In the continuing discussion about books, Eoin Purcell, who has had a number of interesting posts on the matter, adds a fascinating speculation:
:It would be excellent if you Biology textbook were hyperlinked to bring you relevant text and images as you cram for some final exam, brilliant indeed to have the entire resources of the web organised for you and connected to from a single source.
I do wonder though at what point the book as such ceases to exist and becomes simply an access point to information rather than the source itself. I am not saying this is a negative rather that at some point you the amount of linking and directing changes the book from the product offering the information to one pointing you in the general direction of the information.
This echoes what the head of Gruner + Jahr said about journalists becoming moderators.
Purcell and one of his commenters also quite rightly challenge me on whether my own speculation about books applies to fiction. I think much of it doesn’t. I was never one of those who believed that technology would allow us to create our own endings to movies or books. Stories are the creation of an author; they do have their own beginnings and ends.
And so Purcell takes this one step farther and suggests that the future of books may have two separate trajectories: fiction and nonfiction. He writes:
Are we then creating a twin track of books, Non-Fiction which will whiz ahead and, by the sounds of the current discussion, become something new (I think calling it a book will become redundant if the features discussed become reality) and Fiction tied to the format that has seen it through so many changes already? And if we are is that such a bad thing? I am sure Fiction authors will avail of the possibilities of the new offerings when they emerge.
Yes, I don’t think that most fiction would benefit from links and discovery through tagging and other such wonders of the modern age. But one benefit of the internet novelists are starting to discover is that they can now have a direct relationship with their audiences, which will at least help them sell their next books and perhaps will let them go around or strengthen their positions with the middlemen: the publishers and booksellers.