When we talk about e-books, we mainly think of them as rough, imperfect translations of a paper book. The illustrations within a paper book go straight into the e-book, and while interactive e-books exist and offer some intriguing potential, they haven’t yet gone mainstream.
There was another time in another medium where there was a new innovation that afforded new possibilities, and that was color coming to movies. It was initially an expensive novelty, but even after it grew more affordable, “serious” movies were mainly still in black and white. People still associated black and white with newspapers and newsreels, and it lent a more “realistic” look. It wasn’t until decades after the introduction of color that it became truly mainstream.
Now it’s black and white that’s the novelty. It’s a nostalgic throwback. And sure, many of us love old movies, but it would have seemed strange if James Cameron had tried to make Avatar in black and white.
There is a world of possibilities afforded by the format of e-books on tablets. Books could be colorful, interactive, three dimensional. Imagine the ease of a hyperlinked choose your own adventure novel (no more having every finger stuck in the page) or instructional videos within a cookbook. A lot of this already exists on tablets. Who knows what’s next? What about a book that interacts with your TV to cast spells? Oh yeah, that exists now too.
Right now these are novelties, tablet adoption hasn’t yet gone truly mainstream, and we might even feel they cheapen the experience or transform it into something other than a book. But will there be a Gone With the Wind or Wizard of Oz that pioneers the new mold, goes mainstream, and shows people what is possible?
Can you envision a time when it will seem strange to kids that old books are just, well, black and white?
Art: Saint Hieronymus – Follower of Joos van Cleve