18 February 2009

The unbook movement

As some of you know I have been keenly interested in a movement, started by Jay Cross, called the unbook. I have gotten some questions about how the unbook differs from a traditional book, so I thought I would answer them here.
The driving forces behind the movement are the acceleration of business change and the inability of traditional publishing to keep up. With new technologies such as print-on-demand and online marketplaces, authors can now publish books, in both electronic and print formats, at the push of a button. The unbook, due to these factors, operates in a fundamentally different way than the traditional book.
A traditional book is released in editions. When a work is revised or updated, a new edition is released. These revised or updated editions usually offer small, incremental changes, such as a new preface or introduction, a new chapter, or small changes to the content.
An unbook is more like software:
1. An unbook is never finished, but rather continually updated, based on feedback from users andtheir evolving needs.
2. An unbook is released in versions. As in open source software, version 1.0 of an unbook is a significant milestone, indicating that it is stable and reliable enough for use by the general public. The significance of a new release is indicated by the size of the gap: For example, the difference between 1.1 and 1.1.3 is minor, while the difference between 1.1 and 2.0 is major.
3. An unbook is supported by a community of users who share their experiences and best practices with each other, and help each other troubleshoot problems encountered in their practice areas. An unbook’s community is a very real part of the unbook’s development team.
I have published an unbook, Marks and Meaning, to catalogue my continuing efforts in the field of visual thinking and information design, and to develop a user community focused on that discipline.
An unbook is mindware: software for the mind: And in the case of Marks and Meaning, my hope and intent is to develop not just software, but an operating system which improves on our current thinking models and makes our minds more useful and usable.
In the same way that graphical user interfaces (GUIs) improved the usability of computing devices, I hope, with your help, to develop a graphical operating system for the mind.
The field of information design is developing so rapidly that I believe an unbook is the only way to do this.
I believe that the unbook form has real potential, especially for emerging disciplines like information design, such as user experience design, agile software development, social media, and knowledge management, as well as established disciplines which are undergoing significant change (finance? government?).
To support these efforts, Jay and I have set up a website to support the unbook movement and provide a comprehensive catalogue of available titles. Please take a moment to visit theunbook.com and leave us a note! And if you are working on an unbook or plan to start one, let us know so we can add it to the uncatalogue.

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03 February 2009


I accidentally deleted some recent comments while trying to delete some spam. Unfortunately Blogger doesn't let you "undo" that particular operation. If you commented recently, and your comment didn't show up, I am very sorry. If you re-post your comments I promise they'll go through this time (unless you're a spammer!:).

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