Books and Publishing in the Digital Age
Ebooks have largely been criticized for being too similar to print editions, but a trend towards incorporating more dynamic and interactive features has led to some truly inventive new ebook designs. Shuffle, winner of Best Fiction Ebook at the 2013 Publishing Innovation Awards, is an e-novel that contains seven stories which a reader can “shuffle” through. The image of an iPod serves as the table of contents and reflects the concept behind the innovative novel: the reader decides the order of the novel. The seven stories are all related to the novel’s theme of probability and chance, and the reader’s choices affect the plot’s structure and ending.
Writer and digital producer Chris Rickaby set out to create a novel that could embrace digital media in a way that would set it apart from a traditional print version. The e-novel’s website Lulzlit.com, produced by a fiction-collective of seven writers working under the name James T. Raydel, was a finalist for Best Transmedia Project at this year’s Publishing Innovation Awards.
Considering the infinite possibilities allowed by digital media, most ebooks veer only slightly from physical books. Perhaps to make the transition to reading on mobile devices easier for readers, ebooks have retained the same format, tools, and appearance of print books. When ebooks and print books vary so little in function, the debate over which version readers prefer essentially comes down to issues of comfort and mobility. As studies show, a number of readers want ebooks to provide the same characteristics as physical books: pleasing aesthetics, good content, and a relaxing read.
Readers want good stories and narratives that they can immerse themselves in. When the multimedia components become too intrusive, the story becomes secondary to the technology’s bells and whistles. The graphics and effects should complement the story and be made available at the reader’s convenience. Interactive books and apps that offer an experience similar to a video game are marketed as such and might not be something that all readers are eager to purchase.
More ebook writers and publishers are learning to take chances and push the boundaries past what traditional print books cannot offer in a reading experience. The emergence of ebooks such as Shuffle that seamlessly incorporate digital media and effectively use the technology to enrich the story will likely pave the way for new ebook expectations.