Enhanced eBooks: Start with the “enhancement” as the core to your story.

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Enhanced eBooks. What does this REALLY offer for readers? I know we are just at the infancy of some of the ways we can tell stories through the digital reading devices. I recognize this is much like the early days of television where radio scripts were “read” on-air whereas our print books are simply re-formatted for the devices. This approach will evolve and one day our readers will be given the choice for how they want to experience content in these formats. So how should publishers approach this TODAY so they can learn and prepare for what will eventually become a new way to publish content?

If you really think about it – the best “enhanced” eBooks are those where the multi-media asset is what is core to the storyline. Take the Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy enhanced eBook that we developed here at Hyperion. What earned its award from Apple as the #1 enhanced eBook of the year was the fact it began with those incredible recordings of Jacqueline Kennedy. We used that as the framework and structured the video and text to complement the experience. This was a project about “enhancing” the audio more than it was about “enhancing” the text.

I also see a key to this type of content is finding video assets that can tell a good story in a narrative format. This is more than a “re-purpose” strategy. It is a “re-imagine” strategy. Most recently taking the YouTube video sensation that became a New York Times bestseller, The Last Lecture, we leveraged b-roll footage from the ABC News/Diane Sawyer interview with Randy Pausch to create a whole new visual experience to the message in the book. In addition, by curating selective video from the lecture itself in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, the “lecture” came to life in a whole new way.

Another example that speaks to this strategy of building great narrative around media is with music. Two of my favorites are The Beatles Yellow Submarine and Charlie Brown’s Christmas (available as an app). What set these books apart is that these tales let the reader experience the songs in a whole new way. Obviously, the content previously existed in a print book format making it a natural fit. But, the way the pages flow to how the sounds are incorporated, it really feels the music was what drove the editorial of these projects. It is not “forced” as if someone wanted to add a video to simply supplement the text. As a result, it feels organic to the story. Even Charlie Brown’s Christmas goes to the extent to build into the book app Schroeder’s piano so you can learn some of the famous Peanuts tunes yourself.

The enhanced eBook approach continues to evolve as more devices accept video and the technology required to have a good consumer experience with multi-media content married with text. It is true that now, with the current technology available, consumers do not have a compelling reason to experience content in this way.

But if the formula is turned around and we re-look at this as actually a totally new product offering, we can really re-imagine a new product. It is even more important than ever to look at the types of stories we create and acquire with the mindset of multi-media.

To be clear, this is NOT a replacement strategy. I still believe in the written word, and the narrative that traditional book formats provide will continue as the appetite by consumers for reading continues. But what this does say is there is an opportunity to create something new. What excites me is that we have all the ingredients for a whole new way of story-telling. In an upcoming post, I promise to discuss “the next big thing.”

2 thoughts on “Enhanced eBooks: Start with the “enhancement” as the core to your story.

  1. Ransom Stephens

    It’s a very different question for nonfiction and fiction. Supplementing nonfiction with threads, including graphs and simulations with variable parameters provide insight into concepts plus the ability to update on the fly is huge.
    Your description of music in fiction and things like color to set mood can help tell a story, help immerse the reader in the world. But it might end there for storytelling.
    What makes the written story so strong, strong enough to withstand radio, movies, TV, video, games, etc, is that it provides a deeper immersion in a complex world. When you’re alone with a story, your mind creates a model of that world that includes elements of every sense. Interruptions hurt the story. Video clips and not well considered audio clips are likely to hurt the story more than help. The trick will be to encourage immersion.

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  2. Claire Datnow

    Simply adding enhancements such as video and audio clips to jazz up the story isn’t the point. If skillfully integrated into a well-written story, enhancements can take the reader to another level. The possibilities are exciting, but as with any new technology there will be missteps along the way—but also bursts of brilliance that illuminate the way forward. Media Mint Publishing has two enhancements that I think really do enrich the reading experience: The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, young adult eco mystery series, and The Ninth Inheritor, a contemporary historical novel.

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