Director of the Institute for the Future of the Book; Chairman of Night Kitchen
Bob Stein is Director of the Institute for Future of the Book, co-located at Columbia University and the University of Southern California. He was the founder of The Voyager Company. For 13 years he led the development of over 300 titles in “The Criterion Collection,” a series of definitive films on videodisc, and more than 75 CD ROM titles, including the CD Companion to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, “Who Built America,” and the Voyager edition of Macbeth. Previous to Voyager, Stein worked with Alan Kay in the Research Group at Atari on a variety of electronic publishing projects. In 1996, Stein started the Night Kitchen company to develop authoring tools for the next generation of electronic publishing. That work is being continued at the Institute for the Future of the Book. Stein is also Research Director Digital Authoring Tools, USC Annenberg Center for Communication.
Currently I am working at the Institute for the Future of the Book, based at the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC. The Institute has two principal activities. One is building high-end tools for making rich media electronic documents (part of the Mellon Foundation’s higher-education digital infrastructure initiative). The other work, currently funded by the MacArthur Foundation, is exploring and hopefully influencing the evolution of new forms of intellectual expression and discourse.
When many of us began with electronic publishing around 1980, the referent technology was the laser videodisc. Given that, it’s not surprising that at the time our vision of the book of the future was of a bounded, frozen object that afforded the addition of audio and video. Twenty-five years later, we can see that situating the book within the net is a much more profound advance. The book of the future will be “open” for continuous reader comment and author revision. Books will always be in progress, the basis for an ongoing conversation.
In parallel with this shift, as books make their transit from page to screen we also foresee a break with the linear organization of contents held together by a “spine.” Rather, the “front-end” of a book will be a visual map of its contents—one that shows relations between parts and allows the reader to “zoom into” particular sections without losing sight of the whole.