In his article, Books in the Age of the iPad, Craig Mod sketches a vibrant and enticing picture of a beneficial co-existence between printed and digital matter: “We will choose the best medium for our content. Should it be printed or digitized?” We might need to become more specific, at the same time we can also afford to be more exclusive.

The various devices (here with a particular focus on the iPad/tablet) not only support general reading but also inform new ways of thinking about reading and design all together. “We potentially gain edgier, riskier books in digital form, born from a lower barrier-to-entry to publish. New modes of storytelling. Less environmental impact. A rise in importance of editors. And a marked increase in the quality of things that do get printed.”

book and ipad

So what is to be lost? According to Craig: “We are losing the paperback book, disposable books that were printed without consideration of form or sustainability or longevity.” Good riddance, he says.

And how to find the right medium for your content? “Ask yourself, “Is your work disposable?” For me, in asking myself this, I only see one obvious ruleset: Formless Content goes digital. Definite Content gets divided between the iPad and printing.” This might be a little too simplistic, but let’s do look at the content. First, Craig divides content into formless (without well-defined form) and definite (with well-defined form) content. Generally he revives the equation that form has to follow content.


To be more specific: “Formless Content can be reflowed into different formats and not lose any intrinsic meaning. It’s content divorced from layout. Most novels and works of non-fiction are Formless. […] Content with form — Definite Content — is almost totally the opposite of Formless Content. Most texts composed with images, charts, graphs or poetry fall under this umbrella. It may be reflowable, but depending on how it’s reflowed, inherent meaning and quality of the text may shift.

In the context of the book as an object, the key difference between Formless and Definite Content is the interaction between the content and the page. Formless Content doesn’t see the page or its boundaries. Whereas Definite Content is not only aware of the page, but embraces it. It edits, shifts and resizes itself to fit the page. In a sense, Definite Content approaches the page as a canvas — something with dimensions and limitations — and leverages these attributes to both elevate the object and the content to a more complete whole. Put very simply, Formless Content is unaware of the container. Definite Content embraces the container as a canvas. Formless content is usually only text. Definite content usually has some visual elements along with text.”

"The true value of an object lies in what it says, not its mere existence. And in the case of a book, that value is intrinsically connected with content."

“The true value of an object lies in what it says, not its mere existence. And in the case of a book, that value is intrinsically connected with content.”

“Unlike computer screens, the experience of reading on a Kindle or iPhone (or iPad, one can assume) mimics this familiar maternal embrace. The text is closer to us, the orientation more comfortable. And the seemingly insignificant fact that we touch the text actually plays a very key role in furthering the intimacy of the experience.”

There is intimacy and emotion and then there is device specificity: He urges us to think of various media specifically and not merely transfer an experience to another medium. It might not work or be counterproductive to the actual potential of each device: “Take something as fundamental as pages, for example. The metaphor of flipping pages already feels boring and forced on the iPhone. I suspect it will feel even more so on the iPad. The flow of content no longer has to be chunked into ‘page’ sized bites. One simplistic re-imagining of book layout would be to place chapters on the horizontal plane with content on a fluid vertical plane. In printed books, the two-page spread was our canvas. It’s easy to think similarly about the iPad. Let’s not. The canvas of the iPad must be considered in a way that acknowledge the physical boundaries of the device, while also embracing the effective limitlessness of space just beyond those edges.”

For the full article go here.
Consider your content
Consider the medium

Christina Kral


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