IDEO released a great video depicting their vision of the future of digital books. As mobile devices are maturing, we are finally in a position to apply the benefits of interactivity and social networks to long form text documents. Definitely some cool ideas in here. It isn’t thought through completely, but that is the nice thing about making a video like this.
The part of the video I most want to come true is the second piece, dubbed Coupland.
Coupland explores the possibilities of sharing the experience of reading with your friends and coworkers. It would definitely be nice to see what your friends are reading and send recommendations to them, but I was more intrigued by the idea of having access to a company library. If the organization you work for or belong to has a group license to a title, everyone in the group can access the book. Just think of how a shared catalog of books and discussions around them would affect a company culture.
Company reading lists could be made public. In this example you see information about the books people are reading at Google. This information would be more useful and meaningful than an amazon review by a random person or a professional review from someone that doesn’t have similar tastes or fields of interest.
It would be refreshing to have social networking used like this. The discussions that take place on Facebook are generally mundane. Facebook exists for generic socializing, and there isn’t really a point to it. Social networks of the future should allow you to have meaningful discussions about more in-depth topics with people that share you interests. Ping is half heartedly trying to accomplish something like this for Music. Last.fm is similar, but seems to have more of a focus on letting you data mine yourself through scrobbling (which I actually love) than allowing you to discuss the music you are listening to with your friends or the community. I’m hoping that social systems for media content will not be attached to single retailers. That’s what I’m so cynical about Ping.
The video doesn’t explore the annoying road blocks that are holding us back from a system like this. Book publishers have been so cagey about changing anything relating to their business model. Negotiating group licenses will probably be a difficult. Too bad creating real life solutions like the one IDEO has envisioned isn’t as simple as coming up with UX design.