A while back, I wrote about the Espresso digital book printing device, which allows bookstores to print back-list book titles on-demand based on consumer requests. This allows stores to “stock” a much bigger inventory than if they had to actually put the physical books on the shelf. Some see this technology as a possible edge against e-books, which are also available on-demand.
This got me to thinking about the very definition of a “book.” Clearly, we agree that a printed volume is aptly called a “book,” and it really doesn't matter if it's printed on site or at a central location. But what happens when we add in features to traditional books that are only possible when viewing the work on digital devices such as the iPad or Kindle? When you add video, interactivity, links and other digital features, the nature of the work changes considerably, and the electronic version is no longer directly comparable to the print version.
People get hung up these days on comparing the value of a print edition with that of an electronic one, and for some titles, the differences are not all that great. But we're really talking about two completely different products and different reading experiences, so the comparisons may not be appropriate.
I'm a firm believer that both products will continue to survive, though I certainly see the market shifting more and more toward electronic “books” or whatever we might call them. One company which producers expanded e-book titles refers to them as “Vooks,” presumably the combination of video and book.
Is it time for a new term for e-books? Or do we continue to lump both print and electronic versions of published works into the same category, even though they are becoming two different beasts? Doc would like to hear your suggestions for a new term to describe the multi-media products we now are calling e-books.