The Coilhouse crew makes no bones about being paper fetishists. (Mmm… the texture of pulp against thumb, the perfume of ink and fresh card stock, the printed tome as art object. Purr.) Because of this bias, I’m skeptical when discussing the ability of e-tablet technology to bridge more tactile, primal gaps between my print and digital reading experiences. However. The London-based BERG design consultancy is blowing my puny mind with their Mag+ prototype:
This could be a readable art object in its own right.
Unlike previous e-tablets I’ve seen, the Mag+ technology would run articles in scrolls rather than as “flipped” pages (an abhorrent digital gimmick, if you ask me), and placed side-to-side in what BERG is calling “mountain range” format. It’s a far less literal translation. More organic. Readers page through by shifting focus, tapping pictures on the left of the screen to peruse content, then tapping text on the right to hone in. Magazines are still presented as compartmentalized issues, without that sense of incompleteness created by an infinite webfeed. It’s… cozy, somehow. BERG says:
It is, we hope, like stepping into a space for quiet reading. It’s pleasant to have an uncluttered space. Let the Web be the Web. But you can heat up the words and pics to share, comment, and to dig into supplementary material.
The design has an eye to how paper magazines can re-use their editorial work without having to drastically change their workflow or add new teams. Maybe if the form is clear enough, then every mag, no matter how niche, can look gorgeous [and] be super easy to understand.
Watch the demo; it’s fascinating. I’m eager to see where they go with this. There’s a discussion board over at Bonnier R&D Beta Lab, if you want to give them direct feedback.
Student team’s CG “Wall of Knowledge” design proposal for the Stockholm Library. (via)
On a related note, the press is saying 2010 will be “The Year of the E-Reader”. We’ve never really discussed e-books here, have we? What has your experience been –if any– with portable tablets like Kindle, Nook or the Sony Reader? So far, bibliophiles I know have had really strong and varied reactions to them. My more tech savvy (also, dare I say, somewhat more jet-setty and affluent) friends have embraced the digital format as a new and freeing medium. Other, more traditional bookworms reel in horror from the concept of spending yet more time staring at a pixelated screen. [edit: although, as Mark Cook just pointed out in comments, ideally, an e-book screen does not look pixelated.]
I definitely tend to view my book and e-book reading experiences as being very separate, and am always reminded of a scene from an early episode of Buffy (yeah, yeah, NERD UP) where watcher/librarian Rupert Giles has a spluttering argument with computer science teacher/technopagan Ms. Calendar about the difference between processing information via computers, versus books:
Calendar: Honestly, what is it about them that bothers you so much?
Giles: The smell.
Calendar: Computers don’t smell, Rupert.
Giles: I know! Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower or a, a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences… long forgotten. Books smell. Musty and, and, and, and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer, is, uh, it… it has no, no texture, no, no context. It’s, it’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then, then the getting of knowledge should be, uh, tangible, it should be, um… smelly.
Heh. Who knows. Things are changing very, very fast for us right now. We are mid-leap. I just hope the future’s scratch n’ sniff.