What Are Enhanced Ebooks?

January 19th, 2010 · 61 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

Short answer: nobody knows.

Longer answer: the magic elixir publishers are injecting into ebooks in hopes they will entice people to pay higher prices.

As you might guess, I am a bit of an “enhancement” skeptic. I have a few reasons. First, they feel like an attempt to skip the walking phase. Right now ebooks are crawling, technical quality-wise, and enhanced ebooks will be (theoretically) leaping and pirouetting. Second, what is being proposed in some publisher statements sounds a lot like standard print material (reader guides) and marketing fluff. Finally, I’m not sure readers are clamoring for enhanced ebooks as much as they’d like publishers to rethink what a “book” is.

First, let’s talk about the technical quality. We could debate the quality of content and editing until the cows come home. We could restart the debate when the cows go wherever cows go when they’re not home. And so on. I believe publishers too readily dismiss reader comments about bad books, value, and price; it hurts the publisher argument because it’s not the job of readers to make the right format and pricing decisions. That’s a discussion for another day.

What I’m talking about is the actual ebook. How it looks, how it flows, how it works for readers.

Right now, most commercial ebooks are treated as exact (but not really exact, which is a problem when it comes to value perception) replica of the print version. Right down to nonsensical elements like references to page numbers within the digital text. The process of taking the final print layout and converting it to an ebook ignores the basics of ebook creation. It cheapens the product sold to readers.

It seems that publishers have been seduced by outsourcing and are neglecting the basic production tasks that are required for ebooks to actually become working books. Readers lack the visual clues of print to guide them; it’s the job of publishers to figure out how digital books can be presented, from better, more logical tables of content and indices to content flow that makes sense (we really don’t need all those breathless press clips about how great the author is…since we’ve already bought the book).

Basics. Get those right first.

Then comes the “enhancements” that really aren’t. Way back in December of last year — oh so long ago! — Macmillan announced a genius plan to sell enhanced ebooks. Naturally, being a publishing company, this meant selling ebooks for higher prices than the hardcover print books:

The special editions, which will include author interviews and other material, such as reading guides, will carry a list price slightly higher than the hardcover edition.

Sigh. Big fat sigh. So silly additional materials of questionable value, materials that are commonly included in the trade paperback version of books will now be added to ebooks and the price will go up? I can only imagine the gleeful rubbing of hands and diabolical cackles that accompanied this announcement. “Take that, Amazon! We’ll add crazy value to those ebooks. People will go nuts for…reading guides!”

These are not enhancements. These are marketing materials. If you, the publisher, cannot distinguish between the two, it makes my heart hurt. Remember point one about the basics? Go back, review that, take notes, ask yourself how you can make the actual ebooks you’re publishing today achieve the same level of quality as the print books.

Note: stop pretending print is the “real” version of the book. That kind of thinking doesn’t help you. Especially as we move into point three.

Finally — and setting my overall skepticism aside — we come to Unicorn. Yesterday, the Internets were abuzz with word that HarperCollins was talking to Apple about…something (By the way, if publishers weren’t talking to Apple, that would be news. It’s fracking January 2010.). What were they discussing? Oh right, this:

Brian Murray, the chief executive of HarperCollins, said in December that e-books enhanced with video, author interviews and social-networking applications could command higher retail prices for publishers than current e-books.

What would be more interesting, truly interesting, would be if Murray had said something along the lines of, “We are taking a hard look at how we package and sell our products, and will be rethinking how we publish certain types of books.” Setting aside the fact that we already have the technology to do amazing things with video, author interviews, and social networking applications — it’s called the “web” — there are many books that could easily command higher digital prices by providing more consumer value.

(I am speaking on this very topic at next week’s Digital Book World, with real-world examples!)

Publishers Lunch reports that what is actually emerging from the Big Six negotiations* is an “agency model” which allows publishers to set their own prices while Apple takes a commission (reg. required for link). It sounds a lot like the ebook version of scan based trading, where retailers don’t actually purchase inventory, taking a cut only at point of sale.

(I’m going to say this approach, in theory, is a good thing for all retailers; it makes no sense to “buy” an ebook, hold it in virtual inventory, then “sell” it.)

