It’s the End of the World As We Know It

(And I feel fine.)

iPadYesterday a lot of people were talking about this article in Wired: Publishers Hustle to Make E-Books More Immersive. You should read it if you get a chance. It’s all about how publishers and authors are looking to adapt to digital technologies (currently iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook) by creating books with “audio, video and interactive components.” They’re talking “enhanced e-books” and beyond, including apps and “complete multi-media experiences.”

There’s a lot of talk about how this is going to be the way to bring in the younger audiences, get them interested in books (or multi-media experiences) complete with interactive components and movie trailers.

As a lifelong reader, I have a couple of thoughts about this. (You knew I would.)

1. It’s the wave of the future and I get it.

I affirm the viability of this kind of approach for many kinds of books, and I agree it could help attract younger audiences, especially those who aren’t currently readers.

2. It’s not “either/or” but rather “both/and.”

I don’t see this kind of approach replacing the true “reading” experience, and I sincerely hope it never does. There will be room for both — the enhanced model, and plain old-fashioned “reading” that, regardless of the delivery system (paper or digital) consists of words placed together in sentences, uninterrupted by videos, music, maps, or whatnot.

3. But is it really immersive?

I question the use of the word “immersive” in this article and the way it’s being used nowadays to describe books that are “enhanced.” When one is immersed in something, one is deeply engaged; their attention is fully focused; they are absorbed. This is what happens with the old-fashioned style of reading, just words, uninterrupted. One can get fully immersed in a story or topic.

But with the new “enhanced” books, one’s attention is necessarily drawn to different places, as the text is interrupted by links, which will then provide music or video or something else. The reader may be engaged in the story or topic, and presumably each link will enhance the story or topic, but the experience is much more fragmented. You already know this from reading articles and blog posts on the web that have links in them — the links, by their very nature, are distracting. It is hard to feel focused. And there is research showing that the links indeed distract the mind and keep it from fully focusing on the topic at hand. Have you noticed that as you spend more time reading on the web, and less time reading uninterrupted long-form narratives, your own ability to deeply focus is shrinking?

So I think this new use of the word immersive is actually misleading. The new multi-media book experience would seem to be more dynamic but far less immersive.

4. Publishers are not dim-witted sloths.

I object somewhat to the portrayal of publishers as somehow stupid or having their heads in the sand for not quickly and aggressively embracing the potential of the digital models. The fact is, publishers have always been in the business of sharing stories and ideas through words — not through movie clips or music. Over time, they will be adopting new technologies and “reinventing storytelling” (as it says in the article), but we have to keep in mind that there is inherent value in preserving the tradition of the written word, and I think they see themselves continuing to do this. I think they’re smart to avoid getting crazy about all the new bells and whistles that come along, but rather take a thoughtful and considered approach, figuring out how to make entirely new products and business models work.

In addition, as the article points out, publishers must carefully consider the move to new technologies, because the financial cost of these enhanced books is staggering (over six figures in most cases), and simply not viable on a widespread basis in the current publishing climate. So I think there are very good reasons that the big publishers are slower to evolve, and some of the smaller and more nimble companies will be on the front line and the cutting edge.


I’m not a Luddite… you know that. I’m excited about new technologies and expect to spend the rest of my career grappling with them on a daily basis. But in the hype and excitement over technology, sometimes I feel compelled to speak up for the unparallelled pleasure of simply… reading a book.

Kind of revolutionary, huh?

What do you think of all this?




Posted in

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  2. This Week’s Top 10 Poetic Picks on April 12, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    […] Rachelle Gardner is no Luddite. As an award-winning literary agent, she uses crazy stuff like the Internet. Gardner responds to a recent talky Wired article, sharing her wisdom about the industry’s evolving relationship with new media. She says, “I’m excited about new technologies and expect to spend the rest of my career grappling with them on a daily basis. But in the hype and excitement over technology, sometimes I feel compelled to speak up for the unparalleled pleasure of simply… reading a book.” […]

  3. Katherine Bolton on April 11, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    This will involve money. Either the enhanced books will cost more and the money split more ways (royalties will go to the writer, the composer, actors, etc.) and the consumer might rebel.

    Or they will not cost more, and the royalties will still be split more ways and the writer will thus lose money.

    Either way, the writer will probably lose ground, become less central and valued. And, unfortunately, I don’t trust the priorities or taste of those who would implement these additions.

  4. Gdub on April 11, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    There is no more immersive activity, in my world anyway, than reading. And it will always be thus. In my day, my folks worried that comic books would ruin my absorption of “good” reading. Comic books were my bridge. I read everything, pocket books, trashy paperbacks, (Catcher in the Rye OMG) anything in print. I immerse daily. I also use a Mac daily, tweet, FB, all of that. But nothing beats reading. And I love picking up a book (actual book) and sliding in between those pages for a trip out of this world.

