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Links > Business Articles > Communication >

From Parchment to Touch Screens

By: Wendy Smith, Editor and Wordsmith, Jewel See Editing | Friday 17 January, 2014

Print books, ebooks, book apps – what is a book? WENDY SMITH takes a quick trip back in time to follow the evolution of the book, before looking at what a book is and could be in 2014 and beyond.

Up until quite recent times, if I had said the word ‘book’, pretty much everyone would have pictured words printed in ink on paper pages.

This has been the same since books were first mass produced on the first movable type printing presses – books like the famous Gutenberg Bible which dates back to the 1450s. Prior to that, in the western world anyway (the Chinese were ahead of the game when it came to printing) books could only be found in the possession of the wealthy elite or in the libraries of monasteries, where the parchment pages were painstakingly hand copied by monk scribes.

In 2014, the story has changed dramatically!

Just recall the ‘books’ you have read during the last year and think about how the people around you refer to their reading matter.

Have you heard someone mention the paperback they threw into their bag to enjoy on a weekend away? Or was it a Kindle, a Kobo, a Nook, a Sony, an iPad or a tablet? Or maybe a phablet (a cross between a phone and a tablet) or an iPhone or Smartphone?

It wasn’t too long ago when paperback or hardcover were the only options to consider when publishing a book. Whereas now you may be offered epub, mobi and assorted other ebook formats, or perhaps a book app for Android and/or Apple devices. It is mind boggling!

And what is an ebook (or an eBook or an e-book)? Yes, it is an electronic book – a book that you read on an electronic device – but no longer is a book limited to words and images on a page. Within the pages (a term I use loosely) of your book, you can now embed video and audio and hyperlinks to external websites and web apps, and for book apps you can program your apps to do pretty much anything that the device on which it is running will allow.

In a fiction book, you could let your reader decide on settings and characters and plot pathways and even how the story ends. For non-fiction books, your reader could personalise their reading experience and maybe restrict the content they see to that which relates to them, dependent upon an array of variables such as their location (based on GPS), their preferences and customised settings, their gender and age, and even their likes and dislikes. A book app could interact with your website or other sites and even make a booking, or order or download information or products. The possibilities are endless!

How does this apply to you as a business woman?

There is the potential for you to use some of this new book technology to create something extraordinary to promote you and your business and it is important to know what is possible, and to dream.

But a word of warning, for those of you who were around at the time, think back a few years to the early days of the world wide web when new versions of web browsers were released with new features and capabilities.

Can you recall the mostly text-based websites that morphed into monstrosities with neon coloured backgrounds, flashing text, scrolling banners and horrendous soundtracks that woke up the whole office when you unwittingly ventured onto the page? Why did the webmasters subject poor unsuspecting web surfers to those horrors? Because they could! Often, there was no good reason for it, they just wanted to play with the new toys in their toy box.

Were all those bells and whistles helpful? Or were they mostly annoying and cringe worthy and likely to drive you off the webpage as quickly as possible?

Yes, multimedia and fancy features do have their place and can be fantastic when used appropriately. But when used inappropriately they can do more harm than good, and they can distract your “reader” from the message you are trying to communicate.

Less is more!

Sometimes, less is indeed more – this is not an empty cliché, it is reality. It may be appropriate and more powerful to simply have words on a page – yes, just like a book really!

Don’t forget, there is also the option to create multiple different versions/editions of your book:

  • A print book (paperback and/or hardcover)
  • An ebook (in multiple ebook formats)
  • An audio book
  • A book app
  • Foreign language translations of any of the above

So, what is a book to you? What kind of book would you like to write and how would you like to present your story or message to your readers?

Sure, dream big, but don’t get distracted or overwhelmed by the rapid changes in technology or the vast array of options available. Remember, even Neil Armstrong started with baby steps down here on planet Earth – so how about you start with something simple and put a few words down on a page.


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