One of the most valuable contributions a person can make to an emerging field is to help build its vocabulary. It can be neologism (as in cyberspace) or it can be reappropriated language (as in stock and flow) or it can simply be strong words used with care—as in the following example.
- Formless: ePub, Mobi, HTML
- Definite: PDF, EPUB3 (HTML5/CSS3)
- Interactive: iOS / Android, EPUB3 (HTML5/CSS3)
And he explains:
Formless refers to content that has no inherent visual structure, and for which the meaning doesn’t change as the words reflow. Think: paperback novels.
Definite refers to content for which the structure of the page—the juxtaposition of elements—is intertwined with the meaning of the text. Think: textbooks.
Interactive is, of course, for works that necessitate some interactive component: video, non-linear storytelling, etc.
Formless and definite in particular (also discussed in an earlier piece from Craig) are the terms that best articulate the tension I feel today with the Kindle. On one hand: I love it. On the other hand: the uniform typeface… the arbitrary pagination… books aren’t just strings of characters!!, I want to scream. And yet, sometimes they are. Sometimes they’re formless. Aha. I get it now.
Here’s the true test of new lingo: does it stick in your head and present itself, again and again, in the face of fresh experience? So far, the answer for me with Craig’s trifecta is yes. These are the words I use to organize my own experience of the (crazy new publishing) world, and just as importantly, these are the words I use to scheme about its future. (P.S. I’m totally on Team Definite.)