The Future of the Book: Top 12 Trends

Posted February 7, 2010

Much has been said about the demise of the printed book. Recent trends indicate that a book made of paper may not be the book of the future regardless of where you read – New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Vermont, Tennessee. If books are changing, then what will they be like in the future? How will these changes affect not only casual reading, but education and libraries? It’s difficult to know for sure, but looking at a few trends may provide insight. Read on to discover several trends that may herald the future of the book.

  1. eReaders. eReaders have taken the book industry by storm. These electronic devices make reading portable and interactive. Download a book to your eReader and you can bookmark, highlight, change the font size, search the text, take notes, and more. eReaders have changed the way people read and interact with the text. With Kindle and Nook being two popular versions and several more making their way to the market in early 2010, it will be interesting to see how this technology continues to develop–perhaps in the direction of the next trend in this list.
  2. Blio. This software takes electronic books to a new level, providing color, 3D, and interactive features. Children’s books pop with Blio. In a recent demonstration, the creators of Blio showed how an anatomy book with a "name that bone quiz" provided an excellent way to ensure readers are getting the most out of their reading. Blio offers awesome features. It will be available free of charge with 1.2 million books available to use on it–1 million of them being free of charge as well. Books can be stored online, so you can access them from any computer, or you can download them to read when you don’t have Internet. Blio will be available for both Windows and Mac operating systems and iPods.
  3. iPad. The recent news about the iPad has many looking forward to a new technology that combines two favorites–the smart phone and the laptop. One way the iPad may have influence over the future of the book is how user-friendly it will likely be as a way to read electronic books. A recent article on mediabistro predicts that "e-readers will attract a mainstream audience the moment they become functional Web devices (like a large iPhone, or small laptop!)," and that is just want the iPad appears to be.
  4. Self-publishing. More and more writers are turning to self-publishing as a way to get their books in print. In the past, having a book published by what was known as a vanity press was generally a black mark against the book. Times have certainly changed, with self-publishing having become a much more respectable business. With more writers getting their works published, expect to see a whole range of talent and topics emerge–especially in niche areas.
  5. Interactive. Similar to one of the features in the Blio, the idea of books being interactive is a hot topic. Hyperlinks connecting directly to sources, integrated quizzes testing the readers’ knowledge, quizzes in textbooks that can be emailed to the teacher, and interactive diagrams are just a few of the potential ways interactive books may develop. Imagine a guide book with links to photos, history, and facts about the place you are visiting or dynamic graphs and tables that display information in a more clear manner than typical 2-dimensional figures. Readers will be more engaged if the book is interactive, thus leading to greater gain of knowledge and understanding of the topic.
  6. Hypertext fiction. Hypertext fiction tells the story through links on the computer that lead you through a path of your own choosing. Some stories develop as you make specific selections while others take you on a patchwork journey that is likely much different from the experience of other readers of the same piece. While there are many critics to this form of literature, the fact is that hypertext has introduced a whole new way to tell a story, and one that can’t be done in a traditional physical book at all.
  7. Book rentals. Students on college campuses have started renting textbooks rather than buying them. This trend eliminates the purchase-sell cycle that has gone on for countless semesters. Students like this idea because the rentals cost 40 to 70% of the purchase price. Publishers are also happy with this arrangement because they can make money off each rental rather than just the initial sale. This idea of renting books may become a trend that expands beyond text books. Libraries, looking for ways to increase revenue, may consider renting hot titles before retiring them to the shelves. Bookstores might also join in the rental business. Similarly to the text books, new books could be rented while they are popular, providing revenue for the book seller and the publisher, then become available for sale after they have passed their prime.
  8. Collaborative reading. Reading online while discussing what you are reading is as close to a face-to-face bookgroup as it gets. These virtual book groups let members select a book that they read online. While reading, they can choose to see notes in the text left by other readers and can even comment on the notes. Readers can also chat in real-time with others who are reading the same book. This idea of collaborative reading brings those isolated by factors such as geography or health issues into situations they might not have had access to previously.
  9. Collaborative writing. One new trend has books, especially text books and other informative non-fiction works, being written collaboratively, like the Wikipedia concept. These books are open to input from many experts, not just one. Mistakes can be easily changed, additional content can be added at any time, are available online, and will likely have the added bonus of being completely free of charge.
  10. Library with no books. As this library at Cushing Academy, many libraries are beginning to ditch the books–the physical ones, anyway. Libraries are moving to e-readers, computers, flat-screen TVs, and the Internet. They are installing laptop-friendly carousels and coffee shops in place of dusty books. Book-free libraries point to the fact that with stacks of books, they are limited to the number of books available to their users, but with electronic books and the Internet, they have access to millions of books.
  11. Student-written text books. Most people don’t think of text books being written by the students themselves, but recent research has shown exciting results from student-authored text books. The study indicates that students who write the text are more engaged and feel they have gained more than they would have if they merely read the books. It also appears that the content of the books written by students is more relevant to all students, with these books containing less rhetoric, more diversity, and the ability to hold the reader’s interest.
  12. Combining new and old. Check out this fun way to remind yourself that the book you keep in your computer has its roots in a format that is almost a forgotten art form. There is a good chance that the leather-bound books of yesterday will soon only be found on the shelves of collectors or in museums, but you can keep a piece of that history close at hand when you wrap your laptop in what looks to be a leather-bound book.

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