Tuesday, April 3, 2012

eBook Arfhebung

My wife is deeply involved in ebooks.

One of the final classes she’s taking for her masters degree in technical writing concerns ebooks. Her final project includes producing an ebook of her own – in her case, a book of recipes used at Island Park Scout Camp (where she’ll work this summer as assistant cook to our very own Jana Porter).

As part of her class, she and a partner are writing a paper on the future of ebooks. She had me read the rough portion of her draft, and it got me to thinking. As she points out, we are only at the infancy of ebooks. And how ebooks will evolve is going to depend a lot more on authors and fans than on publishers, who are going to be less and less willing to take creative risks with ebook content than are authors and fans – despite the connection (and promised spending power) connecting fans and authors together can bring.

I should qualify what I say: The big boys – the Crichtons, the Rowlings, etc, will have the full force and clout of traditional publishing houses behind them, because the publishers can see an instant return on investment. But for the nobody author like yours truly, the animus to animate ebooks with more than a digital pouring of words into an ereader is going to lie with authors and fans, not publishers.

Here’s what I told my wife:

When you mention Harry Potter, you might mention or do a comparison between our current newspapers and the interactive newspapers in the wizarding world (If you want to get that nerdy) – and then make a corollary comparison between print books and ebooks – in that we’re only seeing the beginning of the interactive possibilities with ebooks. Right now, for ebooks, we’re just taking traditional text and pouring it into an electronic format. With Push whatever press, they’re taking on the next level of interactivity. For your IPSC cookbook, for example, later on you could add videos of Jana in the kitchen preparing her meals, prepping the kitchen, serving up, interviews with staff on their favorite meals at camp, a walk through the camp, etc – stuff that you’d never get in a traditional book.

This blows up an entire new segment, however – the author has either to become a videographer and more explicity visual storyteller, or the author has to team up with someone who has these visual skills – levels of commitment that traditional publishers may not be interested in because they may fear they may never recoup the cost of all the extras. But as we see with the extras on DVDs, the level of care the authors puts into them attracts their core audiences even more, bringing them into the story – so there is a benefit, no matter the cost, and if authors can figure out how to mitigate the costs by doing the work themselves or possibly, in future editions, integrating fan fiction, fan art, fan-performed stuff that connects with their original story, their connection to their audiences becomes deeper, richer – and then more likely the audience will be more willing to keep on buying the product.

Anyway, that’s a blog post for the future.

I do like your paper. I guess I’m getting excited about the possibilities.
So as I work on my first ebook – Michelle is going to show me what she knows – I’m going to have to figure out how to add these additional elements. Baby steps at first, of course. But I think I’ve got an inkling of the idea. It’s the book trailer, but expanded and more convoluted and evolved.

It’s basically producing a movie of your book, all at the same time.

But who is going to do all of this? And with what money?

Maybe the best ones will all be fan-sourced.

Imagine a DVD extra of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” with this film included. Multiplied by a thousand.

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