Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Institute for the Future of the Book

The six year old Institute for the Future of the Book is the brainchild of Bob Stein (pictured), who is a newly discovered (by me) pioneer in digital publishing and all kind of pre-current digital reading devices and software.

He has an interesting vision of the future and value of book content, all of which I’m not in accord with, but is nonetheless worthy of consideration and discussion.

Some refer to Bob Stein as a deep thinker, and he may well be…at least a helluva lot deeper than this old, shallow, ex-whiskey-swilling, skirt-chasing adventurer and sometimes writer!

As is related in the following article: “…his institute has received funding from the MacArthur Foundation and is affiliated with the University of Southern California, but it resembles a scrappy start-up. Stein founded it in his kitchen while he lived in Manhattan, and it now has its offices in a garden apartment behind his house in Brooklyn.”

Details in this article from Nathaniel Popper of the LA Times through HeraldOnline (Rock Hill, S.C.):

A deep thinker changes how people think about books

In 1992, virtual eons before the Kindle and the iPad, Bob Stein created software that let a reader flip through an electronic book on a laptop computer.

To demonstrate the program at conferences, Stein would lie down on stage as if reading in bed.

“Publishers would see this and they would think it was cute, but they didn’t think it had anything to do with them,” he recalled.

Now that the revolution is here, Stein says publishers should embrace what he sees as the inevitable result: the evolution of reading from a solitary pursuit into a communal, electronically networked activity – something he calls social reading and writing.

The advantages of digital technology “are so weighted toward collaboration that people will tear down the existing structures and build something new,” Stein said while sitting among the jammed but now rarely touched bookshelves in his Brooklyn home.

Head of the ambitiously named Institute for the Future of the Book, Stein is one of a collection of programmers, philosophers and other deep thinkers who debate where things are heading in online venues such as a conference titled Books in Browsers and an online discussion group called Read 2.0.

“Bob’s ambition is really to change how people think about the book,” said Brian O’Leary, a founder of consulting firm Magellan Media.

Stein, 64, has a history tied to media innovation. In the early 1980s he worked on an effort to create a digital encyclopedia for home-computer maker Atari.

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