As so often happens, there are gems far down in Mike Cane’s blog article (Dumb eBooks Must Die, Smart eBooks Must Live) that deserve more prominence. Cane says the real potential of eBooks will only be realized (attained) when the “hidden” metadata content is brought out (Boldface added):
All of this hidden information — exploded out, made explicit — turns an ebook from a dumb object into a smart object. … With such exploded data, an eBook becomes a ticket for admission to a vast collection of databased information.
An eBook becomes a local terminal connected to a growing and living cloud of associated information, with meanings and implications no publisher or writer can currently imagine. It lets the reader make those connections. It’s an eBook that can do something. … And this is precisely why Google wants the Book Search settlement to go through: it sees that as the future. Google is staffed by geeks who juggle information with an expertise that print publishers lack. … Google makes information do things.
Print publishing freezes information into a static object — An object that stands alone, disconnected, unable to do anything. … There needs to be another layer slathered over [the Publisher]. The information geeks. The ones who will take the static objects, extract the hidden information, and database it. … They are new publishers for a new age.
This metadata has value. And that value will increase as it ages. As new connections are formed, and new data is added, its value increases exponentially. The metadata value of a publisher could equal, if not surpass, that of the works on which it’s based.
Metadata will become a multi-billion dollar business. … The entire global economy is built on metadata. And it’s accessing that metadata that would justify more than a five-dollar price for an eBook. Consumers would see [that] an investment has been made to turn a text data dump into something active and intelligent. … no longer a flat, linear collection of words. Dimensions have been added that breathe and grow. The eBook price becomes a ticket. People are … buying into an ongoing experience.
Metadata Librarians will Rule the World …
Metadata, of course, is a concept that’s near-and-dear to the hearts of librarians … Which led to a bit of serendipity in thinking about the title of this article. I found in Google that no one else has used the phrase “Metadata will Rule the World.” But in playing around with various combinations I did discover the phrase “Librarians will one day rule the world” — in a 2004 blog post by Robert Wolfe (@metametadata), who works in Metadata services at the MIT library.
Of course, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to use the picture here of Wolfe’s Librarian Trading Card — “That’s right, I’ve got special metadata related powers.” (How do you like that, Mike Cane!)
The last posting on the Metametametadata blog is August, 2006 — Too bad — Robert Wolfe has interesting ideas.
Cane: Metadata turns an eBook into an active, growing, living cloud …
Cane’s contrasting of living eBooks with print publishing’s static books is reminiscent of the language used in the articles I wrote in May on the Stream as the new metaphor of the Web, particularly the article on Salman Rushdie’s Stream library & JL Borges’ Print library — Rushdie’s vision of books twisting and stretching and weaving in and out of each other sounds much like Cane’s vision in the quote above.
- Books: The Liquid Version – What Happens When Books Connect?
Eric Rumsey is @ericrumsey