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My New Book Project: “Breaking the Page”

I’m delighted to report that I signed a deal with O’Reilly last week to publish my next book, tentatively titled Breaking the Page: Transforming Books and the Reading Experience. It’s a look at everything these new kinds of books can do that can’t be done in print. Written for ebook enthusiasts and publishing professionals alike, it’s a guidebook to the best digital works available today and a look at basic principles behind creating reader-friendly and author-inspiring material.

At heart it’s a catalog of really cool examples—perfect for discovering the best digital-only stories, video-powered cookbooks, curated compilations, multi-purpose kids’ books, tools for digital scholars, 21st century textbooks, animated poetry, and on and on.

But it’s not just a list. I’m also going to look at why these works are successful, an  important issue as we enter a time when, like it or not, most of us are composing documents made from more than just words. For example, there’s a big difference between simply dumping in multimedia extras and integrating them with the underlying prose. So throughout the collection you’ll find brief, engaging commentary on why, say, most in-book videos disrupt rather than enhance the reading experience; how simple, reader-controllable memory aids can double the viewer’s pleasure; and how a digital book like the History of Jazz artfully weaves together videos, Wikipedia articles, swipe-able timelines, and music in an entirely novel and pleasing manner.

In other words, if I can deliver a small dose of design guidance, even as I offer up a compendium of digital delights, then I’ll consider the book a success. And given that the very definition of the book is morphing, I’ll take a wide-angle look at all sorts of digital documents undergoing shape-shifting moments: annual reports, brochures, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, résumés, and teaching materials. As more and more of these creations start out and end up on digital screens, it’s a great time to survey the most innovative designs—and learn a bit about what went into making them.

Throughout my book you’ll also find Q&A’s with some of the leading thinkers and practitioners in the field of document design and the reading experience. Folks like Craig Mod (Flipboard), Kevin Kelly (Wired), Matt MacInnis (Inkling), and Mike Matas (Push Pop Press). And for readers ready to join the party I’ll shorten the space between what you’re seeing and how to get there with implementation tips and software suggestions.

Needless to say, this baby’s an ebook itself. (The quotes we got on doing a pop-up version were prohibitively expensive.) That means I’ll be able to do some cool things thanks to the digital-only format, including continuous updates, in-book video, and a few other fun features that I’ll talk about as the release date gets closer. We’ve mapped out a pretty aggressive schedule, aiming for a summer release of an early-draft version and a finish date some time this fall.

Follow me on Twitter (@petermeyers) for periodic updates and pointers to interesting finds; I’ll also keep posting here, as I write, the better to virtually think out loud about some of the topics I’m tackling in the book. This is an enormously fun project for me and I hope it proves helpful to everyone out there trying to figure out the future of reading and writing.