  5. Rachelle Christensen on April 11, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    I agree. There are pros and cons to the enhanced e-book. I’m definitely with you on the distraction factor–I want to read my book in peace and devour it without interruption. Of course I can’t do this with four small children–I have to read and write in snatches–but I’m not really looking forward to more distraction. I was averse to the Kindle at first, but now I love that I can read one-handed while brushing my teeth even. 🙂 So I will keep an open mind and a tight grip on my paper books.

  6. Lawrence Parlier on April 11, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    I think enhanced e-books have great potential. When I first read about the idea it struck me that it would be fantastic for sci-fi and fantasy books as they could include a lot of background data on the milieu a story takes place in, given the huge appeal of sites like Memory Alpha and Wookiepedia.

    The idea that really got me excited was in my own book (about a young musician torn between family and stardom) the potential existed for the mood of certain scenes to be enhanced by the music I mention in them. It would be cool to start reading a chapter as the mentioned song sets the mood as in film. The copyright clearances would be well worth it, and may in some cases be offset as an advertising interest especially for older works in the hands of marquee authors.

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  8. Kathy Rouser on April 10, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    Okay, I realize the generation under 30 is used to being immersed in technology–video game, iPods, iPhones, etc. . .
    They’re used to sound bites and fast-paced movies and TV programs, so perhaps it would be less jarring for them to use
    such an interactive technology compared to those of us who
    are say . . . ahem . . . uh, over 40ish? I suppose there could
    be some good things about having links to more information
    about a character, as Melanie mentioned above.

    However, that being said, there’s nothing like the technology
    of the God created human imagination–to find a quiet corner
    and curl up with a wonderful book in your hands–to be immersed in a world as you perceive it. It’s not all pre-programmed and is only limited by the reader’s imagination.
    So while there may be value in tapping into younger readers
    with an interactive reading experience, I don’t think publishers could ever replace the wondrous simplicity and economy of a real paper and ink book. 🙂

    Perhaps–and maybe I’m being naive here–there will always be room for both.

  9. Josh C. on April 10, 2012 at 10:02 PM

    My question is what’s the point? I don’t think it’s something that will catch on very well. Just because all these neat bells and whistles can be added to the “book reading” experience (and I question whether it’s book reading or movie watching) doesn’t mean it’ll be very marketable. Color me skeptical.

  10. Melanie Marttila on April 10, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    I’m intrigued. Don’t know if I’d buy any if they were produced, but your post has brought up a long buried memory …
    Back in the days when Web pages were typed out in a text editor (I used to do that, but don’t ask me to look at HTML now) there was some talk about hypertext novels. Essentially, the idea was that a character’s name could be linked and if you clicked on the link, you could visit a page with a picture of the character, a short bio, or a piece of back story. Similarly, place names could offer maps, pictures, etc. So the interactive ebook isn’t a new idea, but now publishers probably have much better tools with which to produce them.
    Intriguing, as I said, but I don’t have the mad skillz required to put one together myself …

  11. Kristin Laughtin on April 10, 2012 at 8:28 PM

    It’s an intriguing model and though I’m sure some people will gobble it up, I’m not very excited about it. I love my Kindle, but I just want to read words on it; if I can get lost in the narrative without being distracted by links or videos or anything else, I am happy. In fact, it’s a bit stressful to have many tabs open in an Internet browser, because I see how much I have left to consume, and I imagine the experience would be similar in an enhanced/”immersive” ebook.

    That said, I do find it cool when books have soundtracks associated with them. I just don’t listen to them while I’m reading.

  12. marion on April 10, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    I agree that these enhancements could be distracting. More like playing a game, almost, than reading a book. Reality simulation rather than experience of or true “immersion” in (as you point out) a fictional slice of reality.

  13. Melinda Viergever Inman on April 10, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    Getting immersed in a book is one of the greatest pleasures afforded to humankind. Egad! Let’s not eradicate that. Ever. I stand with you, Rachelle. Yes, there’s room for Nooks and Kindles and iPads; but don’t interrupt the story. Don’t break the spell.

  14. Connie Almony on April 10, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    I bet many thought the radio, television and computer would replace the book. And yet it remains. I’m with you–both/and!

  15. Sarah Thomas on April 10, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    Not only do I think it’s NOT immersive, it’s the opposite. Immersive was me utterly focused and absorbed in reading my Little House books at the age of 10 with my brothers bouncing off the furniture all around me. My whole family could have been abducted by aliens and I’d never have known. I suspect the audience for interactive books is the ADHD world we live in today. Next we’ll figure out how to work in neon and flashing lights. There’s definitely an audience for it, but it’s by no means the sole audience.

