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The tomorrow book:

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Research theme

On the basis of the Charles Nypels lectures of 10 December 2004 and a following closed discussion the working group formulated the research project The tomorrow book. Navigating to, within and beyond the book.
The Jan van Eyck Academie and the Charles Nypels Stichting invited designers, bookmakers, reviewers and theoreticians to submit proposals for the research project. Four researchers have been selected for the project.


In the current debate about the book a defensive stance is often taken; it is argued that the very existence of the book as a medium is in danger of ceasing to exist. New (technological) media are allegedly displacing the book. The craft of bookmaking is deteriorating due to a lack of expertise and the argument goes that massive and worldwide distribution of bestselling books tampers the publication of less commercial texts. 

The research project The tomorrow book. Navigating to, within and beyond the book has decided not to take such a negative approach. Convinced of the fact that the book will never cease to exist, The tomorrow book focuses on the specific qualities of the book as a medium. The book, after all, has a physical reality that is part of a complex and process-like whole that involves acts such as thinking up, making, distributing, reading, using, reusing and keeping. The book has a functionality of its own that is indispensable in the fields of education, science and the public domain. What is more, the pleasures of making and reading books are distinctly unique.

The tomorrow book focuses attention on the book as a material object. It takes a multi-disciplinary approach and highlights the aspects of editing, typography, book design, publishing and distribution.

The umbrella theme of the project The tomorrow book is navigation. The term navigation does not only apply to non-material new media; it can apply to the material book as well. Navigating to refers to the ways in which books are made available to potential readers, appeal to them and are subsequently purchased or borrowed. Navigating within a book can be purposively done through particular references (index, notes, page numbers, illustrations) or through personal associations. Navigating from the book concerns the links and relationships that a book establishes with other books and media. It further refers to the position of the book and its contents once it is published, distributed and read. In short, the term navigation refers to the processes that lead to the book, the ‘signposting’ within the book and the ways in which the book establishes relationships with the world outside of the book.


On 11 December 2004 a team of experts in various fields formulated a number of research questions concerning the future of the book. Team members were:  Carel Kuitenbrouwer (design critic), Markus Dreßen (designer, editor), Lars Müller (designer, publisher), Walter Nikkels (designer, typographer), Just van Rossum & Erik Blokland (type designers, LettError), Jouke Kleerebezem (artist, editor), Filiep Tacq (designer) and Astrid Vorstermans (editor, publisher).

The tomorrow book raises the following questions concerning navigation to, within and beyond the book:

To the book

What is the position of the author in the book’s production process? How does the author cope with the area of tension that is created by motivations concerning contents and artistic aspects on the one hand and commercial interests on the other?

How do you obtain a book that you would like to read? Does coincidence play a role in this process? How can chance generate advantageous effects? What new ways of ‘signposting’ can be developed so as to make readers find the books they are looking for? How can different media help to obtain results?

Are there alternatives to the current system of distribution? Do parallel and instructive systems exist in non-Western cultures that can function as points of contact?

Is there an innovative way to open up book collections to the public? What can be the role of public and private libraries regarding this?

Within the book

What does history teach about production techniques, typography and the editorial set-up of a book? What historical systems and action plans that are characteristic of the book can still be used? What tools and instruments can be developed to promote and boost navigating within the book? Can technology generate new ideas?

In what way can contemporary design practice and theory be relevant for books that are already designed and published? Can books that are published be redesigned? Can a book that was previously not particularly reputed acquire a new status through an adapted design? Does the new design influence the book’s content, even when the texts and images are unaltered?

Can a book’s design anticipate reader behaviour? Can new ways of navigating be developed to that end? Can the medium of the book adopt and apply strategies that belong to more contemporary media (the newspaper and magazine) and time-related media (film and the Internet)?

Beyond the book

How does the book function with a multimedia, social and political context? How can we chart the social use of a book in an innovative way?

What is the relationship between the analogue book and its digital environment? Can the book be a means of navigation? How can the book be connected to non-analogue information and vice versa? How can the book producer deal with ‘open source’ techniques?

What are the limits of intellectual properties? Can a book be ‘stolen’ in a non-physical way? To what extent does copyright apply to the design of the book?

Research conditions
and facilities

Designers, critics and theoreticians are welcome to submit research proposals within the scope of the set theme. The following research conditions and facilities apply:

Candidates have a background in or have relevant experience in the fields of design, typography, publishing and/or editing.

Candidates are asked to state the period (for a maximum of 24 months) of their research period and when they can start their research. They can submit individual as well as joint proposals.

Candidates who are selected obtain the status of researcher in the Design department at the Jan van Eyck Academie.

The researcher is entitled to the artistic, general and technical preconditions stipulated by the Jan van Eyck Academie. He/she receives a monthly stipend of 680 euro.

The tomorrow book is coordinated by Filiep Tacq, advising researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie as far as content goes. A team of experts is appointed to guide the researchers.

The selection committee that assesses the project proposals consists of Koen Brams, Jouke Kleerebezem, Letterror, Lars Müller, Filiep Tacq, Daniël van der Velden en Astrid Vorstermans.

At the end of the research project a publication and/or production will be presented.