PolicyMic has an article looking at a “digital platform that’s about to revolutionize book publishing.” I have my doubts.
The platform is actually none other than The Atavist, which we’vecovered a few times since it was launched a couple of years back. It started out as a multimedia-enabled e-magazine for long-form journalism, which it still largely is. But it’s decided to bring its multimedia and interactivity chops to the world of books, too, by publishing an interactive, web-enabled version of a fiction book first, then bringing out a “hybrid” print book—“a paperback with the production quality of a hardcover,” whatever that means—once the on-line version has built buzz.
The article talks about the publisher’s debut novella, Sleep Donation by Karen Russell, described as “a dystopian novella about an insomnia epidemic that sweeps America.” The book is told in the form of a series of news updates, which gave the publisher the idea to create a tie-in website featuring other news stories from the same world. Atavist sees its mission as creating “an e-book that does more than just replicate the text of the print.”
For all of that, the Sleep Donation book itself appears to be just that—a bog-standard plain text e-book, selling for $3.99 at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and other such stores. Checking the sample reveals basically standard text, the same as any ordinary e-book. The article does admit that this is the case, but notes that future works are expected to include “multimedia, multi-level storytelling,” and other interactive features.
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But when you start getting into wanting to add interactivity and multimedia and all that, you run into the same problem that most such efforts have. Sure, you might want to make your e-book fancy, but when you get right down to it the current e-book ecosystem is made to support the plain text variety. That’s what e-ink readers are capable of. Vendor lock in might be a thing for moving from one e-book platform to another, such as Kindle to Nook, but it’s also a thing for the format as a whole. As Joanna pointed out a few weeks ago, people who read e-books read them with their specific e-book apps. They might not have space on their device to install a zillion different e-books outside that app’s format.
Even if the book has its own app for reading it within—the Atavist Reader, for example—if you make that reader necessary to read the book, you remove it from the Kindle/Nook/iBooks/Kobo ecosystem and effectively make it invisible to the vast majority of consumers who buy books via and for their Kindle/Nook/iBooks/Kobo e-reader or mobile app. As far as they’re concerned, it doesn’t exist.
Link to the rest at TeleRead
PG suggests there is already a form of literature incorporating extraordinary interactivity and highly-sophisticated multimedia. It’s called video games.
Videogames sell for about the same price that Big Publishing charges for a high-profile hardcover, but costs much, much more to produce as a commercial product than a printed book does. PG knows there is far more videogame expertise among visitors to TPV than he possesses, but he understands that commercial videogame success pretty much requires huge bestsellers (by book publishing standards) to cover production costs.
Another form of literature that is cheaper to produce and can easily include interactivity with video and audio enhancements is a blog or website.
While PG doesn’t discount the possibility of successful cross-over and blended versions of two or more of these products, he thinks pure versions will continue to exist and evolve along their own paths during the foreseeable future.