Enhanced ebooks: 'Is That All There Is?'

Image - iStockphoto: NattStudio
Image – iStockphoto: NattStudio

“Perhaps we are already discovering that this new world is a touch more fertile” for enhanced ebooks than we thought.

FutureChat promo boxOr is this wishful thinking on my colleague Philip Jones’ part?

His musings on this issue are timely, particularly as they came to us in his Tuesday FutureBook column, The smart book for a new market, before we had heard from Enders Analysis’ Douglas McCabe with what might be the darker basso continuo to Jones’ lyric baritone leader piece.

Think of them as two lines in a busy duet. Jones is singing the upbeat top line — opportunities seem to be opening for a resurgence of enhanced-ebook potential.

Douglas McCabe
Douglas McCabe

McCabe in Books and the second disruptive wave is taking the dogfight strand — you haven’t seen disruption yet, and the only way forward is to innovate, innovate, innovate.

Would a new term help you think this through? Jones is right that “complex,” as Penguin Random House deputy c.e.o. Ian Hudson is calling them, is not a bad one. “Complex ebooks,” even just “complex books,” inasmuch as just about any format or transmedial construct may be relevant if correctly fit to the content at hand. Such works could be made “complex” by their very availability to such enriched treatment.

We want to know what you think. Come to #FutureChat today and tell us. Have we been too quick to toss aside “enhanced ebooks,” “enriched ebooks,” “complex ebooks”? Are vanilla ebooks, replications of print, or “print under glass,” as Joe Wikert calls them, all we can expect? (No dissing print under glass, by the way, I love a grand immersive read that glows in the dark — ebooks had me as soon as they were backlit.)

You know what Jones and McCabe are singing, don’t you? It’s Peggy Lee. “Is That All There Is?” And it sounds to me like both of them are saying, “No, actually, we’d better hope there’s more we can do with these things.”

Let’s keep dancing.

This article was written as the walkup to our #FutureChat of 31 July. Join us every Friday for #FutureChat live on Twitter at 4:00 p.m. London (BST), 3:00 p.m. GMT, 5:00 p.m. Rome (CEST), 11:00 a.m. New York (ET), 10:00 a.m. Chicago (CT), 9:00 a.m. Denver (MT), 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles (PT), 5:00 a.m. Honolulu (HAST).

Anecdotal? You bet. 

But while McCabe is icily compelling with his and Joseph Evans’ new research indications that “the ebook challenge is now well understood,” Jones is sunnily optimistic, saying that the ebook opportunity is not so well understood yet.

game of thronesAnd gosh, did I mention this Game of Thrones app from HarperCollins UK that helps you sort out the story according to where you are in watching the show?

Jones talks to Hachette digital dauphin George Walkley and gets a major chorale of support in “considerable growth in apps, especially in illustrated/ lifestyle publishing, and particularly for Octopus, which has recently released the first colouring-in apps in the market and had 15,000 downloads for the Ella’s Kitchen [cookery] app in its first week”.

Ah. Colouring-in apps. Yes, well. Okay, so all the literary firmament may not break into song at this point, I grant you, but those colouring-in apps for our visually inclined friends can pay for my glow-in-the-dark, unadorned Man Booker longlist reads, right? Of course right. Colour me fine with this. Those folks weren’t going to read Tom McCarthy anyway … unless we make the cover of his book a colouring-in exercise…hm…don’t even think about it…but I’ll have my percentage, thank you, if you try colouring-in book covers on literary work…you read it here first…I’m liking this better and better, actually…great competitions for who coloured-in the best Go Set a Watchman book cover…we’ll be rich, I tell you, rich…might need a round of funding for this…

Philip Jones
Philip Jones

Jones also reminds us that PRH’s Hudson “told my colleagues that increasingly an important factor for the digital landscape in 2015 was that vanilla e-books “aren’t the only digital success story” for publishers, with Hudson pointing to its investment in audio and new distribution channels that service the non e-ink markets.”

Well audio, yes, we’re good with it and we know it’s in an expansion phase. Not for nothing did The Bookseller put up its first-ever audio download chart in June. “Hear, hear,” as my clever associates murmured.

And, look, you want something that really gets into the soul of a work and creates a “complex” rendition of it through the interactive capacity of digital? Then stand by for the coming Iain PearsArcadia, as foretold to us by Jones in Arcadia’s vision for a new way of reading from Faber. This isn’t a digital version of your cookery book, this is “a natively digital novel in how it is written, edited and read,” as our friend Henry Volans at Faber has called it. And if you don’t know this is exciting, then you aren’t paying attention.

As Jones writes about that one:

The publisher provides a hint about how it will work: “The app, presents all of the possible ways Iain Pears could have told the story, and lets anyone become the master of their own journey through the book. Readers can approach it as a series of traditional linear stories; or they can switch rapidly between tales and worlds. They can read, or leave out, sections as they choose. In the app, the entire story is mapped visually, and each reader’s map will become unique as it records their journey.” It will be free to download, with in-app purchases.

There’s more to this story: Read the rest

By Porter Ander­son  

The FutureBook:  #FutureChat on enhanced ebooks: ‘Is That All There Is?’

Read the full post at: TheBookseller.com/futurebook




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