The word "enhanced" has taken on a funny meaning these days. First there were "enhanced interrogations," which apparently meant "waterboarding and other forms of torture." Then came "enhanced patdowns," which apparently meant "frisking bordering on sexual assault" or "strip-searching a seven-year-old." Classy, government. Very classy.
Now we have "enhanced e-books," which apparently means... well, we're still not quite sure, but it's supposed to be a hot new trend in e-publishing.
From what I've gathered over the past year or so, enhanced e-books are e-books containing "extra" material. The definition of "extra" depends on the publisher and the title at hand: author interviews/videos, social networking compatibility, iPhone, iPad, and Droid apps, and other varieties of electronic multimedia are all fair game. Books in the world of tomorrow™ will be more like the Internet and less like... well, books.
Not surprisingly, the Apple iPad is the device of choice for many enhanced e-books due to its color screen, multimedia compatibility, and app-centric disposition. But with the advent of machines like the color Nook (watch out, Amazon), that's not necessarily going to be the case in 2011.
Not to get all Lord of the Rings on you, orcs and lady orcs, but the (publishing) world is changed. Whether you like it or not, your books will become e-books and your e-books will become enhanced with Twitter roundtables, author videos, content-specific apps, and other electronic oddities. Publishers are trying to wring more money out of e-books for fear that the electronic format will bankrupt them the way it did the music industry, and "enhancing" the crap out of a book with a lot of extra material is one way to justify charging more for it.
One of the more novel—pardon the pun—applications of said enhancements is the Vook. (This beats out Barnes & Noble's ill-fated PubIt! as my least favorite publishing-related word.) Rather than tacking on the equivalent of director commentaries and blooper reels to books, the Vook relies on video files and the Internet to actually complete the written story, sort of like how brief cinematics fill in the gaps in storylines in a lot of video games.
Do I think we'll be reading Vooks (or even enhanced e-books) exclusively in five years? No—as I've said before, I expect the e-book to eventually become the (pre)dominant format, but I don't think it will utterly kill the physical book. I do think the large retail chains are in trouble, but if Barnes & Noble plays its cards right, it will continue to use the Nook to revolutionize its business practices and adapt to the new market.
As I've also said before, I think the the world of tomorrow™ will comprise e-retailers and independent booksellers, the latter specializing in rare and used physical books.
The industry is changing and will continue to change, folks, and it's undeniably becoming a more Internet-dependent, electronic, app-driven environment. As format competes with content to determine the future of publishing, I think we're going to see even bigger and more interesting developments in the new year.
That's it for today, ladies and gents. Stay tuned for the announcement of the five winning guest posts tomorrow!