It’s fair to say that I have a history of being fairly skeptical about marvelous new bright ideas for bringing “innovation” to e-books. But when you consider the kind of crazy ideas many would-be “innovators” toss out, can you blame me? It’s safe to say that you could probably build up a decent catalog of articles about that particular brand of lunacy just by doing a Google site-search on TeleRead for “If you build it, they will come.”

The latest shining example comes from this Publishing Perspectives article on AR&Co, an augmented reality startup from Indonesia. AR&Co Managing Director Peter Shearer Setiawan wants to bring augmented reality to the Bible. The idea is that you use your smartphone or tablet to add audiovisual content to an ordinary book–in this case, the Bible. The article gives the example of such a device playing “a rather powerful 3D video” of, for instance, Moses crossing the desert, when the device recognizes an icon on the Bible’s page.

An AR&Co representative explains that “we can’t leave everything to video games,” which is why he feels it’s necessary to “add things” to books so that they can compete for audience with other forms of entertainment. And Setiawan agrees:

“This generation needs interactivity – not one-way, but two-way communication – if you want to grab its attention,” Setiawan says after finishing an interview with a radio station in Barcelona while in Frankfurt. “And augmented reality, combined with other technologies like the Internet of Things and Google Glass will impact on many industries including publishing.”

Well, being charitable (and I should at least try to be charitable), maybe he’s onto something. Maybe “this generation” does need something more than mere words on paper to keep its attention. But can you really even call that a “book” anymore? And is it going to appeal to the same sort of audience who would be inclined to read a book in the first place? Seriously, how is it going to add to someone’s understanding of the Bible, or make them more inclined to want to read the Bible at all, to be able to pull up a video of Moses striding across the desert?

It’s far too easy to point and laugh. Maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe I should try to keep in mind that in order for people find something new that works, they have to try all sorts of bizarre ideas that might not work, because it’s always possible that one of them just might.

But on the other hand, this quote from Carl Sagan just keeps coming to mind:

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.


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