"The Evolution of Lists and the Future of E-Books"



Jul 08, 20234 min read


"The Evolution of Lists and the Future of E-Books"

Lists and e-books may seem like unrelated concepts, but upon closer examination, there are interesting connections between the two. Both have evolved over time, adapted to new technologies, and faced challenges in their respective industries. In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between lists and e-books and discuss the potential future of both.

Lists have always been a fundamental part of organizing information. From handwritten lists on paper to digital lists on our smartphones, they help us keep track of tasks, make decisions, and categorize information. However, the rise of the internet and the abundance of online content have made listmaking more complex.

One interesting observation is the difference between lists and folders. While folders are hierarchical structures for organizing files, lists are more dynamic and flexible. The fractal structure of lists can make it challenging to search and access information efficiently, especially when lists are nested within other lists. This raises questions about the user experience and the need for better organizing tools.

The internet itself can be seen as a vast collection of lists. Websites, search engine results, and social media feeds are all examples of lists that are constantly changing. The cadence, content type, and sort of these lists affect how we interact with them and find the information we need.

Listmaking has the potential to be a powerful tool for content publishing and discovery. By attracting dedicated listmakers, a platform can create a network of users who contribute valuable lists without having to create the content themselves. However, despite its obvious potential, listmaking has not yet seen a breakout success in the startup world.

There are two main modes of listmaking: making lists for oneself (task management) and making lists for others (publishing). While startups have focused on the former, there is untapped potential in building networks around the latter. By creating tools that make lists dynamic and actionable, and by facilitating interaction between listmakers and list readers, a startup could unlock the true value of listmaking.

Google's success in monetizing search can provide insights into how lists can be monetized. By matching users' searches with relevant lists and aggregating those matches for brands, Google created a valuable network effect. The challenge lies in creating the algorithms and infrastructure to generate and monetize intersecting points between random lists.

In the realm of e-books, there has always been a desire to replicate the experience of reading a physical book. However, attempts to imitate the look and feel of paper pages have often fallen short. E-books lack the "bookiness" that makes reading a tangible, sensory experience.

The history of books and their evolution offers lessons for the future of e-books. From clay tablets to parchment scrolls to printed books, each format shift brought new possibilities and changes in the way we consume and preserve knowledge. E-books have the potential to disrupt the publishing industry by offering new modes of distribution and searchability.

While commercial e-book platforms have focused on improving the reading experience, Google Books recognized the value of search in digital books. By scanning and digitizing millions of books, Google unlocked the ideas within them, making every written word searchable. This highlights the potential for a combined list site and discovery engine that could revolutionize content discovery on the internet.

The advent of AI has further transformed the concept of e-books. AI-powered tools like GPT allow us to interact with books in ways never before possible. We can chat with authors, analyze texts, and navigate through ideas with ease. E-books with AI have become more navigable and interactive than their paper counterparts, opening up new possibilities for knowledge preservation and engagement.

In conclusion, both lists and e-books have undergone significant transformations in response to technological advancements. Listmaking has the potential to be a powerful tool for content publishing and discovery, while e-books with AI offer new ways to interact with and preserve knowledge. To unlock the full potential of both, startups and platforms must focus on creating dynamic, actionable lists and enhancing the interactivity of e-books. By doing so, they can revolutionize how we organize information and engage with ideas.

Three actionable advice:

1. Focus on creating a network effect by attracting dedicated listmakers who contribute valuable lists.

2. Develop algorithms and tools that make lists dynamic and actionable, facilitating interaction between listmakers and list readers.

3. Explore the potential of AI in e-books to enhance interactivity, analyze texts, and create new modes of engagement with ideas.


  1. "Lists - AVC", https://avc.com/2015/11/lists-2/ (Glasp)
  2. "In Pursuit of a Better Book", https://every.to/p/in-pursuit-of-a-better-book (Glasp)

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