  16. P. J. Casselman on April 10, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    I truly hope these enhanced books come like DVD’s. That way, a person could click on the starting menu and simply enable or disable the enhancements. I would not mind reading the book the first time and then enjoying a bit of added pizazz the second time through. Options are good, but please don’t stick the options where my ADD will force me to push the little red button!

    • Jennifer Major on April 10, 2012 at 3:17 PM

      Would that be the dvd version of the Star Trek extra in a red jersey?

      • P. J. Casselman on April 10, 2012 at 3:39 PM

        Absolutely! Although everyone knows that’s the one the aliens are going to kill first!

        • Jennifer Major on April 10, 2012 at 4:43 PM

          Remind me to NEVER wear red to meet an agent. Oh wait. I’m a redhead! AH!!

  17. Lisa Marie on April 10, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    Whenever I read about “enhanced” ebooks, my first thought is, “Oh, wonderful. I’m probably going to have to download some new program or app to my Kindle/MacBook to get the ‘enhanced’ part to work.” I spend too much time as is updating my devices, so I’m fine with plain ol’ text, thanks very much! 😀

    • thiti on May 21, 2012 at 3:40 AM

      My wife and i ended up being thrilled when Jordan could carry out his anyilsas from the ideas he made when using the site. It’s not at all simplistic to just find yourself handing out steps which a number of people may have been trying to sell. And now we do know we need you to thank for this. The most important explanations you’ve made, the simple web site navigation, the friendships you make it possible to instill it’s all extraordinary, and it’s leading our son in addition to us know that that article is fun, and that is pretty essential. Thanks for the whole lot!

  18. Carol J. Garvin on April 10, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    I prefer an uninterrupted reading experience. If there are additional references that the author feels will enhance the story, I’ll be happy to find them at the end, much like a bibliography. Then I can choose to pursue them if I want to, without being distracted during the story. The joy of reading fiction is to be transported into another world. I don’t appreciate being yanked back to investigate links.

  19. Dina Santorelli on April 10, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    Rachelle, I too hope (and pray?) that it’s “both/and” rather than “either/or.” Although as an author I’m excited about the possibilities that technology offers, I agree that there’s something sacred about the uninterrupted reading of words on a page/screen. And imagine a time in the future when readers can click on a character name and see who/what an author had in mind when drawing that character. Maybe I am a Luddite, but I think some things shouldn’t be accessible with the touch of a button.

  20. Jack LaBloom on April 10, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    I like to read.
    I like to listen.
    I like to see.

    Technology usually outpaces the cost to use it on a widespread application, until someone finds a way to make it profitable for consumers to buy it on a casual basis.

    In this day and age, nothing stays the same for long.

    As long as it’s not chiseled in stone, it will probably have mass market potential.

  21. Timothy Fish on April 10, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    All of this reminds me of the “multimedia computers” that came out in the early 90s. They essentially provided the same capability that these immersive e-books are supposed to provide. The marketing people quickly dropped the term “multimedia” because people really weren’t that excited about it once the hype died down. Computers today have all of that capability and more, but the “multimedia” features still aren’t used all that much. I figure there will be a few books that will make good use of the technology, but they hype will die quickly.

    • Rachelle Gardner on April 10, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      You’re so right, and the cost is a huge part of this equation.

  22. Donna Pyle on April 10, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    I agree. Media fosters short attention spans, no imagination, and story tube feeding. With an old-fashioned book or simply words on a Kindle, our imagination isn’t limited to what the media peeps believe we need to see…or not. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

  23. Susan Craig on April 10, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Great post. Right on target. I will never forget reading a paperback hidden behing a workbook during some forgotten class in eighth grade. I was so immersed in the final night of the story that when it ended, I felt disoriented… blinking in the daylight and wondering where the sunshine had come from.

    I covet that same journey into the inner world of mind for my own children, and for all.

    Thanks for the reminder.


  24. Amy Keeley on April 10, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    (My comments below are entirely about fiction as enhanced ebooks. I think enhancing e-textbooks really is the wave of the future. It will price them out of the range of most students, but I think they will become a requirement.)

    Regarding price, if the quality is high enough, people will be willing to buy.

    As for a model, I think movies should be examined. Who watches a movie they’ve never seen with commentary on? DVDs are designed in such a way that you can watch the whole thing through without any distractions. In fact, movies are first run in surroundings designed to focus you on the movie (dark room with a large screen). It’s assumed that a DVD will come out with enhancements, but the number and kind varies.

