Discussions regarding publishing and electronic books have concerned themselves mostly with how books will be consumed and how they will be monetized. But what if there are even more staggering implications for how we experience narratives and texts? Futurist (and minor Australian television celebrity) Mark Pesce has much to say on this topic and it is both fascinating and frankly unnerving.
At this point a question needs to be asked: what’s so electronic about an electronic book? If I open the Stanza application on my iPhone, and begin reading George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, I am presented with something that looks utterly familiar. Too familiar. This is not an electronic book. This is ‘publishing in light’. I believe it essential that we discriminate between the two, because the same commercial forces which have driven links from online newspapers and magazines will strip the term ‘electronic book’ of all of its meaning. An electronic book is not simply a one-for-one translation of a typeset text into UTF-8 characters. It doesn’t even necessarily begin with that translation. Instead, first consider the text qua text. What is it? Who is it speaking to? What is it speaking about?