A manifesto for ebooks

A manifesto for ebooks

"We’re witnessing the birth of a new art form," writes Catherine Dunn of Help For Writers. And in this refreshingly upbeat assessment of ebooks' potential, she works against some of the "print under glass" disappointment expressed by others in our series of #FutureBook15 manifestos. Here in these early dark days of digital disruption and despair, she predicts, "Content will be designed to lead you off the beaten track, up the garden path and perhaps even around the bend." I am so there. Hang on, Dunn tells us in this secret smile of a manifesto: "If we could see the future, it’d blow our minds." —Porter Anderson


Ebooks will reshape the definition of the word ‘book’

Eventually they will shake it off altogether.

When photography was invented no one predicted the world of the moving picture we have now. Cinema, television and the seemingly bottomless video pit that is the internet were inconceivable when even a still photo was a marvel. Ebooks will travel to places we haven’t yet dreamed of.

Enhanced ebooks can already deliver a multi-sensory experience, but there is a lingering worry that this format could be a distraction, taking away from the submersive nature of reading and eventually becoming indistinguishable from games. Writers, artists and technicians will still be keen to explore this avenue, though, leading to much more sophisticated integration of the multi-sensory environment.

With the increase in audiovisual entertainment in the home—bearing in mind the decline in cinema-going—it’s easy to imagine a future in which, surrounded by screens and speakers, we can see the sunrise and hear the birdsong with our author’s hero, sit in a coffee shop with him and experience the darkness when he’s locked in a car boot. Ebooks will be able to track our eye movements and talk to other technology to deliver a subtle experience that enhances, rather than detracts from, our immersion in the author’s words and worlds.

Books that are strongly rooted in geography or of particular local interest will be an almost immediate beneficiary of the ebook revolution, even if they remain a niche market. Ebooks will integrate with geocaching so that readers are led to physically explore the landscape in order to progress through the book or unlock extra material.

This will also open a whole new realm for history books. With ebooks that can detect where you’re standing and what you’re doing, awkward and isolating audio-guide headphones at places of interest will be a thing of the past. Content will be designed to lead you off the beaten track, up the garden path and perhaps even around the bend, discovering links between physical objects, landscape and history in ways that resonate more strongly than either written or spoken words by themselves.

There will be a new relationship between books, plays and scripts. Like the Adventure and Romance Agency in G. K. Chesterton’s short story The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown, companies will spring up to provide interactive experiences that bridge the gap between fantasy and reality by making the reader an actor in their own story.

We’re witnessing the birth of a new art form.

At first, like all new technology, its most exciting manifestations will only be accessible to geeky enthusiasts and the super-rich, but eventually it will change the literary landscape as we know it.

If we could see the future, it’d blow our minds.


This is another in our series of "Five-Minute Manifesto" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones reiterated his call for the FutureBook community to reflect on five years of the digital dynamic, "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response has been robust, and we offer a big thanks to all our manifesto writers.

Please plan to join us on 4th December at The Mermaid in London for the fifth-anniversary FutureBook Conference

And we'd also like you to consider participating in our inaugural Author Day in central London, 30th November, the kick-off to a week of #FutureBook15 events.

#FutureBook15 manifestos:

Main image - iStockphoto: Malombra76