Books, Publishing

More on e-books

A couple weeks ago, I asked if e-books are the future, and linked to two articles that point to an answer of yes.

Yesterday, I read an article in PC Magazine called “How to Make E-Books Successful.” In it, Tim Bajarin talks about what the perfect e-book reader should be, such as light, easy to read, etc. But in the second page of the article, Bajarin also talks about the opportunity for interactivity that e-book reader should offer.

Bajarin says it would be cool to be able to, when you read Harry Potter on an e-book reader, for example, also get clips of the movie or 3D graphics. “Wouldn’t that make it a more interesting book?” he says.

Ok, I know I’m biased here, as a lover of books and a big fan of the Harry Potter series, but I find it a bit insulting that a book needs movie clips and 3D graphics to make it “more interesting.” If that’s the case, maybe the book shouldn’t have been published.

Now, as biased as I am, I’m also a realist, and I know that everyone, especially the kids who we want to make readers for life, have plenty more activities vying for their attention today: videogames, DVDs, more videogames, the Internet, more videogames. To get the attention of kids, a book must be really immersive, as immersive as World of Warcraft, or whatever is the hottest game of the moment. A book must build a world the reader can feel part of, characters the reader can fall in love with and a story the reader simply can’t put down. In a word, a book must be great.

Writers aren’t just competing with other writers (well, I don’t really believe they’re competing with other writers either; if a book is good enough, it will find a publisher some time; but that’s another post), they’re competing with videogames and movies, and their books should be just as exciting and entertaining, if not more so.

Bajarin does say in his article that the written word should be enough for readers, but he adds that for many books, that’s not the case, and those are the books that could use a little interactive jazzing up. I wouldn’t like to be the one to say that to an author, and frankly, if a publisher believed that, I doubt they would publish the book. But there might be a place for some interactivity in some e-books. Non-fiction books could link out to websites that give more information, or even have a thin — very thin, so as it doesn’t take away from the book — ad along the bottom of the page for some product that relates to the subject of the book. That could help pay for publishing, which might be good the way the publishing industry is going.

In the case of a novel that’s part of a series, maybe there’s a page at the beginning of the book that has links to websites where the other books can be downloaded, or even the movie adaptation bought. Perhaps links to the author’s website and places where other books from the same author can be bought. (I’m not a fan of ads in a novel. It’s too close a step before writers are comprising their story to fit in a plot line about their sponsor’s products.)

There is an idea from Bajarin that I really liked, however: e-books that contain an interview with the author, explaining the history behind the book and/or other things about her writing. As Bajarin said, “This would make a writer more of a real person to me, and not just another faceless author.” I think that would be the case with a lot of people and might help readers try other books from that author. That’s something I can definitely applaud.

What would you like to see in e-books?

Write On!

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