This may change tomorrow, the situation is apparently very fluid, and it’s not going to significantly impact the market shares of other book retailers, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, unless the publishers offer a superior experience to their customers. The existing retail leaders have the advantage of multiplatform strategies.

Done right, video and other elements can be great complements to books, but it has to be done right. The Publishers Lunch article linked above expands on Brian’s Murray’s comments, suggesting at least one publisher is taking a hard look at the value proposition, using real-time updates and information to expand the work. This would only work for certain books; Murray speculates about the possibilities for a book like Game Change, saying, “In my opinion, this type of consumer experience has value equal to or close to the value of a hardcover book – or more than twice the consumer price of current ebook bestsellers.”

A few months ago, I suggested that had Twelve released a truly enhanced edition of True Compass, taking advantage of a multimedia approach to tell the story of Ted Kennedy, the possibility for charging more than hardcover price existed. Granted, some licensing fees for the media would change the economics, but the idea of making the digital book more than a replica of the print is where the value aspect will take hold. Michael Cairns of Personanondata offers his own take on this concept.

Still the other aspects of the digital book have to be done right. Did I mention the importance of focusing on the basics? I’d feel so much better about these propositions if the foundation of ebooks were more solid.

Bottom line is that we already have the technology to “enhance” books and publishers aren’t using it. I am not sanguine about the idea that millions of people are going to shell out a purported $1,000 merely to read books. They’ll be purchasing a new type of multimedia machine, and reading books will certainly be done on the Unicorn. The device is a tool, not a cure-all. Targeting the, take a breath, iPod/iTouch/iPhone/Unicorn consumer is, well, targeting a niche. Whatever happens in the world of enhanced ebooks, it has to happen in the world of Android. On the real web. In the entire mobile space.

And it has to be truly valuable, not some marketing person’s notion of value.

* – Nice of six companies to try to set the table for everyone else, no?

File Under: Non-Traditional Publishing

61 responses so far ↓

  • Matt Hilliard // Jan 19, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I share your skepticism about enhanced ebooks, but I’m also skeptical that anyone really is clamoring for people to “rethink what a ‘book’ is”. Whenever some new iteration on technology comes along there’s a lot of breathless talk about bold new possibilities. But we’ve already been through the multimedia revolution once…maybe even several times. Remember when computer CD-ROMs were new and were going to change everything? Where are my interactive movies and video encyclopedias? All CD-ROMs actually did was provide a better way to get lots of data to people than 15 floppy disks. Video games look better now but they still have very little to do with movies.

    Looking at the last twenty years, there’s been a ton of change in how content is being delivered, but how different is the content itself? People still listen to songs, watch videos, read newspapers, and play games. Their songs may come from iTunes and their newspaper articles may be online, but it’s just a change in delivery.

    That’s not to say these things will never change, merely that they are resilient. The economics of producing content haven’t kept up with the changes in delivery. Adding video to a book is probably going to be a disaster, because people are used to Hollywood quality. Anything less looks shabby. Unfortunately Hollywood quality is expensive. The solution to ebook profit margins isn’t dramatically increasing the cost of producing books. What is going to be rethought is not the book, but the publisher. Right now they edit, distribute, and publicize. Technology is providing better ways of distribution and publicizing, so in my uninformed opinion in twenty years authors will pay editors (or do without) rather than vice versa and post their work on some Youtube-equivalent.

  • Kat Meyer // Jan 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Two words: Enhanced Editions. Peter Collingridge (I should have a post about what he and his crew are up to lately up before end of day) et al are the gang behind the Nick Cave BUNNY MUNRO iphone app. And they have many forthcoming cool tricks up their sleeve. Their enhancements are actual enhancements. Stuff you’d buy separately if it weren’t part of the app already.
    anyway, i’m a gushy fan gurl…i’ll shut up now.

    (#perfect10diet FTW!)

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 19, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    @kat – Exactly!

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    @matt — If you look at the way the web is going, you’ll see that there has been a dramatic shift in how people access information. That, in my mind, is a major shift, something that really happened after CD-ROMs were going to change the world. That was bad technology and the consumer knew it. Today’s consumer, particularly in certain categories, expects a different kind of access to information. It’s the same content, but the delivery method will be more in tune with how people actually use the information. Printed, bound, linear is a fine format, but not necessarily the *best* format for some content.

