This article originally appeared on the Adorama Rental Co. Blog.
Throughout history, communication has been intricately linked with advancing technology, which has exponentially simplified and expanded the potential scope of the audience. So while two thousand years ago, you’d need an army of scribes and horses to distribute your work to the tiny percentage of literate people in your empire, and two hundred years ago you’d need access to an prohibitively expensive printing press to reach the educated elite, today you can disseminate your words, photography and videos to potentially billions with just a smartphone or netbook.
Of course, this is a double-edged sword, with approximately 10 million tweets per day devoted to the content of one’s breakfast, and the most watched videos online generally involving kittens and babies. But assuming that we are, in fact, fulfilling the ideal of a free press, for the sake of brevity we’ll assume that, despite oversharing, the democratization of publishing is a good thing. This advancing access from both a publishing and consumer perspective, is now unfolding at a rate that’s difficult to even document, let alone imagine its potential implications in the years to come. Wired recently reported on a potentially major development in the self-publishing revolution.
A team of ex-Apple engineers have created a specialized book publishing service for iPad. Originally created for a one-off multimedia version of Al Gore’s environmental opus, Our Choice, Push Pop Press has emerged into a full-fledged development platform, which promises to bring drag-and-drop simplicity to the process of creating multimedia books. It’s an obvious competitor to Adobe’s suite of digital publishing tools for iOS, which have a prohibitive price barrier and learning curve, suited more for developers than artists and writers. Now you don’t need an engineering degree to design an attractive user experience.
The speed, multitouch features and overall svelteness of iOS makes multimedia web pages seem almost quaint, not to mention physical books. Take a look at the tour Al Gore provides of his book using the service:
Al Gore's Our Choice Guided Tour from Push Pop Press on Vimeo.
Pricing details have yet to be announced, but it is hinted that these will match it’s populist ambitions. With developer costs the major barrier to entry for content providers on the iPad, this platform could potentially revolutionize the publishing world, depending on the swiftness of its adoption.
The other question that poses itself is what kinds of books this technology is suited for. “The app is the richest form of storytelling,” developer Mike Matas said. I’m not so sure. Call me old fashioned, but add any illustrations to 1984, or video interviews to Stephen Shore’s Uncommon Places, and I’m likely to throw the book down in disgust. I’m hoping Push Pop Press will include customizable templates for a variety of book types, from photobooks to straight prose. With support for photos, audio, video, interactive maps, and infographics, the technology seems ideally suited to data-centric texts, such as Al Gore’s texbook-for-the-rest-of-us tome. Time will tell what other genres creative uses of this technology could revolutionize. Travelogues are one obvious avenue – I’ve been pondering the best format to present my recent trips to the UK and Australia. I have video and photos from the journey, which could be strung together through text, and this would allow me to present all three in an interwoven narrative arc.
But whatever happens with this particular platform, we can rejoice for another step forward in the democratization of images and ideas. What do you think? Could this be a potentially useful tool for self-publishing photographers and filmmakers?
Nathan Lee Bush is a fashion and fine art photographer and filmmaker in New York City. His work is on his site and blog.