Last month I wrote an INK post called, “Will the Internet Kill Nonfiction,” in which I said that of course it will not because nonfiction stories told by skilled authors are an entirely different beast than snippets of information found on the Internet. The nonfiction authors put things in context for readers, discover as many pieces of the puzzle as possible, and put the whole thing together—sometimes with a narrative point of view. They often pose questions for further thinking on a topic.
I was tempted to delve into a related topic in that post about the potential futures of nonfiction book publishing in concert with the Internet, but I felt that was a story for another day. When I read one of the comments from last month’s post, it was clear that day was today.
Author Marc Tyler Nobleman said, “As torchbearers for nonfiction, I feel we have a responsibility to be thinking of both books and multimedia as we create. (Film didn't kill theater. TV didn't kill radio. The Internet will not kill books; it WILL change the what and how, though.) Whether we like it or not, the world will demand it - and if we embrace it rather than resist, we can do wonderful things.”
I could not agree more. Nobleman agreed with my initial assertion that the Internet will not kill books and leapt right into the next piece of the conversation. It WILL change the what and how, yes it will. And who better to be at the forefront of the what and how but we writers of nonfiction? How exciting, in fact, to be in the game at this moment of change. The possibilities are enormous.
I can imagine Almost Astronauts, for example, in a multi-media format that would extend the reading and learning experience to dizzying depths, depending on how far the reader wants to go. We can provide new avenues and pathways of information that is integrally related to our books and each reader will have at their disposal a little or a long way to go with it, as they see fit.
It isn’t that different from the old days of getting lost in a library, traveling from book to related book in an exponentially exciting pathway of information. And it is related to the concept of hyperlinks, with a very critical difference. Hyperlinks are inserted when they are content-related, but they are still not given follow-through context. We have the ability to combine the two concepts. We can imagine different pathways for learning and set out the footlights to follow in as much depth as we wish.
This idea makes me as excited to be a reader in the future as much as a writer. I look forward to new venues for ever richer nonfiction. If anyone knows of existing examples to point out, please share!