    Even then, you’re still given the option to watch without distractions.

    I think ebooks could follow a similar model. Put out the no frills version first. Then, after popularity has been established (and some money has been put in the bank), put out a Special Edition with extra goodies that would still be readable without those distractions. The number and type of goodies will be completely dependent on what you think people would be willing to pay. A moderately successful novel would only have a few, while an extremely successful one may have a wide range, including “movie” clips or “deleted scenes”.

    This would mean that most fiction writers wouldn’t have special editions of their books and NO fiction writer would have an enhanced ebook for the first edition of anything they write.

    My point, after that loooooong comment, is, I think this is only a “wave of the future” for a select few.

  25. KarenM on April 10, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    …Leonard Berstein…

  26. Jaime Wright on April 10, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    I was trying to balance my Android the other night in bed and swipe with a finger to turn the page. It was immersive all right, when my phone flew across the room and onto the floor. Needless to say, I leaned over and grabbed the good ol’ paperback on my nightstand. I’m not sure audio would add to that experience – except with a deep male voice coming from my phone at the end of my bed. *shiver* Creepy.

  27. Jessica Peter on April 10, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Personally, I already find reading books the most “immersive” thing I do. And yes, I’m part of the younger, constantly multi-tasking generation – I can’t JUST watch a movie or listen to music comfortably, I have to do something else at the same time. But I can still entirely lose myself in a book. So adding these “features” to books would actually end up losing me somewhat.

  28. Daniel F. Case on April 10, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    I’m a techie-geek kinda guy, and I can really see the potential of some technologies to enhance the reading experience–but at some point, it’s no longer a reading experience, but a multimedia entertainment experience. It reminds me of new, supposedly cutting-edge e-book concept I reviewed a while back that integrated video, audio, and text into an electronic reading platform. After carefully examining the product, I could only conclude that they had succeeded at inventing a website.

    There is no more immersive experience than a good novel. It creates vibrant images using one of the greatest computing platforms ever built–the human mind.


  29. Sierra Gardner on April 10, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    I think of enhanced e-books much the same way I think of special features on DVD’s. It used to be that there was only the movie. Then at some point people started adding commentaries, out-takes etc. Now if we buy a DVD or blu-ray and only get the movie we are a little disappointed. I never watch the movie with commentary the first time, but sometimes it’s fun to go back and access the special features my second or third time through. Maybe that’s what will happen with e-books.

  30. Joan Cimyotte on April 10, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    It seems that the book industry is evolving; Survival of the fittest. Children are using IPhones as soon as they can hold it in their hands. Humans are funny in that each one has their own preferences. My 13 year old g-daughter received an IPad for her birthday. She had become an avid reader and we thought she would enjoy reading books on it.
    She prefers the printed good old fashion book. She might be the cutoff generation to old school. My younger g-kids were born holding an IPhone.

    • Stephanie M. on April 10, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      I talked to a friend of mine who teaches 5th grade science and asked her about e-books in academia. She told me her kids REFUSE to use an e-book if there is a real book available. I was relieved that kids still want the real deal. Real book = Higher perceived value. That’s why I think traditional publishing will remain the gold standard. For Now.

  31. Mark Staufer on April 10, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    I think “multimedia books” created specifically for digital platforms are an entirely new medium.
    I’m not talking about books that started life on paper and have been converted and have an interview with the writer tacked on the end, or books with a couple of songs included.
    I mean works of fiction using all media to create a storyworld.
    A new medium created by all media.
    And it’s not really a “book” anymore.
    And “multimedia ebook” is a bit blah.
    It needs a new name.
    Because it’s the future.

    • Stephen King on April 10, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      It’s the future, just like the hedge was in that movie/cartoon. Thus, we should call it “Steve.” 🙂

    • Kathleen Krueger on April 10, 2012 at 3:49 PM

      I have idea. When we create this multi-media story that has sound, video and music, we could call it – Tell-a-vision! Isn’t that the perfect name for it?

      Wait a minute? I think someone already did that with short stories that are called sitcoms and novels called movies.

      Shoot. And here I thought we were moving forward.

  32. Elizabeth Kitchens on April 10, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    I agree with you Rachelle. Technology is kinda cool but only to a point. Watching a book trailer before reading a book and being able to zoom in on a map of an imaginary world are fun as add-ons, but don’t mess with my book itself. At some point we’ve got to say “Technology, let me alone!” I’m not a moron that I have to be bribed by special features to read a book. I’d rather be Beauty and use my imagination than Gaston and wonder “how can you read this? They’re no pictures.”

