Tablet to Tablet: Transmedia Publishing/Production

David MarlettBy David Marlett, Managing Director, enkHouse

Ok, here we go. I’m very pleased to be launching this column, Tablet to Tablet, full of high hopes that I can help illuminate the current status and forecast (Nuts! Wow! Explosive!) of the interactive transmedia publishing and production industry.

First: we’ve gotta come up with better names for this friggin rocket ship of interactive eBooks and uber-apps called “transmedia”. Is that Count Dracula at the head of the table?

And “enhanced eBooks”? Really? I’ve taken to calling them eeBs. Hate it? Whatever. Tell us your better idea.

(Seriously, email me and I’ll post some of them).

A little about me: writer, producer, trouble-maker, entrepreneur, recovering attorney, founder of enkHouse, and poster boy for the SSW (Secret Society of Weebles). Card carrying member, thank you very much. Frankly, if you’re still in the publishing business after the past 3, 6, heck 10 years, then you too have an SSW card: you wobble, but don’t fall down!

So, where was I? Transmedia.

We have this definition on our website’s masthead:

trans•media \ ˈtran(t)s- ˌmē-dē-ə \ n (21c) 1: a communication experience that combines elements of visual, auditory and tactile strategies 2: communicating an extraordinary story via a jazz fest of traditionally separate media 3a: story innovation that goes beep, boink or swoosh b: see enkHouse

A cool cat assistant editor, Ian Birnbaum, wrote that for us. Nailed it if you ask me.

Basically, transmedia is one big mash-up of storytelling vehicles. It is where, quite literally, everything and anything is possible. And with the iPad and its soon-to-be-released competitor hounds, we now have a number of platforms upon which to play.

That leads me to something I find myself saying a lot lately: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” But I’ll save that for future columns.

Sure, enhanced eBooks and transmedia production are complicated, in ways, but they’re also about as straightforward as it comes. Eons ago, mankind first began creating ‘portable’ devices for relaying stories and other information using a ‘tablet’, and here we go, back to it again. That fascinates me. Maybe it does you, too. Again, a recurring subject in future columns.

The Pillars of the Earth Amplified Edition for the iPadSo what inspired me into this medium? The same as for many of you, it was twofold: The idea of being able to have an interactive novel wherein the story is exponentially enriched through embedded media. And of course, The Elements.

The imagination of the ‘what if’, mixed with fascination for what was already being done, led to the launch of enkHouse. Then came our first partnership.

The brilliance of the Pillars of the Earth app (the world’s first movie-eBook combo) with its multiple applications from storytelling to advertising, led us to partner with its software creator, KiwiTech. And now, a few weeks later, we are aggressively pursuing new horizons of exploration and design and technological wonder.

I don’t feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store, but rather part of a team of kids building their own friggin’ candy machine.

So, back to this new DBW column: In Tablet to Tablet, we’ll talk about what’s happening in digital books and transmedia publishing; the coolest new technologies; (maybe a few things about our own projects); and we’ll definitely discuss the nature of storytelling and how to best utilize the newest means of storytelling for a profit! Yes, it’s possible.

‘Til next week… write on.

David Marlett is the managing director of enkHouse, a transmedia production company based in Dallas and Los Angeles, focused on enhanced eBooks and interactive apps for the publishing, film and other entertainment industries.

Interested in learning more about using transmedia storytelling and cross-media strategies? Join us at StoryWorld, the only major gathering of industry leaders, decision makers, and transmedia specialists, to explore new business models, innovative partnerships, and fresh revenue streams.

7 thoughts on “Tablet to Tablet: Transmedia Publishing/Production

  1. Alison Norrington

    Hi David

    Great to see a new contributor to DBW, especially another ‘transmedia’ buddy 😉 so welcome!

    I’m really interested to see you mention that here, on Tablet to Tablet, you’ll be talking about developments in transmedia publishing, because so far as I’ve seen to date, there isn’t much happening on that front (yet) and I still believe that ad agencies are using transmedia far better than publishing/film/TV.

    There are publishing forays into enhancements (dare I say it, but often for the SAKE of an enhancement and not really with any true organic relevance to the story). We’ve looked at vooks, nooks and ebooks – none of which are true transmedia projects. Publishers are open to transmedia, without a doubt, but the manuscripts need to be written organically AS transmedia properties, along with a strong, viable and relevant strategy (which ties in to audience demographics and behaviours too). And you truly nailed it yourself when you say “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Not every storyworld or novel will work transmedially – and many don’t need to! If multi platform opportunities won’t add value or deeper immersion – then don’t! Right?
    But you’ve said you’ll save that for future columns….
    So I’ll stay tuned….


    1. dmarlett

      Alison… I couldn’t agree more! Particularly with the ‘enhancements for the sake of enhancements’ stuff. Just because Molly Ringwald reads to you passages of her book, does that make it enhanced? Does it add value, enrichment? That is why we (enkHouse) focus on our core challenge: to be “Transmedia Storytellers”. It all starts and ends with a fantastic story… no matter what the interactive product, from eBooks to ads to catalogs to silly apps….story matters. It helps to be coming to this not from traditional publishing, but from screenwriting and film production. And yes, I will dive into all this across future columns. Glad to have you as a reader and contributor!

  2. Scott Walker

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, David.

    I think the one aspect of transmedia we all possibly agree on is that we don’t all agree on it (I don’t think the definition above fully captures the essence of what a transmedia property is, for example).

    I’m comfortable with that, because it encourages us individually and collectively to keep pushing at this thing called transmedia, seeing how far we can take it, how far the possibilities extend.

    And I concur that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

    So, maybe we *can* all agree on this: whatever you do (and whether or not you employ a transmedia approach), make sure you’re telling good stories. : )

    1. dmarlett

      Scott: I concur that our definition is a bit tounge-in-cheek and limited…. but to the extent it gets people talking about what IS transmedia…then great. Thanks for joining this conversation. I hope you’ll stick around as this column continues. Oh, and amen on ‘only good stories allowed’! David

  3. Brendan Howley

    Hey David
    Terrific you’re doing this—I’m a transmedia guy (like my pal Scott and our maven/colleague par excellence Gunther Sonnenfeld) who comes by it honestly: investigative journalist/filmmaker turned branding/marketing/media and platform design guy. I’m a founding partner of two startups, the first being Canada’s first branded transmedia entertainment shop and the second a nonprofit here in Stratford Ontario dedicated to building social capital via collaborative community-based software.
    A hint: what’s the future of transmedia? IMHO it’s a little thing called “collective intelligence”…because it’s not the content that wins the game, although narrative fuels everything: it’s the technology that builds the platform.
    An analogy: just finished a book called BLOOD IRON AND GOLD–it’s a social history of how the railways changed…everything. From transport to business practice to telecommunications to agriculture to social culture itself…everything.
    In my view, the web is the new railway…and transmedia (which I call «hybrid narrative» with peers and «multiplatform storytelling» with clients!) is quite possibly the medium through which social collaboration will indeed change our culture of storytelling.
    To me transmedia is most interesting because of its social implications (leaving aside momentary fascinations with how to optimize story components for various platform co-experiences)—the ability to not only tell stories…but to sustain ’em.
    cheers/bon voyage with this



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