A talk and discussion with the digital publishing pioneer Bob Stein.
The future of the book is the future of society. For the past five hundred years, humans have used print—the book and its various page-based cousins—to move ideas across time and space. Books today, whether printed or delivered to our screens, are marooned in Real-Time. There appears to be an expanding divide between the focus they require and our current economies of attention. Bob Stein, in his presentation ‘The Future of the Book,’ will address the diverse issues surrounding the current status and shifting role of the book through a forward-looking analysis and critique of the Amazon Kindle and associated digital monopolies, platforms and ecologies. He will articulate how our notion of authoring, delivery and reception of book content is changing as we transition from print to digital. This is especially true as the publishing and tech industry giants are providing such an impoverished enhancement of the paper book within contemporary screen reading experiences and environments. As we transition from paper books to eBooks, we see all our annotation and navigation aids disappearing, digital next-generation book remixing is non-existent, and we’re expected to buy twice, once for print and again for eBook. As a publishing experimenter, Stein’s interventions show how the formation of the future book is very much in the making and up for grabs.
Bob Stein has been engaged with electronic publishing full-time since 1980, when he spent a year researching and writing a paper for Encyclopedia Britannica - “EB and the Intellectual Tools of the Future.” In 1984 he founded The Criterion Collection, a critically acclaimed series of definitive films, which included the first supplementary sections and director commentaries and introduced the letterbox format. He also founded The Voyager Company, which in 1989 published one of the first commercial CD-ROMs, The CD Companion to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In 1992 Voyager published the first electronic books, including Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park.
In 2004 The Macarthur Foundation provided a generous grant with which Stein founded the Institute for the Future of the Book, a small think & do tank aimed at exploring and influencing the evolution of new forms of intellectual expression. In 2005 the Institute published the first ”networked books,” which were instrumental in the recognition of the important shift to social reading and writing as discourse moves from printed pages to networked screens. In late 2010 Stein founded a new company, SocialBook, Inc. with the ambitious goal of building the first viable post-print publishing platform.