  33. John Galt Guss on April 10, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    I find the notion exciting and utterly fascinating. Quality is key. Anything can be badly done. As an author myself, I am looking forward to using these innovations in my own work. I have a couple of book trailers that I’d love to include in an e-book. As long as the “immersion” doesn’t distract from the main work, I don’t see a problem. This has to be done right–icing on the cake. There is always a temptation to overdo a gimmick. Provided the final product is presented as a coherent work, these innovations could presage a bright future for publishing.

  34. Chris on April 10, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    The written word will never go away, no matter how fancy and high tech the delivery vehicles of the written word become. Just because the technology exists to do something, doesn’t mean that technology is better and/or must be adopted.

    A parallel example in another industry is robotic surgery. It sounds great to have a machine take out one’s appendix because the human error factor is theoretically eliminated, but the fact is that most robotic surgeries are no better than a human surgeon. In some cases, outcomes can be worse.

    My own father experienced a life-threatening surgery because the robotic surgeon couldn’t think outside the box regarding his unique situation and body condition. He’s fine now, but it’s very likely a human surgeon would not have made the mistake the robot did.

    The singular pleasure of reading a book and creating the world of that book in my mind can never be duplicated or surpassed because no other human or machine can possibly know what my mind will conjur up when I picture the protagonist, antagonist, supporting characters and settting of whatever novel I choose to read.

    Technology will continue to infinity improving, speeding up, miniaturizing, and otherwise changing life. One thing that will never change is our sense of sight connecting with our brain involuntarily to interpret in a unique and wonderful way that code of printed characters on a piece of paper that, when strung together in a linear fashion, makes a great story for our entertainment and enlightenment.

  35. E.Arroyo on April 10, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Interesting, assuming families could afford it.

  36. Rachelle Gardner on April 10, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    I didn’t include this in my post because it’s not really relevant, but I listen to a lot of audiobooks, and one I listened to recently was Jodi Picoult’s “Sing You Home.” I love Jodi and this was a great story. It involves a songwriter and music therapist. So the audio version was punctuated with songs in between chapters, so that we could hear the music of the character, which obviously wasn’t available in the paper book.

    I hated it. I skipped over every song.

    See, just because I like Jodi Picoult’s writing doesn’t mean I’ll have any appreciation or enjoyment of the kind of music she wants to include in her book. They’re two different things. So for me, the “enhancement” of being able to include the character’s music was a distraction and a detraction.

  37. Richard Mabry on April 10, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    When I want an immersive reading experience, I’ll take a good book to the bathtub.
    Seriously, I’m with you on this one.

    • Sarah Thomas on April 10, 2012 at 4:37 PM

      Now THAT is my favorite immersive experience!

    • Jeanne T on April 10, 2012 at 4:49 PM

      I’m right there with that sentiment!

  38. Zan Marie on April 10, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    I can see it helping reluctant readers and maybe younger readers, but it would be distracting, too. I like creating the images that the words give me for myself. Count me as a reader who would rather not have those options.

  39. jimmerz on April 10, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    i actually would rather see more books on the digital platform for e readers, tablets and iOS devices. my reasons are pretty simple.. i tend to buy books and then forget to read them or make no time to do so.. id rather buy a digital book that i can always RE download if need be if i loose my data.. and not waste a tree.

  40. Jeanne T on April 10, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    Very interesting post. I, for one, love being immersed in a great story. Yes, some of those great stories are read on my Kindle, but I still prefer to read uninterrupted by links that distract. I guess I’m old-fashioned that way.

    I’m sure the younger generation will gravitate toward having the music, video clips and other features that can “enhance” e-reader books; it’s become a part of our culture. I hope, though, that there will be young people who also simply get lost in the beauty of how words convey a story.

    Though this technology is here to stay, my hope is that publishers will continue to provide books that are not filled with links to other forms of media.

  41. Stephen H. King on April 10, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    Somebody else already mentioned that the immersive experience is here to stay in academic publishing. ’tis true; the e-books I work with in my day job do this quite natch. Then again, an academic customer will pay $100 for a book and think he’s getting a bargain.

    I’m going to take a different stance from most folks on this, much as it pains me to do so. Most of the current technologies, many of which replaced competitive tech, wasn’t “needed” when it came out. Nobody needed the sound clarity of CDs when they replaced vinyl. Nobody truly needs a camera or a GPS or a web browser on their cell phone, either, but how often do you see a cell phone available that doesn’t allow for the snapping of beautiful pictures of our puppies and babies? We–even us old pharts–buy the enhanced technology not because it’s something we need, but because it’s cool, and it’s something we can buy. For–the most part, anyway.

