Enhanced E-books

Just when you thought you were beginning to understand what an e-book was, along comes “enhanced e-books.” These are e-book editions that are being “enriched” with multimedia content. These kinds of books (or whatever they are) were unavailable as long as there were only e-book reading devices like the Kindle that handled text only files. But now that we have the iPad and other multimedia tablet knockoffs on the way, the door is wide open for all sorts of “content enrichments.”

Publication of enhanced editions seems to have begun with  the release of an enhanced version of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth   on July 20 of this year.  It   coincided with the television mini-series and includes content from that series. It has material about the characters in the show, an author interview, music from the 12th century, and behind the scenes material. The edition is available at the iPad store.

Not to be outdone,  on July 29 Simon and Schuster issued  an enhanced edition of  Rick Perlstein’s  Nixonland. Embedded in the text are news clips of the Nixon-Kennedy Debates, the death of Martin Luther King, and of course, all things Watergate.

Every major publisher seems to have joined the bandwagon and are making daily announcements of  enhanced e-book editions.

It’s pretty hard to predict how this will play out by next month,  let alone  next year. But we can expect to see such enhancements as: cooking demonstrations in cookbooks, author interviews in reading book editions, film clips in history books (like Nixonland) and all sorts of ways of exploiting media spin-offs. I wonder whether psychological self-help books will have clips of the psychotherapist-author sitting at his leather chair and thoughtfully rubbing his chin while staring out at the reader   and saying: ” Hmm. I see.”

The creative possibilities are infinite. Ask the Agent will let the reader decide whether this opens up a brave new world of literary enrichment or whether we will descend into a McCluhan-esque inferno.  I’m a little concerned that I won’t be able to sit down and read the newest translation of  Cervantes’ immortal Don Quixote, without  having to listen to  Andy Williams singing The Impossible Dream  in the backround.

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3 Responses to “Enhanced E-books”

  1. David Barron Says:

    As long as there’s an option to just read the plain version. Presumably this will be called the TradBook Enhanceature and cost an additional 99 cents.

    But actually, this is a trend I can get behind. I look on this as at least as dignified as illustrations in books, and sometimes I’d like to put some music in or a short animation. When these e-readers become more popular, I’d anticipate a mixed media book, where some of the scenes are video and some are text.

    Imagine, by way of example, a book about a mixed-martial artist where the brutal fights were in video embedded amongst the text scenes. It’s workable, with a good story.

    • andyrossagency Says:

      David, there are a lot of things you can do given the technology. About 20 years ago, there was a lot of talk in book publishing about “multimedia” books. It usually included a cd. It never really went anywhere, because the technology was clunky.

  2. cantueso Says:

    Well, I hope the Quixote is not as immoertal as you seem to think, and until recently I thought I was alone in my misgivings, but then I heard of Martin Amis:

    “Reading Don Quixote can be compared to an indefinite visit from your most impossible senior relative, with all his pranks, dirty habits, unstoppable reminiscences, and terrible cronies. When the experience is over, and the old boy checks out at last (on page 846 — the prose wedged tight, with no breaks for dialogue), you will shed tears all right; not tears of relief or regret but tears of pride. You made it, despite all that ‘Don Quixote’ could do.”

    Yes, I know he is adored by the literary elites in a somewhat nihilistic way as if they all had had an overdosis of Ecclesiastes. But here, in Spain, the kids have to read him, and since they can’t, they will have to fake it. And since the teacher hasn’t read this thing either, he cannot see that the fake.

    Geez is it depressing.

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