Director's Cut Ebooks

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Reading Bob Stein's account of his involvement in the history of ebooks was incredibly fascinating. I was struck by the close association of early ebooks with film and the forerunner of DVD extras. Stein also addresses this relationship in his Q&A about the future of the book. The ebook had its roots in a media-rich collection of "extras," then migrated more and more toward a traditional print text, and is now slowly making its way back toward multimedia. Bob Stein seems to have never lost that original vision for ebooks as a multi-sensory experience, although the publishing industry certainly had(or has). Stein's unique position as "author" or at least collector of content and as software/hardware seems to influence the way he envisions the future of the book. In order to past simple simple and into interactive, multi-touch texts, these roles need to blend. Wow, what implications for both the academy and industry. Professors and writers or scholarly works must be open to learning and exploring technology foreign (or even offense) to their traditional field. Publishers must become software developers. Our roles our changing, a concept Bob Stein embodied long before anyone even knew what an ebook was.



Will's picture

DVD Extras

Like you mentioned, Stein pretty much invented the DVD (or laserdisc) extra content like different audio tracks and behind the scenes features. I never really considered the similarity between bonus material with movies and interactivity with books, but it makes a lot of sense. I can even see how they are the inverse of each other. I'm not sure about today, but early DVD extras included written material about the cast and crew along with information about the making of the movie. This written material doesn't really take advantage of the medium, but instead uses the traditional written word to inform. Nowadays, we don't see too much written material on DVDs. With interactive books, I've seen the opposite design, with videos being placed within the text, but don't interact with the text. Again, not necessarily taking advantage of the new medium. What can the next step be? Interactive videos and text intertwined?

chelsiemess's picture

Will, I've never really

Will, I've never really thought about the evolution of DVDs. With the growing popularity of things like Xbox Live and Apple TV, I guess we are moving closer and closer to a revolution in the way we use TV/movies. I could maybe see these devices changing the nature of extras and games, connecting to the Internet, and networking the "viewing" process. Movies more than books always struck me as more passive, but I think I've underestimated the possibilities.

Will's picture

Passive Movie Watching

Traditionally, I agree that movies are more passive than books, since movies can just happen to you while you have to actively engage with books. Interestingly, some bluray special features allow viewers (even 'viewers' seem more passive than 'readers') to stop the movie at certain points and learn about the scenes that were playing. Here, viewers have to engage for a few seconds to then sit back and be passive again. Of course, you can actively engage with a movie if you want to (or have to for film classes, but it certainly isn't necessary for the medium.

Added Content in E-books

I think you bring up good points, Chelsie and Will, when you talk about DVD extras and how Bob Stein basically invented the DVD as we know it today by adding extra features to movies in the form of other short films showing how the movie was made, what some of the bloopers were, etc. My response to that is that, as you pointed out, Will, these are mostly all videos today. The added content to a film nowadays is just more film while the added content to an e-book is film, music, and other kinds of media. If a book has always been a collection of text that tells a story or informs the reader of something, then these media-rich e-books aren't exactly books, are they? They're something completely different that combines all types of media nowadays. A film was still a film even after DVDs came about and revolutionized the viewing experience. But I think books have been revolutionized by e-books in a way that makes them not even books anymore but something totally new that we have yet to explore.