A Book That Texts Back
An Innovative Idea for a Traditional Industry
OCTOBER 16, 2017
When Amazon announced its launch of the Kindle, one of the first mainstream e-readers, back in 2007, the publishing industry launched a major attack, resulting in a major (Kindle) firestorm that left publishing houses, tech companies, and authors hurling criticisms, blame, and disgust at each other, both virtually and occasionally in person. People took their sides, either pro eBook or pro realBook, and stood firm. There would be no befriending of the enemy.
A decade since its release, the storm has quieted as many people have proven it’s possible to use the convenience of an e-reader while still enjoying the beauty of a bound book in print. But, it wasn’t until Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the bestselling author of Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life, decided it was time to innovate a whole new genre, bridging a critically acclaimed gap between the world of print book and the world of technology.
Her 2016 book, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, invites readers into her world with the unlikely help of chatbots. Authors, for the most part, are viewed as solitary, isolated artists, usually the best known to still type on typewriters or write first drafts by hand on paper. Innovation isn’t, then, typically synonymous with the industry. But, that didn’t stop Rosenthal, who was known to be both a prolific writer and talented filmmaker, from blazing a trail.
Using SMS chatbots, Rosenthal set up an interactive world for her readers, one that prompted them to text messages, even photographs, while they turned the pages of her book.
“The text-messaging aspect of the book, at the end of the day, is about connecting with people,” Rosenthal said about her ingenious idea. And, according to the Chicago Tribune, her concept is “perhaps the first attempt to create a virtual book club that expands outward in both comic and philosophical directions.”
With the help of an automated relationship, Rosenthal’s story is brought to life, giving readers an opportunity to interact in a way that feels very human, despite the AI that sits on the other side of the message. To add to the experience, messages received from readers are displayed on Rosenthal’s website, sharing stories, pictures, and lives, cementing her status as one of the most brilliant authors of the 21st century.
Although Rosenthal passed away in March 2017 as the result of terminal ovarian cancer, her innovative work will undoubtedly change the way we read the latest list of bestselling books forever.