Enhanced Ebooks

Will Atavist Books really ‘revolutionize book publishing’?

26 March 2014

From TeleRead:

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.

. . . .

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.

Sensory Fiction

26 January 2014


Sensory fiction is about new ways of experiencing and creating stories.

Traditionally, fiction creates and induces emotions and empathy through words and images.  By using a combination of networked sensors and actuators, the Sensory Fiction author is provided with new means of conveying plot, mood, and emotion while still allowing space for the reader’s imagination. These tools can be wielded to create an immersive storytelling experience tailored to the reader.

To explore this idea, we created a connected book and wearable. The ‘augmented’ book portrays the scenery and sets the mood, and the wearable allows the reader to experience the protagonist’s physiological emotions.

The book cover animates to reflect the book’s changing atmosphere, while certain passages trigger vibration patterns.

Link to the rest at the MIT Media Lab and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

German Transmedia: Storytelling to Stimulate Several Senses

29 December 2013

From Publishing Perspectives:

Despite a firm distrust of term “enhanced ebook,” the buzz around transmedia storytelling has by no means died down. In fact, in the 10 years since media studies scholar Henry Jenkins helped popularize the term with his article “Transmedia Storytelling,” numerous examples of transmedia storytelling can be found in more and more disciplines. Jenkins’ initial definition characterized transmedia storytelling as storytelling in which “each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”

In the German publishing landscape, transmedia storytelling has been utilized to bring stories to life and enable reader involvement well beyond the book itself. Transmedia campaigns which combine media such as blogs, social media platforms, photos and videos to introduce readers to a book’s backstory are developed by creative digital and marketing agencies in cooperation with publishers and authors.

. . . .

One of their most recent collaborations is Deathbook, a serial thriller in 10 installments. Deathbook is more than a book — it’s a multimedia world that manifests itself throughout social media, on blogs and via QR codes, in which a horror story is brewing that threatens to spill over into real life. The concept is the brainchild of the German Rowohlt Verlag, a large publisher of trade fiction and nonfiction which belongs to the Holtzbrinck Group. Earlier this year, the publishing house enlisted thriller author Andreas Winkelmann to writeDeathbook, a digital serial novel about a string of inexplainable deaths related to the internet and a “network of death.” However, readers don’t have to wait for the first serial to be released to enter the story. On the “Posten und Sterben” (“post and die” ) blog, readers can delve into the story via the ramblings of a frightened blogger trying to warn the online community away from an evil force on the Internet.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Eric for the tip.

Intel Will Push Into The Education Content Market With Interactive Textbooks

11 November 2013

From TechCrunch:

We had a tip about, and have now confirmed,Intel’s latest acquisition: Kno, the education startup that started life as a hardware business and later pivoted into software — specifically via apps that let students read interactive versions of digitized textbooks.

“I can confirm Intel has purchased Kno,” a spokesperson told us just now.

. . . .

Intel has published a . . . statement . . . on its site, which points to how Kno will fit into Intel’s efforts to build up its business in the education market — an effort it is making both in wider efforts in hardware and software.

. . . .

To date, Kno’s apps can be accessed via its iPad, Android and Windows 7 and Windows 8 apps, and the main idea behind Kno is that the books are not only digitised but also include additional features to help students and teachers assess their progress, share information with others and generally get more engaged in the content.

“They are the same books, only smarter,” the company notes on its site.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

Why Does Everyone Keep Trying to Reinvent the Book?

21 October 2013

From The Digital Reader

A reader has brought my attention back to MadeFire. This is a 2 year old digital comics startup that has been getting a lot of attention lately, and according to FasctCo they plan to reinvent the comic book:

They’re hoping their new touch-publishing platform Motion Books will help artists and creative types fully embrace the power of mobile devices to create immersive reading experiences.

