The third section of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto includes a contribution from Valla Vakili, the CEO and co-founder of Small Demons. His chapter, "Exaggerations and perversions", examines what he calls the "Twin Tyrants of Change": format, and reading.
Early in the chapter, Vakili observes:
"Every time I hear this prevailing wisdom, I’m reminded of two things. The first is Ted Levitt’s classic essay, "Marketing Myopia", in which he argues that an overemphasis on a current product distracts us from the needs of future customers. One of the things that makes classics classic is that their message retains its relevancy over time. It’s hard not to think of format and reading as blinders when you’re wearing Ted Levitt glasses."
He goes on to use a metaphor by William James, who in trying to understand religious life wrote “It always leads to a better understanding of a thing’s significance to consider its exaggerations and perversions, its equivalents and substitutes and nearest relatives elsewhere.”
Vaklili applied James' approach to three aspects of story: characters, settings (or worlds) and spells, the magic of storytelling. In explaining the thinking behind Small Demons, he observes:
- that characters live beyond the page,
- that settings are worlds worth exploring,
- that spells can break through from one medium to another.
These are the premises behind the "Storyverse", the approach Small Demons takes to initially deconstruct and then help readers reconstruct the elements of story. In his contribution, Vakili concludes:
"At the heart of it all is the conviction that the “future” of the book isn’t about its format or how you read it. The future of the book is about extending each individual reader’s connection with the story. We no longer need to say that the experience of a book needs to stop on the page, or in the mind."
Vakili and I first met almost two years ago, after he had read an online version of "Context first". On a trip to New York, he came by the office and first explained the idea behind Small Demons. It appealed to me then, much as it does today. Publishers may struggle with the Storyverse, at least until the time we stop talking purely about format and how we read a book.
About Manifesto: You can now read Vakili's chapter online, where it is hosted on the PressBooks site. The complete book can also be purchased in print, digital and bundled formats through O'Reilly Media and in print and digital formats at major book retailing sites. I've noted earlier that the royalties for the book are being used to fund the development of PressBooks, and for that reason I encourage you to consider buying the book.