    I don’t think people want the novel rethought in an overly dramatic fashion, but they expect various kinds of non-fiction to be rethought. Computer/tech books, for example. Programmers don’t want out-of-date printed material. They want access to current information, sometimes as the book is being written. Cookbooks are another area where consumers want modern thinking.

  • Robin Mizell // Jan 19, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    I think and hope all the excitement is really about delivering access to ebooks that are stored in the cloud. Apple’s new tablet plus iTunes, or a device with a browser plus Google Editions/Lala, can make it possible. Amazon is certainly capable of offering the same ebook service. Resuscitate the competition. Give the content a place to reside where it can grow, evolve, and be constantly updated, yet also be readily available for the purchaser to view and mark with comments and links. THEN you can start to think about enhanced ebooks. Finally, things seem to be headed in the right direction, but you’re right, Kassia, still at a crawl.

  • Kelly Lind // Jan 19, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Hopefully you’ll take a look at and enjoy our enhanced eBook of ‘War of the Worlds’ available as a free download, sponsored by iTaggit:
    http://www.wowio.com/users/product.asp?BookId=758
    It come with 2 audio files embedded in it, one of which is the radio dramatization by Orson Welles. I’m not sure if it fits everyone’s definition of an ‘enhanced eBook,’ but we’d like to think it does.

  • iamtheangel.com // Jan 19, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    this is kind of like the hollywood scam of reselling repackaged movies to you via special edition dvds. more extras! more scenes! more money for us!

  • Jackie (Farm Lane Books) // Jan 20, 2010 at 7:17 am

    I agree that publishers have to get the ebook basics right first, but once they’ve done that then I think there is a place in the market for enhanced versions.

    I love the author extras found in some trade paperbacks and would be willing to pay extra for them. If the book is particularly hard to understand then I’d quite like the study guide too. Added extras such as audio, maps and glossaries would all be great extras. As long as there is a basic ebook version, so people have the choice then I think enhanced versions can only be a good thing.

  • Rich Adin // Jan 20, 2010 at 7:18 am

    I’d like to suggest that you take a look at the series of posts I have made at my blog http://www.americaneditor.wordpress.com, particularly my post The eBook Wars: Adding “Extras” to Shore Up Price (http://wp.me/pKZEY-F). This is an idea whose time came and passed within a nanosecond.

  • Mark Barrett // Jan 20, 2010 at 7:23 am

    Kassia,

    In my admittedly sleep-deprived state, when I read the words ‘Enhanced Books’ in your Twitter note my brain crossed a wire with all the male-enhancement ads online and on TV these days, and came up with this twist on a very tired joke:

    “Is that a copy of Moby Dick in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?”

    As to the serious matter of your post, I agree in all aspects. Enhanced books are a Web-2.0-ish variation on simple hyperlinked text, and one of the things I think we’re all surprised by these days is the fact that even though hyperlinking is readily available it’s neither freely used nor routinely demanded by most content.

    As you rightly point out, all this talk about Enhanced Books is marketing speak. Companies are trying to create demand in a market space that doesn’t yet exist by talking about all the wonderful possibilities, when in fact they’ve failed miserably to address the basics.

    Good post.

  • David G Shrock // Jan 20, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Tech/training books can easily take advantage of digital books. Training videos are cumbersome, and training books often fall short showing details. Add in something like Vook, interactive diagrams, and updated material and we have the perfect book for education and training.

    Yes, overdue on thinking about how layout on an eBook should work. Baby steps. We have many designers still thinking print, still finding better ways to interact on web.

  • Sean Platt // Jan 20, 2010 at 8:52 am

    I couldn’t agree more, but what really got me to stop and comment was the complete adoration I have for this simple sentence:

    “These are not enhancements. These are marketing materials. ”

    Right on, sister.

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  • Theresa M. Moore // Jan 20, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    A while ago Amazon announced that it was going to “enhance” digital books on its marketplace by adding advertising patches FOR OTHER BOOKS and videos. I don’t know how far that has gotten, since a bunch of authors have said that if Amazon does that they will pull their books out of circulation. It is not fair to try and use the wonderous existence of an ebook as an excuse to market to an audience weary of television ads and the continual hype. Readers will read books and look for more. Adding media content to a book which must be laid out so primitively (as it is with DTP) is a no-win situation, IMHO.

