Anna Belova, founder and CEO of DEVAR, a Phygital company. ukbusinessupdates.com under 30. Tech entrepreneur. Expert in AR and Metaverse.
It is relentless and inevitable that our world will change. These changes can please, frighten, inspire and surprise us. But they will still happen regardless of our reaction. For change is like the elements – that is, it is not subject to human will.
Take books, for example. The earliest fully printed book was published in 868. More than a thousand years have passed since then, but the essence and purpose of books have not changed.
Famous Argentine poet and novelist Jorge Luis Borges was convinced that “books will never disappear. It is impossible for this to happen. Of all the various aids of man, his books are undoubtedly the most astonishing.” But does this claim hold true in the age of the metaverse, digital realities, and artificial intelligence? Let’s try to find out.
From digital to phygital
Change is already taking place with the books. According to a 2021 Pew Research poll, print books remain the most popular format to read, with about 65% of adults they choose. However, researchers are noticing that the pattern of book consumption is beginning to change. About 81% of people said they read a book in any format, and the level of interaction with e-books is slowly but steadily increasing.
Books of the future and their value
Ultimately, digital technology doesn’t kill books. On the contrary, it only makes them more accessible.
Auditory learners will be able to listen to books and kinesthetic learners will be able to feel them. Digital text as a whole allows us to understand and process information better than ever before. So while books will not disappear, they will inevitably change and reflect the current era. I think over time they will become more visual and understandable, allowing a deeper dive into worlds and giving readers new ways to experience stories.
Four types of books in the Age of the Metaverse
The reader becomes co-author and director
I predict that one day readers will be able to create their own avatars and literally enter a story to help develop a character, interact with other readers or characters, share experiences, pass the time move, compete for prizes and even influence the plot.
The first steps in that direction have already been taken. In 2021 alone, digital strategies with AR and gaming experiences helped generate billions in revenue. Examples include a role-playing game created by American Eagle where people can digitally explore their Members Always Club in Roblox, as well as NBA 2K’s in-game NFT and virtual store.
Adventures in MetaVerse Books
New technologies allow readers to dive deeper into the world of books. You can travel back in time with a tour guide, interact with Jane Austen’s characters or see the world with Jules Verne’s characters, taking back amazing artifacts, photos and videos of these experiences.
Books as portals
Books can become portals, bringing together museums, libraries, research clubs and educational institutions. The marriage of the metaverse and publishing creates endless ideas for collaboration. Just imagine: you can hold an encyclopedia about dinosaurs in your hands, take a tour of the Zigong Dinosaur Museum in China, and then walk through one book through the famous Dinosaur National Monument park in Utah and Colorado.
Textbooks of the future
I foresee textbooks of the future, including ready-made, safe experiments and simulations. These tools can make learning languages, biology, geometry, and other subjects easier. We can assume that these books will also have built-in tests with exams and a grading system that can be verified with various colleges and institutions around the world.
What can you do now?
I believe this is the perfect time to experiment. There are no rules or restrictions. If you work in publishing or dream of publishing a book, start creating your future book idea now. I think you will see how augmented reality technology will turn out to be incredibly exciting and not that difficult. You can be 100 steps ahead when AR glasses are used en masse.
Yes, this process is not fast, but it is systematic. When my company started working with AR technology in 2015, we approached more than 10 major publishers with the idea of making augmented reality books, and they all said no. It’s a completely different industry now.
Keep in mind that the process of making AR books is not the same as making regular books, and production requires a different approach; in addition to editors and artists, you also need developers, programmers, 3D modelers, animators, and sound directors.
However, AR technology is constantly being democratized and becoming more and more available. Banks with ready-made 3D models and neural networks have already facilitated the process and created solutions. SaaS can now help render animations. Voicing and scripting can be supported through AI. And thanks to the advent of WebAR technology, it is possible to see augmented reality directly in your browser. This means you don’t necessarily need specialized technicians to create augmented reality scenes.
Adding new paths for learning, discovering, playing, puzzling, socializing and challenging will only make the publishing world stronger in the near future.
I don’t believe the metaverse will destroy books, just help them evolve into something completely new and amazing. Besides publishing, every company will have to find its place in this new dimension and develop a unique way to communicate with users. I see this as a great time for collaborations and unconventional solutions.
So yes, change is not within human control. But do you know what is? The ability to adapt to change. So if you feel like your sphere is solid and immovable, that doesn’t mean it won’t change. The question is, are you ready for the next era?