Non-fiction books? There's an app for that

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First aired on Here and Now (17/10/12)

Many readers who enjoy the feel of a book and the reading experience it provides will argue that paper books will never go away. However, leading business thinker and author Don Tapscott believes one entire genre of paper books is at risk of going extinct in our increasingly digital world: the non-fiction book.

"A non-fiction book is basically a way of communicating information to people, and it turns out that the written word is really important and will continue to be forever, but you can now overcome the limitations of the traditional book through an app," Tapscott said during a recent interview on Here and Now.

Don-Tapscott.jpgTapscott, who co-authored the bestselling books Wikinomics and Macrowikinomics, just released an app available through iTunes that turns the idea of a traditional non-fiction book on its head. Instead of chapters, it's divided into 10 sections, each exploring a different Tapscott idea, from technological innovation to the changing role of government in the digital age. Each section contains text but is bolstered by video clips of interviews, speeches, relevant audio from his CBC show ReCivilization, and other forms of multimedia. But here's the really interesting part: the app will be continually updated to reflect Tapscott's new ideas, provide fresh information and allow readers to offer opinions and weigh in on discussion points.

Tapscott said that young people consume media in a much different way than people of his own generation. They don't always follow an author's narrative, instead preferring to jump around the material. He said he remembers interviewing one young woman during a public discussion when he asked her why she preferred getting news on the web versus a real newspaper.

"And I was sort of challenging her -- are you really informed? She said ... 'Mr. Tapscott have you ever seen one of those things?' They come out once a day, she says, and they're not multimedia, they don't have hot links, and you get this weird black stuff on your fingers. Well same goes with the book, it's a very limited vehicle for communicating information."

Tapscott himself isn't ruling out producing more paper books in the future, but says at the very least, they'll be part of a digital experience that includes apps and dynamic websites to best reflect the ideas and information he's conveying.

He does, however, believe that reading a work of fiction in a paper book is still a very effective experience.

"Fiction is a world of imagination and ideation where you as the reader are not just absorbing content, you're really projecting your fantasies. It ends up being very animated ... rich with colour and sound, but all of that is in your head."

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