Neuroscientist presents new multimedia book

This is a new book format worth understanding if you are a person interested in publishing or book reading. Since the advent of e-books many have been pondering indeed heralding the end of books and publishing as we know it. In his new book “Why the Net Matters“, author David Eagleman, neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, pushes that argument a little further by presenting his latest tome in a multimedia format currently available only for the iPad.

Dr. Eagleman has published his “book” using an iPad enabled interface that allows the reader to begin the book at the beginning of any chapter, then continue to follow the argument in a non-linear format. Additionally each “page” or frame contains written text accompanied by illustrations, 3D models, links to websites and embeded video.

In an interview with the BBC the author dubbed this “a new species of book.” He further explained that this format when used for non-fiction allows the author to update information periodically thus keeping the information fresh or “evergreen” while continuing the dialouge with the reader.

Actually I like the term “new species” because it suggests that this is “a new animal” not necessary a replacement for what came before. At the risk of carrying this metaphor to far, I suggest that many older species continue to thrive even when confronted by a new species. For those who fear that leather bound books with paper pages will be repurposed into fireplace fuel, it is quite possible that this multimedia option is just another new way to consume information and may be superior for presenting certain kinds of content.

From what I can see on the youtube demonstration this is an elegant solution that allows the user to delve deeper into the subject matter by inspecting a graphic or 3D model or accessing prerequisite material that the reader may require to better understand what is being presented. How is this different from a multimedia rich website? In some ways it seems like “PowerPoint – The Next Generation”. This is not a bad thing simply an observation. I think what Dr. Eagleman has demonstrated is multimedia is the way of the future and by calling it a book he challenges our notion of of the term “book”. Why should we simply try to understand complex concepts using text alone. With the availability of high speed Internet access combined with feature rich portible devices like the iPad why should we limit ourselves to black ink and white paper?


I think those of us in media and publishing saw this coming. What Eagleman did is create a prototype that we can all examine and consider. The author comes from an academic background and it seems that this format is a natural replacement for current textbooks (how ironic that term sounds now) that attempt to engage students through sidebars, cartoons, photos, additional CD content and clumsy website refferals.

As a neuroscientist David Eagleman has insight into how the human brain works and he has definitely come up with a new way to stimulate our neurons and excite our synapses.

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Reno Lovison is executive producer at and a Chicago based nonfiction author of Turn Your Business Card Into Business.