The concept of “book” has changed enormously in just the past few years. Where once it meant a series of printed paper pages sewn or glued together and held in a binding, it has expanded to include interactive experiences that may or may not involve paper at all. Given the rapidly changing nature of books, we asked some of the cutting-edge app developers who are busily reinventing the term to imagine what might be coming next. A book that can change diapers? Maybe not right away, but there’s lots on the horizon. Here it is …
We'd love to see these books as apps.
"Books that sense your heart-rate and adapt the narrative to ramp up the tension to extraordinary proportions based on your personal neurosis. A kind of choose-your-own adventure book, but one that responds to real-time biological feedback and adapts the narrative on the fly to create a story that is most disturbing to your unique psychological make-up. The book slowly learns through trial and error what freaks you out the most and then delivers on it. It comes to know you well, and can scare the hell out of you: the electronic equivalent of having Stephen King for a father.
"Also, books that generate themselves based on user-specified keywords could become a reality. For example, you could generate a 'romance novel' that prominently features 'lawnmowers' and 'the color green' and the electronic-book software will send this data over the Internet to a self-aware, supercomputer in Arizona to automatically generate a Pulitzer-grade story including these criteria, and deliver it back to your iPad in seconds."—Chris Stevens, CEO, Atomic Antelope, Alice for the iPad
"The most important feature of a children’s eBook is actually the same as a good paper book; it has a story that captures the hearts and imagination of people young and old. As far as features that distinguish e-books? They are more compact, so you can literally travel with hundreds of books, which is tremendously helpful for the car or bedtime while traveling. We would like e-books to be able to change diapers, but we’re settling for the fact that it makes it easier by entertaining a fussy child in a way that doesn’t rot their brain or poke their eye out. Another benefit is that there is no scratch-and-sniff capability with the current hardware, because those tend to violate our senses more than delight them."—Woody Sears, co-founder, iStory Time, The Brave Monkey Pirate
"The iPad’s touch- and gesture-based mechanics have given readers innovative ways to interact with e-books and storytelling in general. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see a front-facing camera on the iPad, which would create new possibilities of sharing and personalizing your digital reading experiences. Perhaps a more revolutionary digital book feature would be voice-based interactivity: imagine you narrating a story and having the book app respond to what you say. Now that would be cool!"—Calvin Wang, founder & president, Loud Crow Interactive, PopOut! Peter Rabbit
"Kids will be able to test, and more importantly apply, their newly acquired knowledge through simulations and quizzes right in the book, with immediate interactive feedback. Imagine real-time simulations to teach the principles of physics. Groups of networked students will be able to collaborate on more elaborate problem solving within the book itself. An in-book record of their thought process will be documented and preserved for teachers and parents to see.
For younger children, books of the future will introduce literacy and language through an organic interactive combination of images and words. The earliest readers will be able to explore an alphabet that morphs into pictures and sounds related to each letterform."—Valerie Mih, creative director, See Here Studios, The Wrong Side of the Bed 3D
"Customizable storybooks that use your Facebook friends’ names and photos to create the characters. Choose-your-own-adventure stylebook with games and puzzles. Your choices and skills determine the end of the story. Books with stories that happen in your city. You can walk to the places where the action of the book happens to see additional scenes through augmented reality."—Javi Carrasco, software engineer, Oniric.co, Rapunzel
"Users will be fully immersed into the environment and development of the story. There will be sights, sounds and interactivity that not only create a unique story for each user, but draw the user into the story. In this future e-book, a user may be slowly moving through a torch-lit cave, searching for a band of pirates. The narration is played, the music is suspenseful and dripping of the cave walls can be heard. Now the pirates have been spotted, the music changes to high action and the user must help load the canons! The pirates are shouting at each other—and at the user. The user shouts back and the pirates respond! In this future e-book, the lines of distinction between game, book and cinema will become blurred, or disappear altogether."—Frank Ayars, president, Ayars Animation, Cozmo’s Day Off
"We believe that 'books of the future' will not only be entertaining, but extremely educational, and these books for kids are going to evolve very quickly. Traditional textbooks and early reader books will get eclipsed by tablets and apps. Teachers will start using apps as part of their curriculum. For instance, apps will be used to send test info back from each student to the teacher. Teachers may transition to teaching and testing predominantly using an iPad. Kids will not think of learning and testing as such a struggle or chore, because learning will be integrated into fun interaction. Oceanhouse Media’s omBooks are created with the intention to not only entertain, but also help teach kids to learn to read. They are already being used in schools and in special-needs situations."—Karen Kripalani, head of marketing, Ocean House Media, Green Eggs and Ham
"As we continue production on Bartleby 2, we strive to find that medium between parent-led interaction and independent exploration. Games are great and fun to play, but more importantly, there needs to remain a bond and respect between parent and child. Our goal is to create something that parents want to use and children want their parents to use with them. It’s a fine line to walk. How do we do it? For us it’s more about contextual references to things only adults will “get.” But there are features that we’d love to see that assist us with this goal. iPhone-driven apps on the iPad: Parents can “control” play from their iPhone while the child plays on the iPad, and interactive video—add that camera! There are endless possibilities if you think outside the “SDK.” But that takes time, money, and more time and money. Until the app store becomes a serious moneymaker, I doubt too many small developmenters have either in which to explore them."—Denise Van Ryzin, co-founder, Octopus Kite, Bartleby’s Book of Buttons