According to Madefire CEO Ben Wolstenholme, it’s not about throwing technology at digital publishing for technology’s sake—it’s still all about storytelling and the user experience. “Everything should serve the story. With traditional print, readers are pretty much limited to turning a page for a surprise or unexpected reveal. But with mobile devices and e-readers, it’s possible to do so much more” said Wolstenholme. “You can create a specific mood and atmosphere. You can use movement, sound, and visuals to enhance a story without taking away from it” he added.


Madefire produces a storytelling platform that incorporates the full range of a mobile device’s hardware to create a new form of digital storytelling that isn’t limited to turning pages — which is the universal method for advancing a story with books. Unlike the majority of digital comic books that were simply converted from print, motion books provide for artwork on a single page to move and interact with the reader (like swiping or tapping a touchscreen or moving the device to have artwork on a page shuffle around). A motion book’s story unfolds through layers of art, word balloons, and captions that unfold in sequence, which is sort of like reading a book that slowly fills a blank page with text as you read.


My opinion, in short, is that if I want moving images I will watch a movie. If I want a soundtrack I will load an mp3. And if I want interactivity in my novel I will play a computer game. But if I want to read I will open an ebook.

A book is not any of those other types of content, and trying to make a text into something resembling a game or movie misses the point of what a book is supposed to be.

See the rest, including the demo, here.

From Guest Blogger Randall 

Booktrack Lets You Add Soundtrack to Self-Published eBooks.

18 October 2013

From Media Bistro:

“Want to add a sound track to your self-published book? Check out, Booktrack, a new app that will let you add music or sound effects to your eBook.

“The application is available for iOS devices and as a Chrome app. You can use it to record audio tracks and then insert them into your text. Once you do so, you can export the files to sell the title within the Booktrack community where you can also shop for books with sound effects.”

Read the rest here:  APPNEWSER

Julia Barrett

A Book Is Never Really Done

17 October 2013

From The New America Foundation

When I started writing my first book in 2003, I’d been blogging for more than three years. I’d learned the value of a conversation with my readers. Most importantly, I’d absorbed the obvious truth that they knew more than I did. So, with the permission of my publisher, I posted chapter drafts of We the Media on my blog. The result was a variety of comments and suggestions, some small and some major, that in the end helped me produce a much better book.

That experiment was an early stab at bringing the Internet’s widely collaborative potential to a process that had always been collaborative in its own way: authors working with editors. The notion of adding the audience to the process was, and remains, deeply appealing.

Why so? It wasn’t only the fantastic prepublication feedback that appealed to me. It was also the potential for thinking about a book as something that might evolve.

* * *

The most famous Internet collaboration is the one almost everyone uses, at least as a reader: Wikipedia. Editing isn’t terribly difficult, though not nearly simple enough for true newbies. Even if it were, Wikipedia isn’t a book with an author’s voice—and isn’t meant to be. Yet it shows many of the ways forward, including the robust discussions in the background of the articles. Wikipedia articles are also living documents, changing and evolving over time. Could books be like that?

* * *

The book world has already gone through major shifts in recent years, even if the biggest traditional publishers have tried to hold back the tide. We’re still early in this transition, perhaps the third inning if it’s a baseball game. When books can truly become living documents, it won’t be game over—it never is—but we’ll be in a much more interesting, and valuable, publishing ecosystem.

See the rest here.


Augmented Reality Storytelling

22 September 2013

From Publishing Perspectives:

Reality has many faces. So does fiction. Now we can add another one to the list thanks to the latest technologies and innovative storytelling concepts. “Augmented reality storytelling” definitively removes the boundaries between fiction and reality, between reality and virtuality. The use of 3D effects, holograms, animations, and geotagging allows media users to think of themselves as being right at the heart of the action, rather than just along for the ride in their novels, fantasy games or comedies…

. . . .

As part of this year’s Storydrive program at the Frankfurt Book Fair on October 11 international storytelling pioneers and experts in the field of “augmented reality” will field questions from the audience.

. . . .

Among those speaking will be Drew Davidson—professor, producer and interactive gamer. His background spans academic, industry and professional worlds and he is interested in stories across texts, comics, games and other media. He is the Director of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University and the Founding Editor of ETC Press and its Well Played series and journal.

