Can We Still Call Them Digital ‘Books’?

A glowing endorsement of Push Pop Press’ new iOS book platform from John Gruber:

What I saw (and used) was a multimedia-rich book running on an iPhone 4. There is no UI chrome. No status bar at the top or tab bar at the bottom. It’s just like you see in the still image on their teaser site. The entire screen is filled by content, not user interface elements. The screen is the book, the book is the screen.

Kindle and iBooks seem to have the goal of reproducing what is possible in paper books. Yes, iBooks supports embedded video and audio content, but it does so in a way that feels as though Apple pondered what it would be like if you could play video on a piece of paper. Push Pop’s concept strikes me as far more ambitious: What can we do with the idea of a “book” if we eliminate the limitations of ink and paper, rather than mimic them? E-books that aren’t merely rendered by software, but rather e-books that are software.

Eleven months ago, Andy Clarke announced the forthcoming iPadification of Hardboiled Web Design. That hasn’t happened yet, but I stand by my comments at that time:

If Andy does succeed in publishing his new book as an iPad app with demos and video tutorials, that will truly herald the future of books. Physical, typeset books have their place, but if you’re publishing something electronically, there ought to be a big, flashing sign demanding you use every advantage the medium affords. To do otherwise is no different than playing a radio broadcast on television or scanning a newspaper and calling it a website.

Congratulations to Mike Matas and company for realizing that vision so emphatically.

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