Whenever there is an innovation in visual communication, people initially struggle how to use it best. Hand-written text scrolls did not have page numbers, spaces between words, or sentences. The first ads were either paintings or primitive, poorly designed pamphlets. Color and photography took some time to be used properly. It took 10 years or so after the arrival of PowerPoint before Garr Reynolds had his insight and write Presentation Zen, and he is still busy convincing the world to kill the bullet points as I am writing this.

So here we have this iPad and the iBooks writing platform that enables anyone to create apps that incorporate touch and can be read away from the office chair. I have started to write an app on this platform myself and am constantly changing my approach. I started with the concept of a book in my mind (pages of text with images), but then discovered all this other things you can do: Prezi-like zooming diagrams, embedded slideshows, videos, Keynote presentations, questions. This is not a book writing tool, it is a software development tool. All these visual tools were available before on the web: zooming images, videos, data visualization. But somehow they never made it as the basis for the development of visual stories. I think the fact that an iPad can be used away from the office chair/screen will change that.

Nancy Duarte recently ported her book Resonate over to the iBook platform and the result is beautiful. And it gives some good examples of how new visual techniques are more than just making content prettier or more spectacular. Many of the effects in the Wired magazine iPad edition are just like poorly used animations in PowerPoint or Keynote: interesting, but they do not add to the story. When Nancy analyzes a speech by Ronald Reagan, it is just very useful to be able to watch the actual thing alongside.

This app development platform has great potential beyond books. I can see uses in combined investor presentations and business plans, on-premise sales applications, product demos. But still I feel that I have the text scroll perspective, and the real innovative application will be discovered sometime in the near future.

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