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The Future of Digital Publishing—Writeable Ebooks

February 23, 2012

Do you remember choose-your-own adventure stories? They were the ones so prevalent in middlegrade book series (go Goosebumps!) where you got to pick if the heroine was going to jump the fence into the carnival (turn to page 15), or if she was going to play it safe and head home (turn to the next page).


Books with a choose-your-own-adventure structure allowed their readers a level of control not normally associated with the one-way communicative style of reading. With the explosion of digital publishing, the idea of collaborative books is also gaining traction. Choose-your-own-adventure stories very well may become write your own adventures in the future, as readers are invited to contribute to ebooks on an ongoing basis.


Terry Jones writes on the innovative concept in his chapter, “Why Digital Books Will Become Writeable,” in the book A Futurist’s Manifesto by Hugh McGuire and Brian O’Leary. Terry, the founder and CTO of Fluidinfo, demonstrates how the future of digital publishing may be found in this collaborative writing and editing model of the ebook, a la Wikipedia.


Jones writes, “Such a program could easily request and display opinions, ratings, annotations and page numbers your friends are up to. It could provide definitions, translations, footnotes, extra images, links, and the like. Additional information can be independently tagged onto the same underlying objects by other applications, with the ‘book’ being rebuilt or updated dynamically as needed.”


Crowd-sourced funding for books is already a reality. Organizations like PUBLSUSH Press, IndieGoGo, and Kickstarter have been getting a great amount of attention for their unique financial models in which fans get to vote and donate to books they support. They’ve been enjoying much success, too; Rich Burlew, author of the webcomic, “Order of the Stick,” recently raised $1.25 million for his project on Kickstarter—the only book project in the site’s history to surpass the $1 million mark.


What do you think? Are writeable ebooks the future of digital publishing? Would you buy them? And, more importantly, would you contribute to them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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