Many times conversations about Digital Content come up about the container they are in. Essentially, how are they created, how are they sent out to the masses and how the interaction allowed. Now often when we think of digital content and containers, many of us, at least me and other I know, think of eBooks; ePub, PDF, html, .mobi, etc. as the containers. Challenge being that even though those file extensions can be read on devices and contain the content, sometimes they come off differently on different devices or entry points. Their is so much discussion on this already, that I don’t want to add to it and just bog down this post with all of that information.
As of late and other times I have seen a variety of tweets, blogs and other conversations talking about when content isn’t in a container it becomes a service. That got me thinking, when isn’t content ever in a container? Seriously, thinking about it, it seems to exist in a container of some sort. Even if it is on the web, it’s html, which in itself, is a container. Some may not agree with that, but if you put up a blog post like this one, a website, etc and have styled the content you are putting it into some form of a container. It interacts with a browser and can fluctuate depending on the persons settings and browsers and OS, so again, containers. When I worked heavily with academic libraries much of the conversation was about device agnostic, essentially not mattering what device you had, the content could be read on it. It was both a company view of, “We don’t care how you want to read it, just that you want to read the digital content” and also what libraries wanted. They still want and need content that can be read however their students/users want to read. Whether laptop, online, eReader, Tablet or maybe even in print.
I think instead of looking at containerless experiences we need to look at how to make it a better experience and make it so the container is in the back of your mind but not the first thing you think about. Or, maybe we switch that around, make the container the focus, many eBook designers I know do this when we design for certain devices/environments: iBooks, nook, Kindle for kf8 and mobi support on eInk, the web, specific apps for eBooks. You see the conundrum, which way do you believe? Do you have to choose even, to think one model or the other? I’m not even sure, I bounce back and forth as I am sure many do, for the sake of keeping their sanity.
So when yo think about it, it’s not really containing content, but instead defining the experience and container better. Setting it free but not always conforming, testing new ideas which I think their are some great people doing just that, look at the twitter #ePrdctn tag to see some of the discussions. You’ll also find some great conversation at the #ISBNhour hashtag, where I think things are really going to get interesting. As metadata continues to grow and becomes more and more important, we have to figure out how to tag it, search it, make it relevant and how to use it to define content the best way. This plays a part in the container of content, what you see as a user and how you find the content as a user. I don’t see the challenges as getting easier, instead they’ll be ever changing and some will disappear while others consume similar challenges, not sure that makes sense to all, but was rambling around my brain and needed to get out.
I like these challenges, trying to see what will work where, how to attack it and who is doing what or supporting what. It may all sound vague, but shy of listing everything, I’m not sure how else to do it. As content evolves, support for enhancements, features and experiences emerge, the containers will keep changing, but I honestly believe we will always have a container of sorts, in a way, isn’t a language its own container? If you don’t speak the language, you need to look it up, find an interpretor or just stare blankly.