Posts Tagged ‘The Diamond Age’

A Young Lady's Illustrated Guide to the Galaxy?

Posted in Blog, Random on May 6th, 2010 by Matt – Be the first to comment

Right now I'm reading Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age". Last night a thought struck me: With the advent of the iPad, we now have the technology to construct the Primer from Diamond Age and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy from Douglas Adam's book of the same name.

Creating the Hitchhiker's Guide would probably be the easiest. Take all the content from Wikipedia and throw a nice interface similar to The Elements application for iPad:


Almost all the content creation work is done. Someone with some massive CSS skills could probably whip up a Guide in a few weeks. Sell it for 99 cents and you're a millionaire.

Creating a "Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" for the iPad would be much more complicated, a massive undertaking. If you haven't read "The Diamond Age", the Primer in the story consists of a book whose pages are basically screens, think flexible color e-ink. But putting the format on something like that iPad wouldn't detract from the concept. It's a story book that builds the main character based upon the reader. As the story progresses the reader can comment on any part and request more information. The effect is similar to what I do while reading any book; when I stumble across a subject I don't fully grok, I hit Wikipedia or Google.

The part of the Primer that makes it more "future" than what we have now is the seamless ability to research any topic in the story more deeply. The book makes learning more easy. An example from the book: At one point the main character comes across a talking, karate-master mouse, think Splinter from the Ninja Turtles. Later, after reading past the chapter, she chooses to go back and expand upon the character. She ends up learning some karate.

Did I mention the book can read to the reader? I'm not sure current text-to-speech is advanced enough, but it's getting close:


Even if someone doesn't create something similar to one of those books now... it can't be much longer. The technology is there just waiting to be fully utilized. Sometimes it's fun to live in interesting times.