One of the better investigations of screen publishing I've seen is this long and detailed scenario by Craig Mod. Mod is a designer, thinker, and book maker. He sketches out a "systems view" of books and publishing, and nails the best definition of a book I've seen in a while:
In reality, the book worth considering consists only of relationships. Relationships between ideas and recipients. Between writer and reader. Between readers and other readers -- all as writ over time.
Imagine a future where instead of lending someone a book, you lend them your bookmarks. Where your notes, annotations and references are synchronized across platforms and applications. Where your bookmarks belong to you, and a record of every book you read is saved and stored securely, no matter how or where you read it.
Viewing a book as a process rather than artifact, Mod suggests this diagram of the coming book process, and captions the process below.
Reading the changes from left to right:
Engagement with readers (the building of community and conversation) begins immediately in the pre-artifact system.
The two year disconnect between Idea and Readers is minimized to hours, days or weeks.
The line between Publisher and Author is blurred.
If you choose to print, The Great Immutable Artifact is now only The Immutable Artifact.
The production time (from finished manuscript to readers' hands) of a digital artifact is significantly less than that of a physical book.
The classic authority of access to distribution is heavily deemphasized in digital. Digital distribution channels such as Amazon's Kindle store and Apple's iBooks store are universally accessible. Anyone with an ePub file can reach critical, global points of sale.
A true networked post-artifact system of additive conversation and marginalia exists only digitally.
The primary shift is one of thinking of the book as a process rather than artifact. We are moving from the culture of the book to the culture of booking. Our focus is no longer on the book, the noun, but on booking, the verb -- on that continuous process of thinking, writing, editing, writing, sharing, editing, screening, writing, screening, sharing, thinking, writing -- and so on that incidentally throws off books. Books, even ebooks, are by-products of the booking process.
The distinct processes of making a book in the past, whether it was writing, editing, design, printing, bookselling, marketing, etc., are now blurred into a single undifferentiated process called booking. Amanda Hocking, the ebook poster-girl of the moment (nice profile in the NYT), has made a success in booking for the past several years. She wrote, edited, published, promoted, and developed a series of bestselling novels. She is a booker. She books.
Amazon on the Kindle has made it so easy to book that spammers have enter the realm and are now polluting the new territory. Book spammers are booking thousands of cheap, quick, worthless books "borrowing" content from Wikipedia and elsewhere. Their flood of worthless documents will make finding the good stuff harder (and more valuable). But millions of other wannabes will start booking as well, and some of their stuff will one day become classics.
Booking will become as common as blogging, or vlogging, or podcasting. To pick up on what Mod says, what booking produces is not artifacts necessarily. Booking produces relationships. Booking is a process that connects readers, authors, characters, ideas, and stories into complex webs. There will be a million ways to weave these relationships -- including the ancient path of a linear story that runs interrupted on deadtree paper. But that is but one way to weave the web. There are other bookings that favor the reader's powers, and yet others that leverage sharing, and yet more relationships that take years to complete. We have not yet begun exploring the possible ways to book.
The relationship between booking and screening is also a blur. Screening is what audiences do. They screen other things besides books, but screening is now part of booking. The multiple new ways we have to screen creative works extends the process of booking. The process of booking is amplified, enhanced, widened, accelerated, leveraged, and redefined by new ways of screening.
Books may be over, but booking has just begun.