  • Perry Gretton // Jan 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    As someone with shelves full of outdated technical books, I would welcome e-books that were always current, had embedded how-to videos, didn’t include advertising, and weren’t in a proprietary format (sorry, Amazon).

  • Joe Clark // Jan 20, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    This post needs an editor.

    Existing E-books need correct copy (with no scanning errors, no neutral quotation marks, no fake en or em dashes) with correct markup. For ePub, that means XHTML 1.1, a simple, highly semantic specification absolutely no mainstream publisher can manage. This should come as no surprise, as their Web sites (also HTML) suck.

    If you’re doing this right, which nobody is, the original format of your manuscript is HTML; semantic markup isn’t a conversion format but the native format.

    Nobody wants animated anything in their “books.”

    A continuously-updating book is something out of 1984. Parts of your own book become unpublished before your very eyes, with no change history.

    Readers ought to check my blog post about my own experience, with references to Ben Hammersley.

  • Dave // Jan 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Here’s a great opportunity for an enhanced e-book: I just read “Pops,” Terry Teachout’s new biography of Louis Armstrong. The rags-to-riches story was interesting, but because I’m not a trained musician, I stumbled on technical descriptions of the trumpeter’s genius. I found myself reading with a laptop nearby, so I could listen to Armstrong’s recordings. It would have been so much better if an e-book had the songs, as well as Teachout’s commentary on certain musical passages. I’d pay more for that.

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  • John Maxwell // Jan 20, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Kassia, thanks for today’s rant. I have just been through my daily RSS, and I can’t believe what a quantity of nausea-inducing chin-wagging on the interwebs today… your post is a breath of fresh air.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 21, 2010 at 12:23 am

    @john thank you. I live to serve. I’m fairly certain you’re thinking along the same lines.

    @joe — Agreed! Are you offering to do the editing? And, yes, you are correct in what you say. Getting technical is for another forum, but getting technical is what we need to do next.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 21, 2010 at 12:25 am

    @dave — Brilliant. What a great example of an enhanced ebook. An integrated experience would be perfect. I hope you don’t mind if I use this in other contexts because, wow, so good.

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  • J. M. Cornwell // Jan 22, 2010 at 9:28 am

    A friend sent me this link this morning.
    http://money.cnn.com/2010/01/21/technology/ebook_pricing.fortune/index.htm

    Publishers just do not get it. If they price ebooks the same as hardbacks, they are going to lose a huge chunk of their customer base because people will not pay hardback price for a book they cannot even touch, even with enhanced features. Publishers are letting greed get in the way and they are completely missing the point. Ebooks do not have covers or paper pages and do not cost as much to produce, so readers are not getting the same value for the cost. However, ebooks make it possible to sell books internationally without all the problems with customs and VATs and other costs, making their books available to a larger audience. If major publishers keep this up, they will find themselves out of business and micro-publishers taking their profits.

  • Adrian // Jan 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I think that enhanced ebooks are kind of like the special features on DVDs, most of it is junk that nobody is ever going to bother with, but there is probably always something of interest in it.

  • Joe Clark // Jan 23, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Kassia, the mistake you and, from what I can tell, the entire industry is making is assuming that writers are sensitive artistique dears holed up in æries pecking out their cultural œuvres, which some techy comes along later and converts “to computers.”

    If you’re a writer or an editor who claims to give a damn about E-books, you have to be able to write your own perfect HTML. Your manuscript’s canonical form, not a version of it, must be HTML. And, I repeat, it has to be perfect.

    This is well beyond the capability of most writers, so I know a form of post-facto conversion will be necessary. But it is harmful, especially in a forum that is computers, to perpetuate the notion that All That Technical Stuff We Can Just Leave for Another Day.

