Enhanced Ebooks

Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?

12 October 2014

From Douglas Quenqua at the New York Times

. . .

For years, child development experts have advised parents to read to their children early and often, citing studies showing its linguistic, verbal and social benefits. In June, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised doctors to remind parents at every visit that they should read to their children from birth, prescribing books as enthusiastically as vaccines and vegetables.

On the other hand, the academy strongly recommends no screen time for children under 2, and less than two hours a day for older children.

At a time when reading increasingly means swiping pages on a device, and app stores are bursting with reading programs and learning games aimed at infants and preschoolers, which bit of guidance should parents heed?

. . .

Part of the problem is the newness of the devices. Tablets and e-readers have not been in widespread use long enough for the sorts of extended studies that will reveal their effects on learning.

Dr. Pamela High, the pediatrician who wrote the June policy for the pediatrics group, said electronic books were intentionally not addressed. “We tried to do a strongly evidence-based policy statement on the issue of reading starting at a very young age,” she said. “And there isn’t any data, really, on e-books.”

But a handful of new studies suggest that reading to a child from an electronic device undercuts the dynamic that drives language development.

. . .

Of course, e-book publishers and app developers point to interactivity as an educational advantage, not a distraction. Many of those bells and whistles — Clifford’s bark, the sleepy narration of “Goodnight Moon,” the appearance of the word “ham” when a child taps the ham in the Green Eggs and Ham app — help the child pick up language, they say.

. . .

Read the full article at the New York Times

The criticisms in the article seem to be directed at enhanced e-books of the sort that feature animation, narration, and extras. Neither the author nor the experts he quotes seems to know that there is such a thing as electronic books for children that function pretty much like paper books.

Welcoming-a-returning-PG vacation guest post by Bridget McKenna

Changing the DNA of the reader

23 April 2014

From FutureBook:

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.”

. . . .

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.

. . . .

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

We Haven’t Even Started

22 April 2014

From Hugh Howey:

This is only the beginning, folks. Very few people appreciate where this is going. Projections for the future of e-books are wrong, and it’s because the people making these projections lack imagination. They seem to think all the advances in storytelling have already been made, and it’s just a question of how much current technology will scale.

But the advances have barely begun. I’d like to take you on a brief tour of our reading future to give you a glimpse of how much growth and possibility are left.

. . . .

Now imagine you have a book in your hands. A beautiful hardback with faux leather and a silk ribbon bookmark. There is no technology in this book. It’s just paper, the finest quality paper and binding money can buy. And every single page is perfectly blank. There is nothing written in the book. But you carry it everywhere you go.

When you open the book up, what do you see? The last page you read. Text is overlaid in your vision by your glasses or your contacts or implants. The quality of the text is just as high as a printed book. The words stick to the page. Even when you curl a page to turn to the next one, the text bends and warps just as you’d imagine. There is no way to distinguish this book from the printed kind. And yet it has many of the benefits of an e-book. Unlimited storage in the cloud. Immediate purchase of any book you want. Scalable fonts. And more.

You can watch video on any page if you like. You can look up words and make highlights. You can even write with your finger, and the camera captures the text you are drawing and adds the notes in the margin. You can turn footnotes and endnotes on or off. And if the book you’re reading is longer than your printed tome, it’ll direct you to turn back to the beginning when you run out of pages. Two people could read on the same book simultaneously, even if they were different books.

. . . .

Other developments will come from outside the book world. The biggest one on the immediate horizon is the self-driving car, which is less than a decade away. Consider how this will change our media habits: All of our commuting hours will now be open for the consumption of entertainment. Sure, most people will use this time to improve themselves and their lives with Candy Crush and all sorts of inanity. Others will watch TV or films. But many people will do what you see subway and train commuters doing: They’ll read.

Link to the rest at Hugh Howey and thanks to Sandra for the tip.

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.


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