindle, when I am puzzled, at least I can search for the character’s name and find the earliest reference to him/her.

  6. I agree. Leave the constraints and limitations of print with print and quit the screen mimicry. That fork in the road will enable both formats to follow their own strategic future. Being born digital or analog is not that significant; its how a format grows up that counts.

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