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OPLIN 4Cast #207: Digitally enhanced books

Posted in 4cast

books and globeWe often may think of e-books as a variation of print books, only with the words delivered to an e-book reader rather than impressed on paper. But the fact that e-books exist in digital form creates the possibility of opening the text to interaction with other digital formats, such as digitized video, audio, and the entire World Wide Web. That type of interaction with other content can result in a new, enhanced reading experience. Although there have been some inroads in this direction using e-books for adults—see Copia, for example—most of the innovations to date have involved books for children and young adults. The first step has been clever enhancements of printed books with digital content, but now we are seeing an increasing number of enhanced e-books, or “book apps,” that are strictly digital.

  • Children’s fantasy novel engages readers with augmented reality (ReadWiteWeb/Chris Cameron)  “The novel [The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi] features special emblems on three of its pages which can be used to unlock the augmented reality experience. By holding the emblems in front of their webcam, readers will see a somewhat-interactive 3D map that helps them picture the world of the novel. Animations and sounds play automatically as the experience guides the user around the map.”
  • Interactive books (‘E’ not included) (New York Times/Sam Grobart)  “These three books point to a medium in transition. They still require readers to jump from book, to computer, back to book again. But with the rise of e-readers and other tablet devices like Apple’s iPad, I have to imagine that some author is hard at work creating a fully digital experience that combines text, video, animation and data. Books, movies and video games will all contribute to this new form of storytelling, and I would not be surprised if it happens to children’s and young adult literature first.”
  • On an innovative device, apps lacking imagination (New York Times/Alice Rawsthorn)  “As for books, children’s titles are leading the way with apps that include animated illustrations, often activated by the reader. My favorites are the fabulously surreal ones in ‘Alice for the iPad,’ Atomic Antelope’s interactive version of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and Oceanhouse Media’s ‘Dr. Seuss’ apps. Kids can ‘play’ the Dr. Seuss stories like movies—saving you from reading the same one again and again. Each word is highlighted when it is spoken on the soundtrack.”
  • Enhanced Narnia e-book has promise, restrictions (Wired/Tim Carmody)  “…the visually rich and conceptually encyclopedic nature of the books means that adding maps, illustrations, animations, reference guides, and timelines actually become very useful reading aids. Add in audio readings and commentaries, critical essays, and you have something that could become the equivalent of a deluxe DVD edition of a beloved book.”

Publishing fact:
Major publishers are currently trying to determine how to price and market enhanced e-books. According to the Wall Street Journal, HarperCollins has only eleven enhanced e-books in their catalog to date, but are intrigued by the possibility that about half of consumers would be willing to pay significantly more for enhanced e-books as opposed to standard e-books.