Friday, April 07, 2006

Do You Know Sophie?

I know I said we'd talk about changes in the movie industry today, but I changed my mind. We'll save that subject for another day. There was an item in Publishers Marketplace (PM) today that caught my attention.

I love my subscription to PM. It provides more valuable data on the industry than anywhere else.

Today's PM included an article about The Institute for the Future of the Book (IF:B). The IF:B website here provides the following mission statement:

Starting with the assumption that the locus of intellectual discourse is shifting from printed page to networked screen, the primary goal of the Institute for the Future of the Book is to explore, understand and influence this shift. The Institute is a project of the Annenberg Center for Communication at the University of Southern California and is based in Brooklyn, New York.
The Institute is funded by two very large foundations: MacArthur and Mellon.

PM says:

While publishers are reckoning with Google Book Search (and Amazon's ever-expanding Search Inside the Book and related initiatives), people associated with The Institute argue that these are primitive and regressive visions of books made electronic. And by extension, they would argue that publishers investing heavily in infrastructure built around these paradigms are preparing for the past more than for the future.

Instead of seeing the work being done by Google's Book Search and Amazon's Search Inside as the groundbreaking wave of the future, the IF:B sees those initiatives as stagnant and confining. The Institute is working on its own vision of the future; a vision that it calls Sophie.

Sophie is no less than a plan to reinvent the book. Not just satisfied with an electronic book that can be read on a computer screen, Sophie is a social engineering experiment as well. Recognizing the success of such websites as My Space, Sophie is an attempt to create documents that could live and breathe on the Internet and where readers could interact with each other and with the author. PM described it thus: Sophie "will make it easier to create electronic books that incorporate today's technologies to 'present a reading environment' and 'enable readers and writers to have conversations inside of books.'"

Go over and visit The Institute and read about Sophie at the IF:B blog here.

I hope you'll be as fascinated as I am.

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