Are Enhanced eBooks like Special Edition DVDs?

eReadersBy Marjorie DeWitt, Twelve Books

Recently, Hachette Book Group announced its plans for an enriched eBook of David Baldacci’s Deliver Us from Evil. As Jason Boog of GalleyCat writes in his article, it certainly seems to promise an “enriched” reading experience. To me, it sounds a lot like a special edition DVD, with behind-the-scenes video, deleted content, and other windows into the creative process.

After perusing some author websites, it occurred to me that the enriched eBook really is a promising idea. For those who are interested in how their favorite author crafts his tales, the EE will be able to include, say, audio Q and A, or video of the author’s office, or scans of story outlines and the like. For the curious/voracious reader, deleted passages from the manuscript could be included to provide more insider info on characters, lost subplots, or even, as in the case of the Baldacci EE, alternate endings.

All told, this seems to enable a slightly more active reading experience (at least in some ways) without being invasive. The special features can be looked at when the reader decides to look at them (and turned off/ignored when the reader doesn’t). For example, let’s say you’re reading a new thriller EE, with supplementary images of exotic terrain and fancy new vehicles. You can choose to have a look at the Gobi Desert while you’re reading (so you know what it looks like), or after you’ve finished the book (so you’re not interfering with what you’re imagining).

Marjorie DeWittFrom a social point of view, I think this also signals a move in an intriguing direction – a direction in which our reading and our conversations about reading are merging together. With EEs like Baldacci’s we can immediately learn what the author thinks of his novel, how it compares to his vision, and how he may want the reader to approach it. Perhaps someday, what with the imminent popularity of all-in-one devices like the iPad, our e-reading experience will incorporate IMs/texting (presumably about the writing) while reading.

Which makes me wonder, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

This article was originally published on the Twelve Publishing blog and has been reprinted with Ms. DeWitt’s permission.

Marjorie DeWitt recently graduated from Yale University, where she was an English major.  She is the resident blogger of Twelve Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group.

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