Enhanced Media and the Future of the E-Book
And The Future Of The E-Book
by H. K. Sterling
I am a small-time author. I am also an immensely curious, well-studied, and eternally optimistic human being. Through-out my journey, first as an indie author and now with a publisher, I noticed how difficult it can be to publish e-books that consist of anything other than generic words in a generic font and…..and well, that’s it. Generic words with a generic font are all we can seem to generate. By “we” I refer to book distributors, meaning the big players of Amazon, and Barnes & Noble as well as the small presses. Then there’s Apple. The lone wolf of the technology world has some multi-touch books that have enhancements if you have an iPad. But Apple is rather useless to authors and publishing houses that do not have the time or money to put out complicated formats. These enhancements are not an innate part of the process. To make a living, authors and publishers are distributed by retailers who cannot yet accommodate these enhancements. Once an author has gone through the excruciating process of learning that his or her e-book must be formatted technically in multiple ways for multiple distributors, there’s relatively little money or energy left to fight for more.
However, I like to stay on the edge. And by edge I mean bleeding edge. You’ve heard of the cutting edge? Well the bleeding edge is where you’re too far ahead so people just look at you like you’re crazy. The concepts haven’t entered their mind yet. And it is so very important for concepts to enter minds—because how else do we create? We have to envision before we can create.
• Elon Musk taking private enterprise to space? All over it.
• 3-D printers before they were well known? I was there.
I am not an inventor. I am just an author and a human being that wants us to live up to our potential.
• Yes, I want Dean Kamens’ clean water for the world!
• Yes, I want Bill Gates’ next generation toilets in every third world country!
The above are inventions that actually exist.
The point is, there are always pioneers, and as an author, I say that those pioneers need to get busy with books and more important; the industry should welcome these things with open arms. We know that e-books are in now and print books are still viable, but industry-wide enhancement of e-books is a murky, disturbed thought because it would require a way to bring together so many different types of formatting issues.
Here’s a few of the things I can’t do for large distribution:
• I can’t use a smart pen to write on pages that my readers will see;
• I can’t embed pictures easily into my e-book (or have them remain properly placed);
• I can’t easily put links in my e-book for the readers to go other places related to the book;
• I can’t place a video onto the page of my e-book for my reader to see.
Now, I can do all these things individually:
• I can use my smart pen on my computer documents;
• I can make a soundtrack to my book and share it using social media;
• I can put a link in my book to go to a website where more links are available;
• I can go to a vanity press and make a beautiful book full of pictures.
None of this helps an author. As an author my needs are simple. I need to be published and I need people to buy my books.
However, as an author and someone who loves advances in every discipline, I want more. I conceive of more. I also know that in a few years, others will want more. Those babies playing with baby smart phones today are your e-book customers of tomorrow. They will expect more. The kids using smart-phones right now expect more. Now.
Here’s what I envision as de facto parts of an e-book:
• I envision an e-book that I can open and see pictures on any page. Pictures of characters, pictures of scenes, whatever, seamlessly integrated into my story;
• I envision an e-book where I can open a page and there is a video where all I have to do is click to see the video, because the video was important to the scene;
• I envision an e-book where I open up the page and see drawings by hand that the author wanted to show me, in between the print;
• I envision multiple fonts used when needed for part of the story that I, as a reader, can enjoy;
• I envision buttons where all I have to do is click, as a reader, to hear the music the author is talking about to set any scene;
• I envision multiple colors on text, not even used sparingly, as part of telling a story that I, as the reader need to see to ‘get it’;
• I envision a button on the e-book that will let me hear the book as an audio book if I so choose, rather than reading it;
• I envision a button on the e-book that will convert the format immediately to whatever mobile phone I happen to have so I can read it on there instead (because now I am out the door somewhere and don’t want to lug anything else). Or the other way around, because now I’m home and I want to read on something larger;
• I envision all these things available as an innate part of the publishing process. Here are a few that distributors’ should care about:
• I envision links in my e-book that take me, as a reader, directly to the distributor site to buy the next book in the series, or any other book by that author;
• I envision links in my e-book that take me to an excerpt of that authors next book or any of that author’s books, which I can then click and buy if I choose.
• I envision links in my e-book that allow me to share a message of how good the book was on multiple social media accounts.
I’m sure there’s more. In fact, I am positive there is more because I am not a baby with a smartphone or a kid getting bored with e-books or reading in general because there is so much more at my fingertips on other devices.
What do you envision? What can we make happen? Most important: when can we make it happen as a general industry practice?
I leave you with questions.
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