While digital books are emerging as the norm for casual reading, millions of students continue to use traditional print textbooks that quickly become dated, impose rigid knowledge structures on material, and offer limited forms of interactive engagement. Yet their persistence of the textbook is a testament to the ways that it is not just a highly refined individual learning tool, but also a platform for shared understanding in classrooms and other learning communities. What role will the digital textbook or knowledge system play in fundamentally changing learning and teaching practices? How can textbooks function as social texts that build community among networks of learners? What is the future of the textbook as a social, living, interactive, adaptive learning technology?
How will digital platforms for creating books and other types of knowledge systems generate new forms of community, conversation, production and resource sharing among readers, and between readers and writers? How can these platforms serve as hubs for new forms of collective authorship and critique? Will these communities move from consuming texts to becoming collaborators and producers? How should authors and publishers adjust their methods for writing and constructing books to leverage the social capabilities of new reading and publishing formats? Will changes in the production of books and other tools for containing, ordering and sharing knowledge transform the nature and definition of “knowledge” itself?
Since the advent of digital publishing, researchers, artists and publishers have responded to the transformation of the book through a number of prototypes, experiments and collaborations designed to model new forms of authorship, editing, reading and circulation. But these experiments are scattered and often poorly maintained, making it difficult for book innovators to build on past insights and inventions. How should we archive born-digital materials so they are stable and easily accessible? What ad hoc archives and repositories already exist that could be a foundation for archival work on the future of the book? How can archivists identify, collect and assemble grey literature and other elusive texts into archives documenting the past and present of the future of the book?
How will the shift to digital knowledge systems transform the publishing industry? How will the scholarly publishing industry, which has been slow to adapt in the face of a paradigm shift, adapt to a changing market for books and ideas? How can we draw new maps for the relationships between the various players and stakeholders in the fields of cultural production around books and publishing? How is the publishing ecosystem changing, in scholarly publishing and other sectors such as fiction, nonfiction, reference and technical books? Beyond the frame of the unitary “book,” how will knowledge be produced, ordered and transmitted? What kinds of institutions will arise in the new information economy to generate knowledge (ASU, for example, strives to be a comprehensive “knowledge enterprise)? Who will play the roles of knowledge brokers and synthesizers to disseminate it rapidly to communities of practice?
What roles will individual authors and artists, as well as collectives and institutions, play in pioneering new modes of book design and production – and more broadly, the design and production of knowledge? Which experiments with the future of the book have been the most interesting, provocative and productive? How can we bring new voices and broad publics into the conversation about the future of the book? Should the publishing industry lower the risks associated with experimentation and foster experimentalism among authors, editors, anthologists, artists and designers?