Is There an Enhanced Ebook in Your Future?

ipad2 Enhanced e-books sound like yet another “wave of the future” that most readers never asked for. Yet it seems that every few weeks, there’s another story where a mainstream journalist waxes poetic about how the future of e-books is enhanced e-books.

Earlier this month, Publishers Weekly announced that HarperCollins was releasing three “enhanced ebooks” for the iPad. These are nonfiction titles that will include added bonuses such as videos. They will be $14.99 each. If you just want to read the book, that’s a lousy price but if you’re interested in the features, it may not be so bad. For nonfiction, the videos could be helpful ways to give examples to readers. (Imagine a cookbook that includes videos of the chef preparing food!) On the other hand, do I really want to pay $14.99 for Molly Ringwald’s Getting the Pretty Back just to watch videos of Molly Ringwald reading her book? Think again.

In terms of timing, Vook.com has HarperCollins beat. They are already selling vooks — e-books combined with video and other features such as social media. According to the description on their site, vooks allow you to read the book and enjoy video that enhances it. they have novels, too. There’s a web-based version, so you don’t need an iPad, iPhone, or iTouch to experience a vook.

Do I want to experience a vook? Sure, if I’m reading nonfiction, it could be useful to watch the added video. One of the featured titles on the site is the vook of the business book Crush It, which includes text integrated with video from author Gary Vaynerchuk, all for $6.99. They also have Seth Godin’s Unleasing the Super Ideavirus, the enhanced version of one of the first business e-books I ever read.

On the other hand, what if I want to read, you know, a novel? For now, the selection of novels is slim. The romance selection consists one book, a Jude Deveraux novella available only as a vook that includes seventeen original videos “that immerse you in life on a South Carolina plantation in 1800.” That’s funny, shouldn’t the novella do that without any help? What if I pay for a vook, only to discover that I find the actor unattractive? Or worse, only to find out that he doesn’t look they way I envisioned the hero? From what I could tell in the trailer, the videos definitely seem to be of professional quality. Still, nothing is better than the human brain, which can imagine everything from shapeshifter romances to space battles.

This is one of those times when I think the executives behind this idea don’t understand readers. If I want to buy a Jude Deveraux novel, I will buy it and read it. No videos needed. Just my brain. Years ago, I read Jude Deveraux’s The Maiden and loved its warrior heroine. In my mind, I can still picture the scene where the hero and heroine fight together, back to back. Even a professional quality video would have ruined it, probably making it look silly. Also, what about paranormal romances or SF and fantasy novels? How are they going to make a vook of a vampire or werewolf romance or a space battle that doesn’t look cheesy? No video will live up to David Weber’s descriptions of space battles in the Honor Harrington books.

But I’m not counting enhanced e-books out just yet. The Sherlock Holmes vook, The Sherlock Holmes Experience, sounded so cool that I ordered it, especially as it was just $1.99.(Take that, HarperCollins!) I’m happy to report that the videos aren’t intrusive. If you prefer, you can just read the story, clicking on a link when you want more information. Or you can click Set the Scene to watch a video. This story consists of fifteen videos explaining the history of the era. There are also hyperlinks to related public domain texts, Wikipedia, etc. My father will love this, and I can see him spending hours learning more about the story’s background just by following links. Still, while it’s fun, it’s never going to live up to Dad’s copy of William S. Baring-Gould’s famous The Annotated Sherlock Holmes. I grew up with this book: two heavy hardbacks with lots of illustrations and loads of footnotes. No amount of videos will teach me as much as that book. A Study in Scarlet had 184 footnotes alone!

The enhanced versions of classic children’s stories such as Alice in Wonderland and Three Little Pigs also look like lots of fun. Still, nothing beats making my poor mother read Are You My Mother?, Dirty Harry books, and Bennett Cerf joke books until I knew the words by heart. My mother and I would recite together What’s big and red and eats rocks? A big red rock eater! A video will entertain a kid for a little while, but no video can capture the essence of making your parent read the same book dozens of times.

