Summary: David Pierce, personal tech columnist, wrote an article late last year suggesting Amazon has the power to reinvent the book. Could the Amazon Alexa platform have a major role to play in this transformation?
Last December columnist David Pierce published an article in WIRED entitled “The Kindle Changed the Book Business. Can It Change Books?” Pierce’s article goes from evolution (of the Kindle device) to revolution (of what a book, or fictional experience, could be).
The Kindle has certainly evolved since its first iteration in 2007. But Pierce observes the device remains squarely focused on reading. Form factors have improved, with lighter and brighter models available. Readers can connect to their social platforms, or listen to the audio version of a book.
So far, experiments in reinventing the book have been limited. Pierce mentions several forays into interactive and participatory book experiences. Top among them are the trend toward chat-based stories, where readers participate in the narrative via a messaging-based conversation. But most attempts at incorporating interactive elements into eBooks and audio books have fallen short.
If Amazon wanted to, it could with a single act bring a new form of book into being. — David Pierce, WIRED
Pierce seems to believe we may be on the verge of a more fundamental reinvention of the book. The problem, he says, is the lack of a proven, seamless system enabling authors to create new forms of fiction and fans to consume them.
Pierce quotes Sean McDonald, executive editor at publishing house Farrar, Straus, and Giroux as saying : “One of the things that holds you back from developing a highly interactive, graphic, endless storytelling interface is that we don’t have the infrastructure for that.”
Is Amazon Alexa that missing infrastructure for highly interactive, endless storytelling? The same should probably be said for Google Assistant or any other voice-activated and speech-enabled open platform that has broad adoption.
My answer to the above question is a tentative yes. The new natural language capable, smart platforms owned by Amazon and Google may provide the infrastructure for a reinvention of the book—or the story. Such platforms facilitate a new level of interactivity.
What this new—possibly voice first?—book will look like is anyone’s guess. But experiments are already underway. If you’re interested in the topic, check out David Pierce’s article. Of course, this whole discussion begs the question: does the book need reinventing? We’ll have to see what the best of voice first fiction offers, before we answer that one.