A Skeletal Taxonomy
of [E-] Books

Before the Book there was the Text, and before the Text there was the Word, and before the Word there was the Thought.

Homer, or another bard, or maybe all of them, wrote a book. It came not on paper (or even vellum) but on the air. It was a book just the same.

Let's work our way up. It's a straight line. However, it's also another straight line that crosses in at least one place, and maybe more than two. As follows:

A thought
Many thoughts
A group of associated thoughts
Common elements of those thoughts
Structure to organize those thoughts
An organic whole of coalesced
The ability to think
A way of thinking
A filter that can sort thoughts
A process of organization
A way to recognize structure
A way to build an organic whole

Result: The intellectual content of a book

The Text
The physical Instantiation
The Sale or Loan or Gift of the Instance
The meaning of the Text
The intent of Presentation
The act of Presentation

Result: The transfer of the content from creator to reader

So far, so good. We're covered half the page and we haven't yet had to say anything about what the physical instantiation of the book actually is. In fact, the whole idea of e-books is that that physical instance is not the most important part of any book. You knew that already.

Let's consider some more lines, through the physical plane. (Oh, speak to us, O Spirits of the metaphysical plane. Oh, OK, we'll talk about books.)

Here we go again:

Ink and Paper
Structured Marks on a Page
Multiple Pages, common Subject
Size, Weight and Smell of the Book
Written Language
Design school
Aesthetics and Fashion
Layout and Arrangement
Printing Presses
Gluepots and Book Presses

Result: A Book

Let's try it again for an e-book:

Electrons and Display
Structured Marks on a Screen
Multiple Data, common Subject
File Structure
Decoding and display Software
Hardware Package
Size, Weight and Smell of the Reader
Written Language
Design school
Aesthetics and Fashion
Layout and Arrangement
Creation Software
Storage Media

Result: A Book

I think we're on to something here.

Michael Ward
12 May 2000