If you’re at all interested in the future of publishing, you should read Craig Mod’s post titled “Platforming Books.” In the post, he goes into detail how his book, Art Space Tokyo, went from a Kickstarter campaign for a physical book to a digital manifestation:
And so, in the last two years a simple, strong truth has emerged: The future of books is built upon networked platforms, not islands. More than any surface advancement — interface, navigational, typographic, or similar — platforms define how we read going forward. Platforms shape systems — those of production, consumption, distribution — and all critical changes happening in digital books and publishing happen within systems. Post-artifact books and publishing is not just about text on screens.
As part of our Kickstarter campaign, we promised a digital edition of Art Space Tokyo. We’re finally delivering on that promise today. But more than dump some files in your lap and run off, we want (as we are wont) to fully open the kimono.
So Art Space Tokyo exists as a physical book, an e-book, and on the Web. Why all three platforms? As Craig explains:
Art Space Tokyo needed a touchable home. An online, public address for all its content. We gave it just that: http://read.artspacetokyo.com. The entire book is there. All the interviews, essays and art space information. Everything has an address to which you can point.
Why do this? I strongly believe digital books benefit from public endpoints. The current generation of readers (human, not electronic) have formed expectations about sharing text, and if you obstruct their ability to share — to touch — digital text, then your content is as good as non-existent. Or, in the least, it’s less likely to be engaged.
I also believe that we will sell more digital and physical copies of Art Space Tokyo by having all of the content available online. The number of inbound links to the site should increase exponentially. read.artspacetokyo.com is one of the largest collections of publicly available text about the Tokyo art world online. Organic search traffic should increase accordingly, and by having upsells on every page, the conversion to paid users should follow suit. We’ll report back with numbers in time.
Just because a collection of text is called a ‘book’ doesn’t mean it can’t act like a website. On read.artspacetokyo.com we purposely broke the strict linearity of the physical Art Space Tokyo. The ambition is to extend the content indefinitely in more organic ways.
Craig’s conclusion on publishing:
If you’re a publisher wondering what to do, the lowest investment, highest return action in this liminal stage of digital publishing is to embrace open EPUBstandards. Unless you want to architect a cross-device platform with cloud syncing, hire a full dev team to support that platform, and iterate relentlessly as standards are hacked apart and reconstituted, then your best bet is to build off existing platforms.
A not-so-long time ago there were no digital books. There were no Kindles or iPads. There were self-contained objects. Objects unnetworked. The only difference now is that they’re touching, they’re next to one another. The content is the same. But that small act of connection brings with it a potential sea change, change we’ll explore as we continue to platform books.
A must-read in its entirety.