Technology changes the way we access books – is augmented reality a step too far?
Books and technology are not often associated. When thinking about a book the majority, if not all people, would think about the traditional type of book – words printed on paper and bound together. In fact there are many people who believe that traditional, paper books should be the only format a book should be read in. This leaves little room for technology to revolutionize the way in which books are accessed. Of course, this has not stopped technology experts from changing the way we see books. Ebooks have become incredibly popular and are, more or less, now an accepted way in which to read a book. Technology has also taken a step further and introduced augmented reality into books, giving people an interactive experience rather than merely reading words on a page. Is this a step too far? Is a book still a book if you need technology to be able to read it? Many people think that books should be left alone and technology should not be needed or wanted. However, there are others who believe that introducing technology into how we access books is just a natural progression of how technology is used.
There has been resistance at every stage that technology has tried to change the traditional view of books. E-readers had a tendency to divide opinion when they were first unleashed on the public. Many people thought it was a fantastic idea as thousands of books could be stored and carried around on one devise which was smaller and lighter than many of the books it contained. Others however, thought it was an abomination and that it would signal the demise of the paper book.
There is no doubt that ebooks are popular. Technology has allowed reading books to become more accessible. People no longer have to limit themselves to taking one or two books on holiday with them because they cannot fit any more in their suitcase. There also seems to be no doubt that the demand for paper books will not suddenly cease to exist. Technology simply allows people to enjoy books in a different format. Often for people who have sight problems this type of technology aids their reading. They can increase the size of the text, choose an e-reader that has the best background for them to see the text, buy a light that works on the battery so they can read in different light conditions. Allowing people the ability to read more cannot be a bad thing.
This advancement in technology has led to augmented reality being used in books. Augmented reality is arguably less about allowing people who struggle with reading a technological aid and more about making a book fun! Making what is on the page come to life is certainly a new way of accessing books. Although the majority of books do not use augmented reality and possibly never will, there is definitely a market for augmented reality books.
The obvious market for augmented reality books is children. Many children love to read and be read to but there are also a high number of children who do not enjoy it at all. Books have already changed and developed in an attempt to make them more interesting and accessible to young people and children. Pop up books are still hugely popular and there is a clear link between these types of books and augmented reality books. Traditional book lovers appear to overlook the fact that augmented reality can be used to simply bring to life the inanimate pop ups of regular pop up books. The only difference being that technology is used rather than just additional pieces of paper stuck into the book. In a technological age it can be argued that augmented reality books are the new pop up books (although their popularity is not limited to toddlers!).
The second obvious market for augmented reality books is text books. It has been discussed in previous blogs that augmented reality is phenomenal at being used to teach or train. The ability to ‘see’ something rather than just read about it makes it easier for a person to compute the information to their long term memory. Any text book could use this technology to ‘show’ readers what is being explained. For people who learn better by visualising these types of books would be valuable. For people who learn better by reading they simply do not have to access the augmented reality parts of the book.
The downside of augmented reality books is that you cannot justice one up and read it. You need to have some form of computer or app on a smartphone in order for the augmented reality features to work. This issue is likely to be resolved if and when technology like the augmented reality eyewear, such as google glass, become popular and mainstream. Putting on a pair of glasses and reading a book is less arduous than loading up a computer or reading the book whilst holding a smartphone in front of it.
The fact is that no matter what traditional book lovers believe, technology is the way forward. It is used to make processes easier, and that applies to reading books. Not only does technology make it easier to carry thousands of books around, it also makes it easier for some people to access the books. Augmented reality in particular can make books more fun and interesting as well as informative in a modern way.
When this technology becomes more mainstream it may be that traditional fiction books choose to use augmented reality in their storytelling. Traditional book lovers will no doubt exercise their right to purchase the paper version of a book and technology lovers will champion the benefits of ‘watching’ parts of the book. It will be interesting to watch the development of augmented reality in books as there is a clear argument that watching a fiction book will be no different to watching a dvd. Will the augmented reality books become the new films? It is unlikely that the film industry will be massively affected by the increase in augmented reality. However, never say never!