    Back to the subject at hand, I am also one who loves the feeling of sitting back with a paperback in hand, letting the story play out in my brain as I read it from the page. Lately I’ve learned to love the feeling of sitting back with my cell phone in hand, letting the story play out in my brain as I read it from the Kindle emulator. Do I need the enhancements the article describes Havard bringing to her book? Nah. But would it be cool to have the music playing in the background? Sure. Another example is that in the genre I mostly read and work, fantasy, authors seem to love to create character names that are impossible for the human mouth to pronounce (e.g., Leg’l’thr’rpfphi). Sure would be nice to have an interactive pronunciation guide to the silliness. Would also be nice to have an interactive search feature, like what exists in my work docs, to go back through and find the last time I saw a character mentioned, because my brain is getting old and–um, what was I saying? Oh, yeah–and additionally, adding the functionality that made Zynga worth hundreds of millions of dollars (have your friends read this and I’ll unlock a chapter, or some such) is, frankly, brilliant. If, that is, your goal is to sell books.

    Will be interesting to see what happens to pricing over the coming years, with or without immersion technologies but especially with. Including a camera on a cell phone increases the cost to produce the device, but the marketers have found an indirect way to pay for it. At the same time, one funny thing about ebooks, immersive or not, is that the unit marginal cost is zero–all cost of production is sunk well before the item goes on the market. Does adding sound files or moving pictures, then, HAVE to increase the cost of each book? I suppose we’ll probably see in the near future.

    Now, see, I didn’t rag on Big 6 publishers once…. 🙂

    • Jennifer Major on April 10, 2012 at 11:09 AM

      Leg’l’thr’rpfphi-From the Greek, meaning “I’m so profound and deep, I only need two vowels”.
      Or it’s the sound the victim makes after eating parsnips.

      VERY funny today Mr King. I read this twice.

    • Timothy Fish on April 10, 2012 at 1:19 PM

      I don’t see how it would be possible to add interactive content without it adding to the cost of the book. If the publisher embeds music in the book, whether the artist is Billy Joel or the St. Louis Symphony, the publisher has to pay for its use. Even if they are able to find “free” music, they’ve got to pay someone to verify that they have permission to use it. Producing a pronounciation guide requires the use of a sound studio and a voice actor to say the words. It all costs money.

      • Stephen King on April 10, 2012 at 1:40 PM

        Those are all examples of production costs, though, and unless they’re handled on a royalty basis then their use at the front end doesn’t add any additional cost to each e-book. “Unit marginal cost” is the additional cost to produce one more unit, and for e-books that cost is zero. Yeah, yeah, I know that my two books cost me plenty in blood, sweat, tears, printer ink, hours, time away from fishing, and editing fees, but when you buy a copy it costs me nothing additional. The production costs are sunk.

        That picture does change, of course, if, say, the music is produced by the Boston Philharmonic on a per-unit royalty arrangement. I know most artwork is NOT done under a royalty agreement, but I don’t know about music. Still, if it were me doing it (and it very well may be in the near future, as I think this whole thing is brilliant) I would only hire someone who was willing to do it on the sunk-cost (single payment, aka royalty-free) model.

        • Timothy Fish on April 10, 2012 at 8:16 PM

          I don’t believe your argument holds water. On a case-by-case basis, you might be able to save money by using royalty-free vs. royalty material. However, consider that royalty-free material is priced higher. Ultimately, you have to make the decision on book prices based on how many books you think you can sell. If you sell 10,000 books, it makes no difference whether you pay $1,000 up front or 10 cents per book. Whatever your additional costs may be, they will push the price of the book up.

  42. Katie Ganshert on April 10, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    Amen! Call me old-fashioned, but I think I would hate one of those enhanced books. And I think there are lots of people like me out there.

    It isn’t either/or, just like you said. Some will go for the enhanced stuff. Good for them. But there are those who just want to read.

    • Cynthia Herron on April 10, 2012 at 11:33 AM

      Katie, right there with you. I like “enhanced” for awhile, but I think the distractions in this case might diminish my reading experience.

  43. CG Blake on April 10, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Call me old-fashioned, but if I want video, I watch a
    movie or TV. When I read a book I want to be immersed in the story. I don’t want a picture of the main character. I want to imagine what she looks like, based on the author’s minimal description. Authors are advised not to do anything that takes the reader out of the story. Multi-media books do just that. I understand the desire to appeal to a broader audience, but to me the experience of reading a book is as important as the content. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this emerging trend, Rachelle.

  44. Wendy Paine Miller on April 10, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    I agree, this new way of reading does seem like it would be fragmented or fragmenting.

