Book designer Chip Kidd recently presented at a TED Talk, and he shared the essential question he asks about every book before he starts working on its physical design: “What does the story look like?”
It’s a great and entertaining talk, one that designers will find interesting and anyone looking to self-publish their own work should watch to get an idea of how much thought can go into book design.
Around the 13:00 mark, though, Kidd says “Try experiencing that on a Kindle!” and starts to discuss the things that can’t be done with an e-book and the differences in the experience between a print book and an e-book. He makes some valid points, of course: I know few readers who haven’t smelled their books, relished the feel of deckled edges and raised type, or played around with die-cut dust jackets.
Can we say for certain, though, that e-books will never produce a related experience?
Right now, e-books are still in the gimmick stage. There are guys throwing short animations or sound effects into comics, embedding video in e-books, developing books that are interactive apps, and so forth. While they are cool things a book’s paper counterpart can’t do, they have yet to become an integral part of the story or a part of the experience of the book. Sure, it’s an experience with the iPad or the Kindle, but not necessarily with the book itself.
As much as I enjoyed Kidd’s presentation, I would love to see people like him turn their disdain for the e-book experience into a creative drive to elevate the e-book experience. It doesn’t have to replicate the paper experience (hell, maybe it shouldn’t), it just needs to bring its own experience. If the words on the screen aren’t enough, then shit, Chip, tell the damned software engineers what else you’d like them to do.
I bet Amazon and Apple will listen.