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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Movement, or What Goes Where?

As We Move from Text and Art to Book Plus, Which Kinds of Resources Belong On Which Platform?

Downstairs my sons, ages 5 and 9, and an 8-year-old buddy, are giving up TV time to play on a Wii. After a day spent playing basketball, football, swimming — they could hardly wait to get to the Wii. Clearly for them action, movement, a sense of doing something physical and experiencing a satisfying result, is like sugar offered to a Pavlov’s dogs. Physical movement that brings results — nothing could be more satisfying. A couple of days ago, I was speaking with an artist friend about the book on sugar Marina and I wrote, and our friend offered to animate the maps on a website. That too is a form of movement — instead of just having helpful maps at key spots within a book, she wants to create a kind of filmstrip in which the maps flow in space and time. We’ve often been told that what the multimedia world offers is choice — click wherever you want, follow any path you want. But I suspect that, at least as an enhancement of books, it offers movement. That which is static on the page can be animated, turned into a slide show, a filmstrip, a trailer: lyrics become a song, a photo turns into a video. So the question is — what should the relationship between static and fluid, statement and motion, be?
        I think that two related but distinct things are going on — as ereaders evolve we will create new forms of integrated narration where text and motion are delivered together on one device. But right now we know how to make books, and we have begun to know how to make use of the capacities of the digital world.  We do not know how to connect the two. Anyone trained in kids books has learned about how text and art work together in 32 page picture books. But none of us know how text and website should be interlinked in a 128 page nonfiction book. We don’t know how to take advantage of the power of text narration on the page, and the power of movement on sites, so that they are part of a well-crafted whole experience. 
           Plenty of NF books list sites you can visit, and some have websites built to match a book page for page. But that reminds me of doing picture books wrong — where the text says "elephant" so you see a picture of a large gray creature with a trunk — the art echoes the text instead of taking you beyond it. If the digital offers motion, how do you go from that experience back to the more passive and interior state of reading? If reading allows you to enter a scene in your mind (the words trigger your own images), how do you move from that "mind’s eye" view to being surrounded by pictures, sounds, images someone else has chosen? For now, I simply don’t know — we just have to keep experimenting and learn what works.