XML and the nature of books in the future

I’m hearing a lot about XML technology, and how it will revolutionize what a “book” is. They talk about the massive amounts of flexibility that it will give to the content of the book. It will provide links from the text to other places on the web, it will allow changes in format of the book, it will allow instant language translation, and so much more. I’m no expert on XML, but apparently it is THE NEXT BIG THING.


What this means is that publishing is going beyond the printed book—which we all knew. What some of us never considered was having NO printed book, a phenomenon explained well on PersonaNonData.



So, the real question publishers, agents, and authors need to grapple with is: How does all of this flexibility hit our rights? If you have a technology that can translate it into any language, what does that do to foreign rights? If you can change the format to large print or comic book from the standard print, where does that leave those rights? We are already seeing a dust-up over the Kindle’s voice feature infringing on audio book rights.


We are living and writing in an age of convergence—the lines between various media are blurring. Heck, they’re disappearing. The book—the ebook—is becoming a multi-media animal. Reading a book about 1922 Philadelphia, and want to see photos from that era. Just click. Want to hear the music playing in the speakeasy? Just click. Want to read a newspaper article from 1922 mentioned in the book? Just click. It can make for a vastly richer experience for the reader, if they choose to explore.


Which brings us to another question. As books become more flexible, how will that change the way authors write? Or will it?


  1. It’s no coincidence that this topic is popping up all over the place.
    Just the other day Penelope Przekop pointed me to M.J. Rose’s article where Rose, a publishing industry veteran, outlines her plan to explore the alternative methods of publishing opportunities presented by the Internet.
    Did I hear somebody say Social Tsunami? Oh, yeah, that was Jerry Waxler. 🙂

  2. I’m having fun mulling over what it will do to the mind of the author in the future. Will author’s supply an “Author Commentary” to go with the book, like Directors do on DVDs, explaining why they did what they did, and talking about the process? Will they write the book from multiple POVs, allowing readers to read the book from the POV of whatever character they identify most with?

  3. You’re not the only one thinking this way. Check out Michael Bourret’s post on this same topic. I’m excited to think about the new possibilities.

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