    You have to be technical. You have to learn certain skills. If you can’t, fine, but don’t pretend it’s something we can just put off or isn’t your business.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 23, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    @joe — You completely misunderstand me. I don’t buy into the author as artiste crap. Once you make the shift from writer to author, then you make the shift from artist to professional. I do know some authors who feel they are delicate flowers, but they are few and far between. And I could not agree with you more on the point of coding and HTML, though I will disagree that well-formed HTML is beyond the capability of authors. I am fully aware of the problems facing the production of ebooks. I personally believe a lot of bad business decisions are being made, and I do talk about them. It’s more than just HTML. Cheap production is contributing to the value perception. HTML is only part of the problem.

    It is easy for us to say that authors and publishers must do this, must do that. When you look at the reality of how these groups work, you can see there are nuances that must be addressed. I am frustrated and impatient that it’s 2010 and publishers are just now thinking that HTML coding is a job skill for editors. I also understand the need to balance all business priorities.

    Getting into the technical nitty gritty makes no sense in the context of this post. Wrong place, wrong time. I was addressing the larger issue of enhanced ebooks. There is a large amount of education that needs to be done when it comes to the production of ebooks. It needs to happen on the author and publisher level. I’m involved in the process.

  • Gerald // Jan 24, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    @JM Cornnwell – spot on. Why is it that publishers can’t see the reality of the ebook market? It’s ludicrous to expect people to pay the same, or more, for an ebook as they do for a hardback.

    The sooner the written word publishers learn the lessons that music publishers did a few years ago, the sooner the new digital book age will take off, rather that stutter and splutter around the early adopters.

  • Debbie Stier // Jan 25, 2010 at 5:41 am

    as always Kassia, I agree with you completely. We’ll have to have a live convo at DBW. Did you think that Gary’s book worked as an “enhanced” ebook? It was not promo material; we tried to make it as “added value” and well thought out as possible. Also, we tested prices between $11.99 and $6.99. Guess what the sweet spot was? I think that publishers should think of these different formats with a different mindset — and think of them as derivitives of the mothership. I’d put Crush It the audio Remix in that category too. Would love to know if you think Gary’s succeeded.

  • Rich Adin // Jan 25, 2010 at 7:16 am

    @Kassia: You wrote: “I am frustrated and impatient that it’s 2010 and publishers are just now thinking that HTML coding is a job skill for editors.”

    This argument, that editors should do the HTML/XHTML coding has been made in several places, including in a post on Teleread by the CEO of Aptara, a book packager. As an editor, I don’t disagree, but I want to know who will pay for this skill? As it is, publishers, packagers, and authors are reducing the fees they are willing to pay editors.

    Aptara, for example, asked me to do some very specialized medical editing. The company said a “heavy edit” was required and I needed to sign a noncompete contract. No mention of HTML/XHTML coding, just the editing. The pay: between $2.40 and $4.00 an hour (the pay was 80 centgs per page and an expectation of 3 to 5 pages an hour). Yes, an hour.

    I’ve been doing that type of editing for 25 years and they don’t even want to pay minimum wage, let alone a living wage, for editing. Now you want me to also add coding to the mix? What will you pay me? 90 cents a page?

    Before you can get to the coding responsibility you have to get to the place where you agree that an editor’s primary responsibility is editing and not coding and that editing is value enhancing and worthy of a reasonable, living wage. There’s a long way to go.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 25, 2010 at 9:26 am

    @debbie — Yes, we’ll talk in person…but I don’t want to leave everyone wondering about the topic . I have a few thoughts on Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It editions (is it true there was a Golden Globes shout out? How awesome). The first just popped into my head: In some ways, the book is the enhanced Gary V — he’s been sharing his message via video, audio, and other online media. The book is a way of reaching a different audience.

    Starting with the Crush It Vook — and I am going to reiterate that my initial skepticism about Vooks has been altered due to some really excellent stuff, the right books, the right approach, the right length…totally works — worked as an enhanced book because you thought out the end result. My feeling when I first saw it and my feeling now is that it’s definitely a value added product, but it’s also one that stands alone. The book, e and p, had specific content. The Vook took things in a different direction. I believe the people who bought both the book and the Vook feel they received something enhanced.

    But that is because you and Gary *weren’t* viewing it as a promotional device. You went into the project with a vision and you executed. But you also got the basics right (which you know is sometimes the hardest part).

    I like your mothership analogy. Of course this leads to a discussion about what the ship *is*, but that’s what wine is for, right?

