Peter Brantley, whose simultaneously held book-related titles* would make a career for almost anyone else, also carves out time to write a column for Publishers Weekly. One recent contribution, "The kids are alright", considered the nature of digital books, the impact of standards on design and what access to tools offers the next generation of storytellers.
As Brantley concludes:
"There is a profound change taking place in media literacy. Rather than being riven by angst over the future of immersive narratives, younger people are delightedly swimming in a sea of diverse choices."
These are ideas that Brantley also explored in "The curation of obscurity", a chapter he contributed to Book: A Futurist's Manifesto. Also included in Manifesto is an essay by Craig Mod, "Designing books in the digital age", that talks about "books as systems", ones that existed both before and coincident with artifacts (what I sometimes call containers).
Using parallel terms, both Brantley and Mod consider the implications of a digital era on our conception of the book. Brantley sees a wealth of possibilities in providing creators (current and potential) with access to tools. Mod describes a world in which the artifact is akin to a screenshot, a memorial of what was true at that moment in the book's conversational life.
Neither is wedded to the traditional formats; they see them as options within the publishing process, not inevitable outcomes of it. Harkening back to my thought (last Friday) that we see the end of something only in the rear-view mirror: as Brantley and Mod describe the future, is it possible we are already there?
* As in: Editor, Reading 2.0 discussion list; Director, Bookserver Project at the Internet Archive; Convenor, Books in Browsers; Advisory Board, Project Muse; and Contributing Editor, Publishers Weekly. Phew.