And now, with tablets selling at mind-boggling rates, book publishers are scrambling to figure out how to bring their ancient medium into the digital realm.Bookmakers must become multimedia companies — creating audio, video and interactive components for their immersive, built-for-tablets offerings.
They also face a dizzying array of decisions brought on by evolving standards and platforms: Should a certain book come to life as a dedicated app, an approach that, until iBooks 2 was released, offered more flexibility in terms of features like video and audio on the iPad? Or should it be turned into an “enhanced e-book,” which will work on Apple’s tablet as well as Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Barnes and Noble’s Nook and other devices, but must be re-created several times over to meet each device’s specs?
A few years ago, author Amanda Havard wasn’t able to find a publisher that could bring her book The Survivors to electronic life the way she wanted. So she and her father, L.C. Havard, a former executive for a company that developed technologies for the health insurance industry, formed a company called Chafie Pressto publish her books and create digital offerings. The app version of The Survivors, the first in a series of five books, integrates audio files of the music her characters are listening to (some of it produced by Chafie), pictures of the designer clothes they’re wearing, links to the characters’ Twitter accounts (Havard mostly runs them herself) and Google Maps of the places they visit.
“Our tagline is ‘reinventing storytelling’ and it’s the idea that we’re at this place where that’s really what we’re capable of doing,” the author said in an interview with Wired. “If you use the technology in the right way — so that it isn’t doing it just because you can — and it’s thoughtful and it’s high-quality content and it’s an approach that’s truly about creating a better story experience, then that’s totally what we should do.”
What could end up being a game changer in the e-book world is the ever-blossoming world of young-adult fiction like Havard’s. It’s a market that practically incubates early adopters, and with the rate YA literature is crossing over into mediums like film, the genre provides interesting opportunities for multimedia storytelling. In fact, new publisher Backlit Fiction seems to have been created almost entirely for that purpose. Backlit releases books, largely penned by television and film writers, as episodic apps and e-books. For Backlit co-founder and publisher Panio Gianopoulos, using digital books as a way to engage teenagers seems obvious since, as he notes, young adults spend tons of time reading — they’re just devouring text messages, Facebook updates and blogs.“Multimedia is more than a tie-in — done right it becomes a new kind of product entirely, a hybrid of book and film, or Facebook page and TV show, or something no one else has even thought of yet,” Giarraputo said in an e-mail to Wired.
As publishers and authors become accustomed to creating with e-books in mind, the immersive offerings should become more vital. It’s a scary and exciting time for book publishers, as the ink-and-paper industry reinvents itself to take advantage of new opportunities blossoming in the digital era.