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What Is a Networked Book?

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With Ben Vershbow and Jesse Wilbur of the Institute for the Future of the Book

Purchase the article based on this interview, which Paula B. wrote for Searcher magazine, at the Amazon Kindle Store:



Here’s a question for you: is a book a thing or a place? If you said a thing, get ready for a big change. The networked book is here: the new agora/plaza/forum where author, publisher, and readers congregate to ponder, discuss, joke, enjoy, and refer. The book is now searchable, linkable, multimedia-able, commentable, annotatable, previewable, mutable, divisible, aggregatable, correlatable, syndicatable, feedable, emailable, Flickrable,, Diggable. In fact, the book is on the brink of such a huge transformation that we wouldn’t be surprised if it opened its own chain of coffee bars.

Curious as we could be, The Writing Show caught up with two fellows of the Institute for the Future of the Book–Ben Vershbow and Jesse Wilbur–to find out how they are experimenting with this fascinating idea.

Ben Vershbow has been a writer, researcher and publisher at the Institute for the Future of the Book since its founding in 2004. In addition to being a frequent contributor to the Institute’s blog, if:book, Ben has written on publishing and digital-age communication for Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal. He studied theater at Yale, graduating in 2002.

Jesse Wilbur received his masters degree in information science from UNC Chapel Hill, where he studied information architecture, user interface design, and digital libraries. He is interested in Sophie–a digital authoring experience–graphic design, and emergent phenomena. At the Institute for the Future of the Book he designs tools and Web and software interfaces for projects like GAM3R 7H30RY. He lives in Brooklyn where he is surrounded by new construction.

In this fascinating look at the future, Ben and Jesse explain:

  • What a networked book is and why anyone would want to make one
  • What a networked book looks like
  • How networked books will change authors’ roles
  • What new skills will be required of authors wishing to host networked books
  • What networked books will mean for readers
  • How to get readers to show up at networked books
  • How networked books could change publishing
  • How networked books might change the world as a whole
  • How networked books might make revenue…or not
  • What networked books might mean for librarians and information pros
  • How instructors might use networked books in the classroom.

If you write or publish, you must hear this interview, for the times, they are a-changin.’

Interviewees: Ben Vershbow and Jesse Wilbur
Host: Paula B
Date: August 7, 2006
Running time: 01:15:09
File size: 64 megabytes
Rating: G
Visit the Insitute for the Future of the Book
Go to if:book, the Institute’s blog
Gamer Theory
without gods: toward a history of disbelief


One Response to “Podcast: What Is a Networked Book?”

  1. idiotprogrammer Says:

    Funny, I wrote an essay about precisely this question . Perhaps after I listen to the episode, I’ll have some additional comments.

Purchase the article Paula B. wrote based on this interview at the Amazon Kindle Store: