E-book readers are all the rage this year with probably dozens of new ones being unveiled by the end of the year. But e-books themselves have gone past the capabilities of even some of the most popular readers, they’re now incorporating video in enhanced versions.It’s an interesting use of video to say the least. This week a video-enhanced version of Nixonland, by Rick Perlstein, will reach online retailers thanks to Hachette Book Group. Various names are being used to describe the books – amplified (Penguin Group), enhanced by Simon & Schuster. I personally like Visualized Edition (I had better get credit for coining that one if they start using it).
It is certainly an interesting addition to the standard black-and-white e-books we’ve seen, though it’s far from totally unique. Vook has been making Visualized Editions of stories for some time now. They call them smart books which merge text, video and more. They’ve even got their own iP app. I guess that sticks it to Amazon’s Kindle, which is unable to play these new versions of the books.
Some time back I made a prediction for this year in e-book readers and I said that 3G/Wi-Fi, color readers would be available, well I was sort of right when the iPad was launched, and I bet I’ll still be right about the Kindle getting color by the end of the year.
Some might even say that the iPad is perfect for these Visualized Editions of books, others, like myself, might simply say ‘any old tablet computer will do.’
Now I am, of course, an advocate for video usage in all its myriad forms. But I would always prefer to read a book before ever seeing a film of it. This merging of text and video bodes poorly for the written word in general. Eventually people might simply say “why read at all when I can just watch the video?” It will indeed be a sad day, not only for writers but for people in general. Video consumption is passive, you are spoon-fed everything you need through visual and audio imagery. There’s no imagination required. On the other hand, reading requires an attention span and an imagination as you need to personally in your head visualize what you are reading. Let’s do an experiment shall we?
In one of my books I said that the main characters entered into a room which had a desk with a chair behind it, some bookshelves and a couch.
Alright, have you got your idea of what the couch looks like? Good. Did it look like this couch:
It’s OK, neither did mine. Mine looked more like this:
Well at least I think there’s a couch in there. But see the point is, it doesn’t matter what the couch looks like. It’s all part of the reader experience. You help build the world of the book in your mind’s eye and that helps you interact with it. Whether the couch was space age and sleek or has big, fluffy, pillows on it is entirely up to you. Until I as an author need the couch to be important it can just be furniture. Of course, if I was going to make the couch important I would have done so right away with: an ugly, old, green couch that looked like it had seen far too many frat parties, not enough cleaning solution and would give you a sore neck if you slept on it.
Alright, back to the Visualised E-Books (I’m telling you, it’s going to catch on).
The Visualized Nixonland was already a hefty 896 pages. But now it also sports 27 videos. Most of them are news clips, interviews and content that helps you to realize the time the book was set in. Just a tap on the iPad screen and the video will begin to play.
This use of the video is something I like as it’s not detracting from the reader’s engagement with the story but more like expanding it. Ellie Hirschhorn, the chief digital officer for Simon & Schuster, said the intent was to use the video sparingly, so as not to take away from the words or overwhelm the reader.
In another Visualized Edition, for Deliver Us From Evil by David Baldacci, they included visuals that the author had used when researching the book as well as deleted scenes and an alternate ending along with some other extras.That then makes it more like a DVD where you’ve got a set of extras that help you find out more about the main content.
Penguin will release a Visualized Edition of “Pillars of the Earth” that will have video clips of the television series based on it… not so exciting to me really.
It’s certainly going to be a rapidly expanding branch of the publishing industry I think. If the additional content doesn’t come with too large of a pricetag it could really drive book sales. I would even consider keeping that in mind while finishing up this book I’m working on now.
They are charging more for these Visualized Editions but not so much as to make a massive difference to the avid reader’s pocketbook. Nixonland is being sold for $15.99 through Amazon (but can’t be played on the Kindle) and will cost you $20.99 for the paperback. The Kindle price is slightly higher as most books are under $10 on the shop with some in the $10-15 price range.
It certainly looks like it could be the new thing. Perhaps even tying directly to online video through links to existing content online in the text as well as being embedded right in the novels.