IS THIS THE FUTURE OF THE DIGITAL BOOK—
Posted by librarykvongole on March 17, 2011
KENDRIYA VIDYALAYA – ONGOLE (AP)
IS THIS THE FUTURE OF THE DIGITAL BOOK?
Plenty of authors dream of writing the great American novel. Bradley Inman wants to create great fiction, dramatic online video, social networking and compelling Twitter stream and then roll them all into a multimedia hybrid that is tailored to the rapidly growing number of digital reading devices.
Inman, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur, calls this digital amalgam “Vook” (vook.tv), and the fledgling company he has created with that name just might represent a possible future for the beleaguered book industry.
Publishing, of course, is feeling the same chronic pain as other media businesses, with layoffs, corporate restructurings and a general sense of gloom, doom and kaboom settling over name brand giants like Random House and Simon & Schuster.
At the same time, there has been a flurry of optimism and activity around the once-derided idea that people might read books on a digital screen. Just this year, new electronic reading devices have emerged from Amazon, Samsung and Fujitsu, while mobile phones like iPhone from Apple have flowered seemingly overnight into acceptable reading devices for many bookworms.
And just as digital media have begun to change the nature of news, music and video, the emergence of e-books is causing various entrepreneurs and technologists to reconsider the kind of experience that books might one day deliver.
Inman is among those reimagining the printed page. As the founder of Home-Gain.com, ad online real estate company which he sold to a joint venture of newspaper companies in 2005, and Turn-Here a production company that creates author videos for publishers, he has deep ties in the publishing world of New York.
Last year, considering the opportunities those e-book devices like the Amazon Kindle might someday create, Inman wrote his own thriller, The Right Way to Do Wrong and got Turn Here to film two dozen short videos with actors that augment the book’s main mystery. He recently began showing his Vook prototype to publishers as a way to hook them and their established writers on the idea.
“We think there’s a real urgency in publishing to innovate with new kinds of content” he says.
Vook tries to address a big problem for book publishers as they expand onto digital formats. For all the type and initial success of devices like the Kindle, they threaten to strip traditional books of much of their transportive appeal. Images on the jacket cover, inviting fonts and the satisfying feel of quality paper are all largely absent, replaced by humdrum pixels on a virtual page.
Even worse, on multipurpose reading devices like the iPhone, more immediately gratifying pastimes like video games are a click away for readers with short attention spans.
“Publishers are going to be confronted with the idea that either the words on the page have to be completely compelling on their own, or they have to figure out a way to create new sorts of subliminal draws in the new medium,” said Sara Nelson, the former editor of Publishers Weekly and a publishing industry consultant. Nelson has seen the Vook prototype and says it is intriguing, but the challenge is to avoid feeling gimmicky. “If you are going to put video in a book, it has to flow so naturally into the story that readers don’t even realize they are switching mediums.” She said.
A raft of similar efforts and experiments are under way. WEBook, a venture-backed startup in New York, allows people to collaborate on writing books and is working on new ways to let readers give writers real-time beedback on their work. Wattpad, based in Toronto is among several startups soliciting the work of unpublished authors, giving them a route around the big book companies and then distributing their writing on the web and on mobile phones. Wattpad draws its revenue from advertising and for now at least, does not pay the authors.
Last week, Fourth Story Media, a company created by Lisa Holton, a former executive vice president of Scholastic Inc. publisher of the Harry Potter franchise, began testing the web site of what it is calling the Amanda Project, with a limited number of users. All of this experimentation is sure to unleash serious debate in literary circles.
SANTOSH KUMAR PANDEY,
K. V. ONGOLE