    This point jumped out at me: “When one is immersed in something, one is deeply engaged; their attention is fully focused; they are absorbed. This is what happens with the old-fashioned style of reading, just words, uninterrupted.”

    My friend worked really hard to learn these lyrics when we were in 7th grade. All I remember…fragments. 😉

    That’s great it starts with an earthquake…six o’clock TV hour…(and now you’re thankful you can’t actually hear me singing).

    ~ Wendy

    • Jennifer Major on April 10, 2012 at 9:37 AM

      Here in the frozen tundra, we have language “immersion” in the schools. It is meant to learn a language,not go insane with all kinds of extraneous dreck and distracting activities.

      And don’t forget, The Psalmist says to make a “JOYful noise”. He never added the “only if you sound like Adele and have great back-up singers” clause. Just grab your hairbrush and go for it!

      • Wendy Paine Miller on April 10, 2012 at 11:54 AM

        Oh I sound just like Adele. 😉

        • Jennifer Major on April 10, 2012 at 3:50 PM

          You do? Me too! Especially in my van. Van acoustics are awesome. I also sound like Darlene Zschech. If you’re ever doing a road trip, call me and we can embarrass my kids for 100’s of miles.

  45. Flower Patch Farmgirl on April 10, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    “I feel compelled to speak up for the unparallelled pleasure of simply… reading a book.” My favorite line of the week.

  46. Janelle on April 10, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    This definition of ‘immersion’ sounds more like drowning.

  47. Stephanie M. on April 10, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    I could see this working for certain types of books, for instance, academic publishing, where you have an annotated edition that just has links you click to immediately provide the reference (especially helpful if you’re reading olde english and need an immediate translation). Otherwise, I don’t see the point. I don’t need the author to tell me a character is thinking about Billy Joel and then have a link so I can listen to the music. First of all, because it’s Billy Joel, and second, because I have an imagination.

  48. Jennifer Major on April 10, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    My first thought, after the anxiety fairy pinged me in the head, was that those of us who are on the ever spinning wheel of ADD would go bonkers. I just want a book! The expanding world of sensory overload really needs to slam on the brakes. Kids need to learn to read. Not read and push buttons. Not read and get a prize. Just read. A few of my kids read with their headphones on, the others (No, I’m not a Walton) read quietly. One of the great pleasures in life is a beach/deck/blanket/hammock/boat and a good book. One should not need a power source to run the book. Just a mind and an imagination. I think I’m channeling my inner Anne Shirley. That’s Anne, with an E.

    • P. J. Casselman on April 10, 2012 at 2:50 PM

      Jennifer, could you link that reference to Anne Shirley so I can read more about what you mean? 😛
      I am ADD too and I know what you mean. Those links and such make it hard to just…oh hey, there’s a bird on a branch outside my window!

      • Jennifer Major on April 10, 2012 at 3:33 PM

        Hi , I tried linking a reference, but I ended up pasting something I’d copied yesterday.

        There’s an L on my forehead.

        Anne Shirley is by far the most famous girl in Canadian literature. A woman named Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote “Anne of Green Gables” in 1908 and ” Anne with an E” tipped the world on it’s head. Mrs Montgomery is one of Canada’s national treasures. She received the enormously significant honour of being given The Order of the British Empire. Even Mark Twain was a fan of hers!
        Ask a tween girl if she’d heard of Anne Shirley, and if she hasn’t , get her to a library or bookstore.
        It’s considered un-Canadian for a girl here to not have read Anne of Green Gables.

        • P. J. Casselman on April 10, 2012 at 3:38 PM

          My bad. I was just kidding (ala the links and such throughout the new ebooks.) Sorry my humor is obscure sometimes. (hangs head) It was kind of you to post that, though! Thanks!

          • Jennifer Major on April 10, 2012 at 3:51 PM

            Haha! I laughed out loud. Yay me. I’m showing my mad skilz, aren’t I?

  49. Timothy Fish on April 10, 2012 at 8:21 AM

    We’ve had movies for a long time. As a form of telling stories, they are about as immersive as you can get, but they cost too much for every story to be told this way. Besides which, many people like to use their own imagination. I don’t see just words on a page going away.

  50. Laura Pauling on April 10, 2012 at 8:06 AM

    There’s a time and a place for “Immersive” books but from what I’ve seen when technology invades education in this way, kids just use the gadgets to be entertained by noises and special effects – I’d much rather my kids be reading and immersed in the words and the experience of plain text.

  51. jeffo on April 10, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    Cynic that I am I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these ‘enhancements’ turned out to be poorly-disguised advertisements.

