Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Apologies for the radio silence yesterday, mes auteurs, but I'm now dug out from under Snowpocalypse 2010 and bringing you a double-length post to make up for it. Think of it as Twofer Tuesday. Better yet: Twofer Tuesday™.

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!


  1. I have a NOOKcolor. I was reading in bed last night(which is 95% of the reason I chose that reader) and questioned the use of "ordinance" in context. Had I been reading in a print book, I'd have simply skipped over it, since I was fairly confident it was a typo and should have been "ordnance" but it was so easy to press the word, then select "look up". I knew what the author meant, and that would be good enough for me most of the time.

    But that's about as 'enhanced' as I want to get, because anything that stops the flow of the read interferes with MY enjoyment of the story.

    I'm sure there are just as many people who want all the bells and whistles.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  2. There can be a real issue with "enhancing" a novel. Images and language are processed by different parts of the brain, thus requiring a kind of shifting of attention which interferes with the traditional flow of reading. I think just adding visual material substantially to a book is counter-productive: the entire "book," or whatever we can now call it, should be designed AROUND these visual (and vocal) opportunities. The result wouldnt be exactly a book, or a movie--and thus will replace neither--but a new form of art, still awaiting definition....

    D.N. Stuefloten

  3. Ads in ebooks and vooks are also going to change the game. I'm interested in such things, but I see them as products that can coexist alongside traditional books, not replace. Let's hope so, or else I'll be holed up in Alaska in my used and "rare" print bookstore, hoarding my hardcover James Lee Burke's and Michael Gruber's.

  4. I'm still waiting for my e-reader. Haven't made up my mind on Nook or Kindle. Some of the enhancements intrigue me, but mostly, I just want a more convenient - and less expensive - way to purchase books. With a lot of my friends self publishing in the e-publishing formats only, there are books unavailable in print now.

    An author I truly enjoy will have a book purchased and sitting on my bookshelf still. I love the feel and look of a paper book.


  5. This was a great post! And you know what would complement it? That guest post I sent you ;)

  6. Didn't Trojan start advertising one that vibrates?

  7. I've been very interested to read a Vook. I am curious to know how "enhancements" work in adult literature.

    We have a color Nook, and the enhanced books work great for the kids. The enhancements on the books we have so far are not flashy. You can make the words bigger or zoom in on the picture. It feels natural. But those particular features wouldn't be to useful in Lord of the Rings -- perhaps a link to a map, or an Elvish dictionary.

    It's definitely a genre that will be expanding.

    Tara Maya
    The Unfinished Song: Initiate