I’m taking an online film class that focuses on how technological changes influenced the way stories were told via film. It made me think about how technology has or will change the media of books. So far ebooks have changed how we read. I believe over the next couple of years it will also change how we write.
The first few weeks of the class focused on how sound changes film. ‘Silent’ movies were filmed very precisely, with each shot planned and lit separately in many cases. They told story visually (of course) and expressively. The visual methods were refined over time and the meticulous planning of each cut and editing technique allowed each shot to be perfected.
With the advent of sound, this went away, since sound could not be edited the same way it is today and shots had to be more continuous (with fewer cuts and takes). The meticulously planned and shot visual died and sounds, as of yet simple and unsophisticated in their use, took the stage.
As sound advanced, these editing restrictions relaxed, and sound progressed, with sound effects becoming more sophisticated and their use adding depth to the story. Action could happen offscreen and still move the story. Experience improved the use of sound and evened the playing field with the visual.
We face a similar technological change with ebooks. The initial development of ebooks mimicked the books that came before them, with some technological advantages and some disadvantages (particularly in control over formatting). So far, ebooks are still in the infant stage, being used but having to compromise around the disadvantages.
I believe ebooks have yet to truly reach their potential. Integrating text with the web (as Amazon’s X-ray technology is starting to do) is one potential avenue. Other options: Providing soundtracks to books, synchronized with the text as it is presented. Books could be coming more ‘living’ documents, less fixed in a final form, but constantly updated as time makes pieces of the work irrelevant (like software is upgraded).
I am probably totally off on all of these ideas. What I am probably not wrong about, though, is that ebooks will develop over time, and exceed all of our current ideas about what is possible.
What do you expect will come as ebooks develop?