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 25, 2010 at 9:42 am

    @rich — In my optimistic heart, I want to wholeheartedly agree with you. In my realistic heart, I have to look at this differently. In my reply to @debbie, I noted we could (and will because we love to dissect our world!) what exactly constitutes the mothership in the world of books. I am going to say it’s the digital file — which is not to be confused with the ebook. This digital file the basis for all versions of the book, electronic, print, excerpts, remixes, and more. Thus it’s the job of the editorial team to make sure the digital file has the proper coding. Tools exist to make this work, but if publishing is ever going to move toward a truly digital workflow, the responsibility for making sure the base file is right lies with editorial. I do not believe you want production people making determinations about paragraph, scene, or chapter breaks. Nor do you want production people coding for emphasis, blockquotes, and other elements.

    Learning HTML is not complicated, and again there a excellent tools to do this because a huge hurdle is converting the manuscript from the author’s format, which is generally Word, to clean, well-structured HTML. We cannot pretend this step does not exist nor can we expect authors to suddenly stop working in Word. A clean file makes the editorial job easier. Good tools make coding easy. I used editorial team in my first paragraph because the actual roles will evolve. There will be traditional editing, line editing, developmental editing, which will, yes, require coding skills (enough to know it’s right). Then there will be copyediting, which may encompass Quality Assurance tasks, including checking to make sure the underlying code works.

    While I know there’s a need to reduce costs, I have *serious* concerns about paying skilled staff very low wages. You get what you pay for, and my concern is two-fold. First, many talented editors are being priced out of the market. Second, there will be the very human tendency to do a crap job because the money’s bad and nobody’s holding the editor accountable. I mean, what’s to stop you from doing the bare minimum? Or anyone else? The speed being requested by the company combined with the level of effort required tells me — and anyone else — that something’s gotta give.

    It doesn’t help publishing if quality fails. It undermines the value argument, and that’s already a tough one to make.

  • Moriah Jovan // Jan 25, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Kassia, considering that my wee writing/self-pub gig has kind of blown up into an ebook formatting gig, I’ve come to the conclusion that quite a few authors think of word processors as glorified typewriters. Thus, the collective ability of an author to learn HTML (desire to notwithstanding) just isn’t there.

    I agree *almost* completely with @JoeClark, that the (enhanced) e-book has to be native, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be extracted from a word processing document by a knowledgeable author/editor. But what it takes is a specialized skillset and an odd combination of left- and right-brained flexibility.

    It also takes a lot of time that an author would rather spend writing. Because, you know, that’s what a writer does. And it gets EXTRAORDINARILY frustrating when you can’t just bury yourself in the work and let the tech details go.

    Ask me how I know. ;)

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 25, 2010 at 11:10 am

    @moriah — The dirty little secret of our world is that almost nobody uses Word properly. We were taught bad habits way back in the days of, oh, WordPerfect, and we’ve carried those bad habits with us forever. There’s no wonder people see word processors as glorified typewriters. But I do doubt the collective ability to learn HTML isn’t there. Authors are learning it all the time. The tools that exist to make really clean HTML do exist, but they aren’t perfect (I know of at least one currently under development geared toward authors and small publishers). If Word rendered good HTML, that would make the entire planet happy. It doesn’t.

    If an author is self-publishing, doing the coding work is part of their job, so these tools will be essential. I’m lucky in that I do very little writing in Word, so I get to skip that hassle entirely. Publishers are developing these tools. Their problem is that they utilize a process that goes from Word to InDesign to HTML rather than the other way around. Takes longer, adds complexity. And the by-product is that the native file is PDF, not HTML.

  • Moriah Jovan // Jan 25, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    No, Word doesn’t render good HTML, I agree, and stripping it is ditch-digging, but really, if I didn’t HAVE to do this, I wouldn’t have learned how and wouldn’t miss it and wouldn’t know why I should. And I would go back to my glorified typewriter.

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  • malcolm // Jan 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    My prediction — The iPad is a game changer. MMOOKS (multimedia books) will enable students to read at 1500-1800 w.p.m. and watch/listen at 200 w.p.m. The correct balance of text, audio and video will exponentially increase the rate and quality of comprehension and learning.

