The definition of 'book' is evolving in this wiki world

The Baltimore Sun

This month, Amazon rolled out the second-generation Kindle, whose new features include a voice "reading" the work. About the same time, media futurist Jeff Jarvis announced that his new book, What Would Google Do?, could be purchased in a 23-minute video version - perfect for a busy executive's morning treadmill workout.

What's next? Reading Moby Dick on your cell phone? Actually, that's already available.

Clearly, the definition of a "book" is changing. Whether or not you're a fan of the latest technology, you'll have to come to terms with this new world.

Bob Stein, executive director of the Institute for the Future of the Book, recently gave a provocative speech called "A book is a place ... ." According to Publishers Weekly, he said at a conference that our notion of a book as an object "used to move ideas around time and space" is no longer accurate. As readers gain more power to comment on a text, the hierarchy between authors and readers will break down.

Stein proposed a new definition of a book: "a place where readers (and sometimes authors) congregate," Publishers Weekly said. Nonfiction authors will "become leaders of communities of inquiry," and fiction writers will be "creating a world together with their readers."

He said his grandchildren will think of reading entirely as a social experience. "The idea of reading alone ... they won't even understand that concept."

Clearly the reading experience has evolved. Book clubs, blogs and social networks have made reading much more social. Seriously, do you know a reader who is not in a book club? Get any three readers together at lunch, and the conversation will quickly turn to what they're reading.

And technology such as the Kindle holds promise by giving readers faster and broader access to books.

But writing collaboratively? Nancy said to file this under "worst ideas ever."

Actually, I'd love to see a crowd-sourced version of Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack. And some authors already use an online audience to vet their findings during the writing process. That's how Chris Anderson wrote The Long Tail.

Could Lord of the Flies, Jane Eyre or the Harry Potter books be written by committee? Does the "wisdom of the crowd" extend to the creative process?

Is wiki lit our future?

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