Paperless Book – Behind the Scenes

Yesterday, O’Reilly Radar ran an essay I wrote called “The Paperless Book.” I have been working on this essay for a couple weeks, but it really has been longer than that.

I have been questioning for some time how we use the word ‘book.’ In August 2009, I presented at Pecha Kucha Milwaukee a talk titled What is A Book?, and as I said then, “Until we figure it out, there is going to be confusion, angst, and missed opportunities.” That has come to pass.

The nucleus for the essay I wrote was my frustration with not being able to help a reader of Every Book Is a Startup. On the Get Statisfaction site I set up for reader feedback, someone posted a note recently saying that when they loaded the new version of the epub, he lost all of his notes. It made no sense to me how the creators of ebook technology would not account for updating files.

The next morning I ran back across Stephen Colbert’s sketch about the Steve Jobs biography and couldn’t believe how well it described the predicament book publishing is in, but how we don’t realize it.

After getting the essay written out, I didn’t have a close. I had to let the piece sit for almost two weeks before I ran across this random tweet:


Make that a double. RT @nrmaharaj: Anybody got a new monitor? This just made me put my fist through mine.

11/22/11 7:29 AM

It’s pretty fun, because there is nothing in the tweet that indicates what it is about, but I had to find out what would compel two Kobo employees to destroyed heavy electronics in anger. On the other side of that shortened link was Stacey Madden’s essay called A Book is A Book and the close for my argument. Arguing in favor of a more restrictive definition of a book, she upset digital evangelists and at the same time described what is wrong: the word ‘book’ is broken.

I hope you’ll read the essay and let me know what you think.

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