  • Nicola Furlong // Jan 27, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    I’m all for enhancements as they create a unique “reading” experience. I gave multimedia a try by integrating a thriller novel with videos, music, sound effects and photos.

    The result isn’t a book or an ebook, it’s a Quillr, an experimental online storytelling platform.

    Yeah, it’s not Spielberg quality and maybe the concept suits non-fiction better but it was a gas to produce and it offers the reader something fun and different. Check it out at http://www.unnaturalstates.com.

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  • Joe Clark // Mar 3, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I believe many of you will be quite pleased with a forthcoming article of mine.

  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 3, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    @joe — I look forward to your article. Please share the link, either in comments or via the contact form.

  • Angie K. // Mar 4, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I have to agree with J. M. Cornwell . I won’t pay the same price for an ebook that I will for the hardback or even the paperback in most cases. Also too, I wonder if novels are enhanced why would we ever need a movie again except for the people who don’t read or can’t read. Why invest multi-millions in a movie that may not make a profit when an enhanced book could be just as entertaining. The only reason I buy ebooks is to lower my cost and print a copy that I don’t feel guilty about marking up.
    Has anyone been following Seth Godin? You should. He reminds us that ebooks should be really cheap – $0-1.00. The printed version is the souvenir and publishers can do really well by selling the souvenirs. On demand printing could eliminate over-runs. Think lulu.com. The readers reads for free or super inexpensively and if they want the souvenir, they buy and it’s printed only when they buy.

  • Ovi Demetrian Jr // Mar 28, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Has anyone seen Wired Magazine’s approach to making their magazine digital? Here’s the YouTube video they released a while ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0D4avXwMmM

    I think if a similar design-minded approach is taken, focusing on content, something like this may work for certain kinds of books.

    That said, l’m sure there are many people out there who, like me, would prefer just reading the text as I would in a regular book. And I’m not really a fan of DVD extras, so adding them to ebooks wouldn’t do anything for me either.

  • Thoughts on Transmedia Storytelling, or, Is It Right for Every Story? | Booksquare // Mar 30, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    [...] “enhanced” when it comes to ebooks. As you might have guessed from this post and my previous look at this topic, I come down very much in favor of creating products that take the story in a new direction rather [...]

  • Welcome to the Age of Living Books « Michael Larsen's Blog // May 4, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    [...] and technical standards will emerge. But a unique, enhanced e-book that only you can write and that continues to grow in value justifies a higher price than just the [...]

  • Hardy Capo // Aug 4, 2010 at 3:25 am

    I can understand the scepticism. But I think there is an opportunity to do something creative here.

    Like most of you here I am completely uninspired by the thought of enhanced e-books that are simply interviews with authors.

    But, as an animator, I can see the possibility of a novel/film hybrid on devices such as phones and the ipad. It could be very exciting.

  • Elsie Stevens // Sep 26, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    I heard about this enhanced ebook on the radio. The ebook has video and audio files to help the reader quit smoking and not gain extra weight in the process. The ebook includes hypnotic and subliminal audio to enhanced the readers success in quitting. Not a bad idea!

    The enhanced version ebook is called… The Tao of Quitting Smoking by Joseph Weaver, RN

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/nic-habit-enhanced-version/id393046783?mt=11

  • Keith Cruickshank // Oct 1, 2010 at 10:09 am

    I’m late to this comment thread, but thought I’d pipe in. The ipad has been launched since this original article was posted, so we’ve learned that even the skeptics have been awed by the adoption rate of the ipad.

    If you have had a chance to get your hands on an ipad, you may well have been surprised by the tactile experience of it. It’s a new way of interacting with digital media. Android will certainly follow, so Apple won’t own this space. What is really the game changer is the form factor. It’s this form that makes the multimedia ebook a more natural way for readers/viewers to interact with information.

    How-to and instructional content is ideally suited to this new display device type. And I suspect that the content will flow from existing websites into formats more easily consumed on your lap or at the kitchen counter via a digital tablet. We become unleashed, wirelessly, from our desks.

    Multimedia books becomes the logical extension of experiential video blogs like the woodworking “niche” site http://woodtreks.com.

