What's the future of reading?

Two beautiful events are colliding this week that are of equal importance to both authors and readers: World Book Day and Read an E-Book Week.

There is no denying that the world of reading was forever changed with the advent in 2007 of the Amazon Kindle, which sold out within five hours of its initial release. Readers, it seemed, had been looking for a sea change.

The almost-simultaneous advent of tablets like the iPad (2010) and smartphones meant that readers were now spoilt for choice when it came to options for sexy reading devices. According to a study by the Business Insider, by the end of 2013, 6% of the global population will own a tablet, and 22% will own smartphones. That means a staggering one in five people in the world has a smartphone they can read on.

But though it appeared to be that way, the e-reading revolution did not happen overnight, nor was it dreamed-of in the mammoth labs of Amazon, Sony, Kobo, Apple or Samsung.

It all really began with a man called Bob Brown, born in 1886, who in 1930 released a forward-thinking manifesto called The Readies. In it, he argued that the way to save reading against the rise of the movies, was to create "a simple reading machine which I can carry or move around, attach to any old electric light plug and read hundred-thousand-word novels in 10 minutes if I want to".

Brown's vision of an eReader was restricted by the science of his time, but one of the most interesting and still-relevant points that he raised was that it wouldn't be enough to simply shift the medium. He saw in eReading an opportunity for artistic exploration, a way to really revolutionize reading.

As an avid reader and book blogger, I am a convert to eBooks. It wasn't always so. I struggled with e-reading initially, unable to let go of my fondness for the feel and heft of print books in the hand. However, the practical benefits of eBooks soon revealed itself. Price! Convenience! Saving the trees and your thumbs from paper cuts (kidding)!

But it still felt like something was missing. It was the innovation that Brown envisioned back in the early decades of the 20th century, the willingness to experiment with reading as a form. It's the age old battle of David and Goliath, traditionalism vs transformation.

When I read my first Booktrack, I could see the myriad of ways that this technology could shake up the $100 billion reading and writing industry by offering a more immersive, movie-like reading experience.

There is a place for Booktrack in the reading universe, and it's up to today's progressive writers to define what that place is and how they will ultimately use it. Much like fire was to the first humans who discovered how to harness its power, Booktrack is a tool that can help fuel the imagination of authors and readers. It might not be appropriate for every story, but there are genres, narratives that it lends itself naturally to – unexplored uses and territories for the reader.

We're placing the power back into the hands of authors and readers, facilitating the relationship and conversation between the two. So the question this World Book Day and Read an E-Book Week isn't really "what do you think about eBooks?" – it's more along the lines of, "what does the future of reading look like?"

Karen Tay is an aspiring author and professional book blogger. She has just joined the team at Booktrack as Community Manager.



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