“I believe the future of storytelling is going to build on its past,” said Davidson. “Stories have always been a participatory experience regardless of the medium, as both authors and audience engage in the relating of stories. So while interactive technologies are enabling new and exciting ways to share stories, the experience is still going to center around the quality of the story told and our ability to get lost in fictional worlds.

So, What are the key factors of successful cross-media communication?

I think the key is providing the audience with narrative reasons to engage across media. Give us a story with characters and events that we care about, and give us a reason to feel like we’re a part of that experience, and we’ll engage.

. . . .

Please complete the following sentence: In five years time, creative entertainment means…”

…that the audience has the possibilities to not only engage in stories told by others, but to create stories of experiences of their own that they can share.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Unfulfilled promise of e-books

12 September 2013

From Poynter:

I spent my vacation reading from pixels instead of paper.

I read e-book versions of “Bruce,” a Springsteen biography by Peter Ames Carlin, and Dan Brown’s bestselling novel “Inferno.” Both had great potential for extra audio and video that could have created a much richer experience. But the e-books offered no more than the ink-on-paper versions.

My disappointing experience offers a lesson for news organizations that are considering selling e-books because its shows how legacy media is still thinking like … legacy media. Book publishers still have an old-school mentality —  like many newspaper editors.

E-books offer great opportunities for magazine and newspaper editors because the digital versions can include video, audio and other content that will enrich a story.

. . . .

I’m a longtime Springsteen fan and was happy to find a biography that presented an honest account of his rise to stardom. Carlin shows Bruce warts and all — his petty behavior with girlfriends and his creative struggles as he recorded great albums such as “Born to Run.”

But while music is central to the story, you’ll have to be satisfied with Carlin’s words because the e-book doesn’t have any audio. There undoubtedly are hours and hours of video and audio that would complement Carlin’s smart prose. It would be easy to mix them into the e-book at key points to give the reader (listener? viewer?) a more fulfilling experience.

Instead, all we get is prose and some old Springsteen family snapshots.

Carlin told me by email that an enhanced multimedia version “is something I’ve definitely mused upon, dreamed about, etc. But it’s also very tricky terrain, given the verities of who owns what recordings and/or song publishing, and the costs of clearing rights for publication, and so on. I’m sure such enhanced books will soon be commonplace, but most likely as artist-approved projects, I think.”

Link to the rest at Poynter and thanks to Abel for the tip.

Enhanced ebooks v. Collector’s Hardcovers

7 July 2013

From Dear Author:

Enhanced ebooks have been the talk of publishing for quite some time, primarily because I believe publishers thought that they could halt price erosion with the promise of a book that had extras. Enhanced ebooks really haven’t taken off, but companies like Vook still remain attractive the publishing world.

Possibly the best selling and most memorable enhanced ebook I can think of is The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. It’s a children’s book that could be read as a flat, illustrated story and is sold as such, but the enhanced ebook provides additional delights such as the ability to play Pop Goes the Weasel on a particular page.

. . . .

Harlequin tried the enhanced ebook with Nicola Cornick’s Unmasked back in 2008 and offered “interactive buttons that hyperlink to Web sites containing photos, historical commentaries, illustrations, sound effects, maps, articles and more.” The book is no longer for sale.

. . . .

With the deep penetration of tablets into the reading market, enhanced ebooks could definitely be more attractive than they were back in 2008. I think the consensus in 2011, when I stopped going to tech conferences, was that the approach to enhanced ebooks had to be holistic rather than simply adding on features to an existing project. More The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore than a content stuffed into an existing classic.

The problem, however, is cost.  The cost of producing The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is huge in comparison to taking an existing text an adding videos, a few pages of commentary, and a photo or two.  I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a market or that publishers (and self published authors) shouldn’t consider this, but with Amazon’s patent suggesting that it can create enhanced ebooks on the fly, true enhanced books will likely be more app than book.

Link to the rest at Dear Author

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