The institute for the future of the book is a think-and-do tank investigating the evolution of intellectual discourse as it shifts from printed pages to networked screens. They seek to “chronicle this shift, and impact its development in a positive direction,” aiming to combine media to forge new forms of expression.  They have investigative and exploratory branches in New York, London and Brisbane.

“One major consequence of the shift to digital is the addition of graphical, audio, and video elements to the written word. More profound, however, is the book’s reinvention in a networked environment. Unlike the printed book, the networked book is not bound by time or space. It is an evolving entity within an ecology of readers, authors and texts. Unlike the printed book, the networked book is never finished: it is always a work in progress.

As such, the Institute is deeply concerned with the surrounding forces that will shape the network environment and the conditions of culture: network neutrality, copyright and privacy. We believe that a free, neutral network, a progressive intellectual property system, and robust safeguards for privacy are essential conditions for an enlightened digital age.”

And then there is tools. Again. In order to make the noble mission a potential success tools are being called for (same is true for the digital-publishing initiative in the Netherlands). Tools that are easy and intuitively to use for ordinary people, guaranteeing independence from programmers yet relying on the limitations of the software which will shape new literacies, habits and behavior and other limitations. All aim to develop something that is sustainable. Interesting that within an unstable medium we seek certainty…

“Academic institutes arose in the age of print, which informed the structure and rhythm of their work. The Institute for the Future of the Book was born in the digital era, and so we seek to conduct our work in ways appropriate to the emerging modes of communication and rhythms of the networked world. Freed from the traditional print publishing cycles and hierarchies of authority, the Institute values theory and practice equally, conducting its activities as much as possible in the open and in real time.”

Christina Kral


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