Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Google Imitates Print

Google is introducing FastFlip, a new interface for online publications that, according to the Associate Press,
is meant to duplicate the look and feel of perusing a printed publication. The stories are displayed on electronic pages that can be quickly scrolled through by clicking on large arrows on the side instead of a standard Web link that requires waiting several seconds for a page to load. Readers can sort through content based on topics, favorite writers and publications.

The rest of the story focuses on FastFlip's potential for diverting more advertising dollars to publishers. Of interest to this blog, though, is Google's embrace of technology to reproduce the experience (but certainly not the "feel"!) of print magazines and books. The "flipping" feature suggests that magazines are the real inspiration. Much more elaborate software to reproduce turning the pages of books has been used by the British Library for some time now to present rare books and manuscripts online. Much publicity recently surrounded the addition to this collection of the fourth-century C.E. manuscript of the Christian Bible, Codex Sinaiticus.

All of which illustrate the strength of the urge to reproduce the physical page in electronic form. In the case of rare manuscripts, there is at least a functional advantage to turning the electronic pages: codex books frustrate museum and library curators because only two pages can be shown at any one time. Visitors who would never be allowed to turn these rare pages can now do so electronically, often on a computer screen in the vicinity of the real manuscript.

But Google seems to be extending the principle to magazines purely in hopes of appealing to more readers. The iconic page exerts a strong pull on the electronic imagination!

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