  • El BookCamp no terminó! Sobre la sesión Dispositivos móviles, lectura y mBooks « Transmedia // Oct 28, 2010 at 9:24 am

    [...] el formato libro vuelve a ser cuestionado. Apareció aquí, obviamente, el concepto del “enhanced book” y la duda sobre si los usuarios estarán o no dispuestos a pagar más para consumir estas [...]

  • My Predictions About The Predictions For 2011 « Book Templars // Jan 7, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    [...] yet… And yet, there is a beguiling promise that is out there in the form of the “enhanced e-reader”—the e-reader or e-book that has the capability of delivering a full palette of communication [...]

  • Publishing is for Professionals | Ditchwalk // Jan 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    [...] reason I wasn’t surprised to read earlier this week that e-books and e-readers are already being exploited for marketing purposes before they mature as a medium. Then again, because there really is nothing [...]

  • Carla Young // Feb 1, 2011 at 10:39 am

    It seems to me that the project I am currently working on would be perfect for the enhanced ebook format. It’s a series of what I might call illustrated childrens songs. The first work, “Hamsters Want to be Free” is already in production. It will involve audio (the song), print (lyrics), and video of real hamsters interspersed with pictures which will pop into the video as thought balloons or full frame cartoon illustrations. I’m looking for someone to help me get the finished product into the right form for distribution.

  • Enchanced ebooks « Alluringly Short // Apr 11, 2011 at 8:24 am

    [...] what I think of when I think of enhancing digital readers. This article from Jaunuary 2010 at BookSquare gets it exactly right. Publishers haven’t even mastered the basics of ebooks, still think of [...]

  • Ebooks are so 2010…welcome to “enhanced” ebooks « Mark Fadden's Blog // Aug 11, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    [...] their best to marry technology with existing ebook material to give us…wait for it… ENHANCED EBOOKS!!! These offspring of a writer’s mind and a technology expert’s talent would allow [...]

  • Claire Datnow // Sep 19, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Our books flow the story seamlessly from the printed words on the page to video clips that let the reader so and hear what the characters are seeing and hearing. How? With QR codes. No add on enhancements in our books, each video flows with the story. Please visit mediamint.net to see the beauty of what we have done!

  • Back to school: On Books or websites // Dec 11, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    [...] and websites – both can do video, both can include added-value content (even if it’s what Booksquare might scathingly refer to as “some marketing person’s notion of value”), both can link to [...]

  • Confident Compass » Challenges for Enhanced Books // Feb 15, 2012 at 8:38 am

    [...] only “enhancement” is an interview with the author, that is indeed not an enhancement, it is a marketing material. Half-hearted additions like this will not sell. The author needs to think real hard about what is [...]

  • Here’s How Social Reading Might Actually Work — paidContent // Apr 3, 2012 at 6:31 am

    [...] are not enhancements. These are marketing materials,” Kassia Krozser of Booksquare wrote last year. Subtext gives users a chance to try better enhancements for free and lets publishers see [...]

  • J.B. // May 3, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I’m something of a Luddite myself — this is exactly why I hate DVDs and end up ripping just the movie to a video file. I don’t need all the extra crap. Just give me the damn title already. With VHS you could fast-forward the tape through the previews. DVDs in their native state don’t allow you to skip, and with all the “deleted scenes,” “bloopers,” and behind the scenes documentaries about the behind the scenes documentary, they could have put another full movie, maybe two, on the same disc.

    I don’t buy e-books, actually. Most self-pub is still crap (a la Fifty Shades of S*x Sells Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying About Honing My Craft), and the hell I’m going to buy a $200+ computer to read something that would cost me five to ten bucks at a bookstore — or $0 at the library. Yeah, I know you can get e-books downloaded from the library to your device, but that’s still $200 that could be put toward something else. The library book is basically $0 except in that it comes out of taxes.

    This “enhanced” crap or whatever new gimmick the digital market is aiming for can go stuff it in the ethernet port. Why the hell should writers have to learn programming? HTML is not art; it’s math! The most I’ll ever make use of anything involving computer code is poking fun at a stereotypical nerd in a fictional narrative!

  • Here’s How Social Reading Might Actually Work — Tech News and Analysis // Apr 27, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    [...] are not enhancements. These are marketing materials,” Kassia Krozser of Booksquare wrote last year. Subtext gives users a chance to try better enhancements for free and lets publishers see [...]