– Anne Marble

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7 Responses to “Is There an Enhanced Ebook in Your Future?”

  1. farmwifetwo says:

    Not today…. I truly think we need about 5yrs to sort them all out, get the technology easier to use, faster, and by then it’ll be time to get rid of the kobo and move on to something different. If not every 6mths I’ll be buying something new…

    As for kid books…. all you need is a computer and to go to Tumblebooks.com.

    A lot of the public libraries link into the site directly – so you don’t have to log into the sit itself – my youngest loves it.

  2. farmwifetwo wrote: As for kid books…. all you need is a computer and to go to Tumblebooks.com.

    Thanks for the link — that site looks cool! They have many more titles available, and they even have titles in French. I’ll have to find out if my library has access to that site. My mother complained recently that my French pronounciation is dreadful. :)

  3. Lois M. says:

    Well, I get we’re finally headed the way of the ebook and all that; I’m someone not happy about it, but hey, I get the way the wind is blowing and all that. But is it too much to ask to just simply have a reading experience with ebooks? LOL I think I got my first taste of an enhanced sort of thing from a free sample of a digital Star Wars magazine. So, I clicked on the link, start look at the pages, and then the ad starts talking or whatever. Sigh. If I wanted movie ads, I could have gone to a website for that — but I was kind of hoping for nice, quiet reading, with nothing blaring at me unless I wanted my music player on or something.

    So, I guess I’m ending up in a bit of a different place than where you were going — I would imagine if you know it’s enhanced and have a choice whether you want to click on the extra thing that is going to make noise of some sort, fine, no problem. But if you don’t know it’s coming, which I didn’t, just simply assumed digital magazines like any other pdf I’ve ever looked at, it’s annoying. But I imagine if it’s going to be more expensive that the regular print/ebook version, it is always going to let you know it’s enhanced and what it contains.

    Lois. . . who doesn’t even like those extras on a DVD! LOLOL

  4. Oh, I hate ads that talk. Those things should be taken out and shot! At work the other day, I visited the website of a vendor to make sure an article I was editing used the correct spelling of the company name. The blasted thing started playing loud music! In the workplace, that makes other people think I’m browsing a “fun” web site instead of working. Aargh!

    I do love extras on DVDs, but not the fluffy ones where they give you tiny documentaries that tell you nothing you don’t already know. My favorite extra is commentary. I like hearing directors and writers discuss why they made certain choices in their story, even if I don’t like what they did with their plot.

    I’m not sure if commentary from a novelist work work so well. I do have an e-book of an SF novel that includes dozens of footnotes, I think based on changes he made in the draft, etc. You could read the novel without the footnotes, but it was still a distraction. If I had already read the novel, I would think it was cool — but I wouldn’t want to see that for all novelists. Luckily, I think most novelists wouldn’t want to write “commentary” for their stories. :D

  5. Jean Wan says:

    This is the first I’ve heard of vooks, and I can see the potential. Like you said, cookbooks with links to videos of actually cooking it? Cool. Others, like a extended annotations, would also be neat, but if it duplicates the book (or duplicates what the book should do, like the Jude Deveraux) then I’d be apt to pass it on. I agree with Lois M. _ I want to READ a book. Period. Everything else is extra.

  6. Jacqueline says:

    When I first read this article I thought “psh – I’d never buy a vook” – but such was before I realized Sherrilyn Kenyon (my most beloved, FAVORITE author) released a vook. Such was a collection of her Dark-Hunter series short stories, which I already had. But what made me have to buy it was that Sherri was interviewed on each short about how they relate to the series as a whole, and other interesting tidbits.

    So, overall, I’m not one for vooks in general, but if they contain interviews from my favorite author, that’s another story entirely :).

  7. Dandruff says:

    hi .. nice posting ..