Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jasper Fforde Mysteries: The Original Enhanced Book

[Readers who aren't yet familiar with enhanced e-books may want to take a quick look at some of the Publishers Weekly stories on them recently, with great examples:]

Earlier today, I found myself responding to an e-list in the mysteries field, where some authors were mentioning levels of pleasure but more often discomfort with their vision of enhanced e-books, giving as an example a Lord of the Rings reading experience that would include the film -- and effectively saying, "Let's read them first as text and see the bells and whistles afterward."

Well, I don't think the enhanced e-book is going to be such a small change after all! So I wrote the following:
I think we're going to see far more interesting "enhancements" than the equivalent of a DVD with a director's cut. First of all, though, I think it's very likely that readers will have choices on how much enhancement they want at any point in the reading process. You'll be able to click on "usual settings" that allow your reading device to deliver your preference -- which may be for just text, or text with illustrations, or text with soft jazz underneath, you name it. Color and speed will be variable. Font size, easily changed (oh blessings for us mid-lifers). Language (think of the possibilities for dual-language "facing pages" as we've known them in some books; think of being able to discuss texts with readers around the globe).

Then I think there will be accepted levels and types of enhancement for different types of books. Children's picturebooks may have read-aloud settings that push children to sound things out or praise them for finding particular words or letters. Animal sounds, character voices, colors, you name it -- again, with some sort of controls for who gets how much, and when. Chapter books may have auto reward settings to encourage slow readers. For readers who tend to skim too quickly, there could be embedded responses needed -- if you can't say "why" Carla arrived at the house of the duck, you can't open the next chapter. Go back and re-read.

I'll leave middle grades and YA novels to your imagination.

Nonfiction will be entirely different, I think, with levels of footnoting, hyperlinking, and activity online all optional. Maps will be wonderful! So will bibliographies, which will become both clearer and more (optionally) extensive. And again, there will be options on language, global presence, commentary (think about the levels in religious texts, all controllable by the reader), and interaction with text, author, and reading communities. Art and culture will become part of ordinary learning, instead of being additions provided by clever teachers to bright students who finish the assignments early.

Oh Brave New World, that has such readers in it!
OK, the reason I just posted it here in full is this: I suddenly realized that Jasper Fforde's absurdly wonderful "crime fiction" series in an alternate reality where books can change, characters emerge to do mischief, plots warp into daily life -- has been prescient! That's what the enhanced e-book will FEEL like! We are in for a grand adventure, and I take particular delight in seeing that it's going to integrate global mysteries in fresh new ways, too. Hurrah!!!

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