I read The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore today and I was gobsmacked. The e-book is filled with glorious pictures, marvellous animations and engaging interactivity.
Of course, this isn’t the only title that takes advantage of its medium. For example, Rob Brydon has added audio and video components to his autobiography Small Man in a Book, while the textbooks on the Inkling app include animations, quizzes and social study tools.
The marketing copy for The Fantastic Flying Books calls it “an interactive narrative experience” that “blurs the line between picture books and animated film”.
Inkling “turns paper-based textbooks into engaging, interactive learning experiences while staying compatible with the print book for classroom use”.
All this got me thinking: where do we draw the line?
When is an e-book not a book…?
The definition of a book
To me, a “book” is a collection of written words that together form a story. The text activates the mind and fires the imagination. The process is often assisted by illustrations.
Of course, the definition of a book can no longer be limited to sheets of paper bound together. The relentless march of technology has ushered the concept into an electronic format. Arguably, the introduction of multimedia elements is a continuation of that evolution.
At what point, however, does the nature of a book transform so much that it becomes something else?
If we replace text with an image, we call it a picture.
If we replace it with illustrated motion, we call it an animation.
If we replace it with a recording, we call it audio or video.
If we combine all of the above, do we not call it an online course…?
When you think about it, a media rich e-book is what a pedagogically-sound online course ought to be:
- learner centered
- logically structured
- founded on storytelling
Sure, it’s linear, but so are many online courses! In fact, authoring tools like Lectora leverage the metaphor of a book – with terms like “pages” and “chapters” – to arrange the content. (Besides, I don’t think linearity is necessarily a bad thing, so long as the learner is empowered to navigate as they please.)
But it may just be semantics after all. In this digital age, when convergence is inevitable, perhaps labels become inconsequential.
As Shakespeare’s Juliet observed, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.