The upcoming Books in Browsers conference will focus on books as “networked, distributed sets of interactions,” as opposed to content containers. I’ve asked several of the event’s participants to address the larger concepts surrounding books in browsers. We’ll be publishing these interviews over the coming weeks.
In the brief interview below, Bob Stein, founder and co-director of The Institute for the Future of the Book, addresses a three-part question on content and social engagement. The concept isn’t new, Stein says, but the best is yet to come — when content is specifically designed for social engagement.
Is reading destined to become a social activity, or has it always been so?
Bob Stein: Reading and writing have always been social. Authors read the work of others and discuss their ideas with colleagues; readers talk to each other about what they’ve read. But the reification of ideas into mass-printed objects has obscured the social aspect, which doesn’t “appear” to be part of the book itself.
How can content be developed to enhance social engagement without detracting from the content itself?
Bob Stein: Perhaps the conversation (social engagement in your parlance) is a key component of the content; it needn’t detract — it can add.
Does all content lend itself to social engagement?
Bob Stein: All content doesn’t lend equally well to social engagement, but all content can, if handled properly, gain from explicit social engagement. Most interesting in coming decades will be the creation of new content, designed from scratch to make the most of social engagement.
This interview was edited and condensed.
Photo on home and category pages: Networking People by ZyXEL America, on Flickr