Are readers fixed in how they read? One of the frustrations around the digital transition is that despite all of the under-the-hood changes to publishing, this digital re-wiring has stopped at the reader. Readers, by and large, read now how they did before e-books ever existed.
There have been valiant attempts to change this, of course. And many have foundered on the rocks of reader disinterest. Incredibly it is now more than three years since Evan Schnittman called time on the enhanced e-book during a speech at the London Book Fair which included within it a slide that featured a gravestone featuring the words “Enhanced E-books and Apps: 2009 to 2011″. He said: “Enhanced will have an incredibly big future in education, but the idea of innovation in the narrative reading process is just a non-starter, I’ve been smug about this, and now I’m even smugger.”
Despite, protestations at the time, Schnittman has yet to be proved wrong. As I wrote in my FutureBook blog last week, “What have we really found out from five years of Kindle? Readers like reading. And generally they like reading in an environment unencumbered by music, video and animation.”
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Most content innovations ‘fail’ not because the publisher or developer has done a bad job, but simply because the audience-size was not big enough to make the experiment scaleable. The CD-Rom failed not because those digital publishers got it wrong, but simply because the Internet came along and did a better job.
If publishers have learnt anything from the first enhanced e-book bubble then it was that even if you build it, they may not come. But equally they should know that they ought to be building it because inevitably change will come.
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According to Meyers, “most ebook experiments do a better job of showing off our devices rather than solving specific reader problems”. He wants digital to aid comprehension not, as Schnittman feared back in 2011, get in the way of the narrative.
Link to the rest at FutureBook