    I wrote a post touching on this a couple of months back:

  52. Meadow Rue Merrill on April 10, 2012 at 5:51 AM

    If I wanted to watch a movie or play a video game or do some research or virtual travel on the web, I’d go to those places to do it. But if it’s a book I’m looking to immerse myself in, I just want to enjoy the story–whether it is delivered in a paper or digital format. I applaud the use of trailers etc. to draw people TO books, but I agree the text itself should be left alone.

  53. […] posted here: It's the End of the World As We Know It | Rachelle Gardner Tagged with: article • how-publishers • ipad • people-were • publishers […]

  54. […] the original post here: It's the End of the World As We Know It | Rachelle Gardner Posted in Comentário, ipad, Media | Tagged article, how-publishers, ipad, Media, […]

  55. […] Excerpt from: It's the End of the World As We Know It | Rachelle Gardner […]

  56. Sean Roney on April 10, 2012 at 2:57 AM

    You are spot on about reading and how pure text without hyperlinks and videos is a better experience. I was in absolute agreement when you mentioned articles with links. All too often, I’m distracted by the links and check out what the author is mentioning. I may be gone for five minutes, or maybe an hour, only to come back and find my interest in the original article that led me down the rabbit hole no longer holds my interest. This model fails with short articles, so why would anyone think it would work with a long-form read, like a novel? It’s just bad business.

    Then, there’s the secondary effect. If we add video and audio we’re essentially hybridizing books with radio and television. We already have radios and televisions, so why would we want cruddy versions of shows crammed into a reading experience? That’s like cramming a delicious steak full of a cruddy cupcake, just to try to appeal to both the steak and cake demographic. Just have a separate meal.

  57. Adam Heine on April 10, 2012 at 2:47 AM

    “…they will be adopting new technologies and ‘reinventing storytelling’ (as it says in the article)”

    The idea that publishers are the ones who have to reinvent storytelling is a mistake, I think. Like you said, Rachelle, publishers have always been in the business of sharing stories through words. But storytelling has been reinvented a thousand times over from plays and musicals to TV series, movies, and video games.

    I think using these technologies to make books more dynamic is not a bad idea, but to say it’s The Next Big Thing in Storytelling feels short-sighted to me. It ignores all the various mediums and technologies that have been used for decades now.

  58. Wendy Sparrow on April 10, 2012 at 2:23 AM

    I agree with you on the term immersive–if it’s anything like blu-ray interactive features it stops you and draws you out of the experience. Even if it adds value to your overall enjoyment, it feels “additional” rather than necessary.

    Another thing at issue is that these file sizes become huge and bloated. If you have a tablet and can spare the room and have a good internet connection…sure… but regular ereaders won’t be able to handle them. I went looking to purchase a book this week and it was only available in ebook in the enhanced format–all 160 MB. I felt queasy just thinking about it.

    I don’t need total technology immersion. It’s hard enough once you’ve seen the man behind the curtain as a writer to get into a good book. The words should be enough. When we’ve gotten to the point that the story and the words *need* supplementing–well, I’ll cry.

  59. Gabrielle Meyer on April 10, 2012 at 1:24 AM

    This literature/technology hybrid is definitely intriguing. I think there will be a place for it, but I don’t think it will ever replace traditional literature, just as television didn’t replace movies and cars didn’t replace trains. Technology and advancement will always come, in one form or another, but there is something inherent in the written word that can never be replaced or improved upon.

    I did have a thought while reading this article, though. When I read “Little House on the Prairie” as a child, I often wondered what the tunes were for many of Pa’s songs – with this “immersive” technology, I would be left to wonder…

    • Gabrielle Meyer on April 10, 2012 at 1:25 AM

      *would NOT be left to wonder. 🙂

    • Jenny on April 10, 2012 at 3:55 PM

      I also think that ‘immersive’ is probably the wrong word – my picture of the enhanced ebook is something like the special features on DVDs. Author interviews, clips of the songs (the whole song?), and things like that.

      Where I think the technology would be *awesome* would be for books like Danielewski’s House of Leaves, or mysteries where you’d actually get to witness stuff like video surveillance footage. Some cozy mysteries have neat things like basket weaving/cooking/knitting that would work really well for little instructional videos. Sometimes even an illustration while reading helps the narrative instead of hurts.

      I’m with you, Gabrielle. The potential is intriguing and I think some things could be fun, but it probably won’t replace reading as reading. =)

    • Maggie Lyons on April 11, 2012 at 10:09 AM

      As an author of children’s fiction, I’m excited by the idea of interactive technology to enhance children’s e-books, especially if it attracts reluctant readers. Children’s stories are particularly suited to interactive technology and I look forward to exploring the possibilities.