You may have heard the term “enhanced” eBook lately. Maybe you’ve heard… from people like me, even… that eBooks are going to have to include more multimedia as people ditch eReaders and go for tablets.
Well, the picture to the left is evidence of that effort: pulling in more stuff to immerse the reader in the experience. The thing is, when I look at this picture, and read about how these next-generation eBooks allow readers to “unlock dozens of achievements and items to collect on their reading journey, and explore hundreds of hand-painted digital environments,” I thought to myself…
Isn’t that a video game?
The art of regression
I’ve often wondered if these “enhanced eBooks” are going to stray too close to the line of video games, trip over said line, and just become video games with a little more story. And I say a little more, because a lot of games these days are dense. With good stories.
Right now, I’m playing the post-apocalyptic role-playing game, Fallout 3. I was wandering the ruins of D.C. and heard a lot about the President, who has been trying to reunite the country. I’ve even heard his voice on radio transmissions.
Finally, I got a chance to meet him. I entered a cavernous, steel room. I wandered up steel steps… and I found out that this President was actually a super-computer designed from “presidential algorithms” based on the best presidents. Because human presidents let their humanity get in the way of making choices that will benefit the many at the cost of the few.
That’s a damn good story. Fallout 3 and most RPGs these days are interactive novels with items and environments and achievements. Sometimes, you can play these interactive novels with your friends.
Reading about this next-generation eBook made me wonder: is this really a next-generation eBook or is it just a still-life video game?
The risk of the eBook
Publishers feel like they have to keep innovating to sell more books. I cautiously agree, but upon seeing the results of this multimedia experiment, I’m a little skeptical.
It made me wonder why I read in the first place. If publishers keep pushing multimedia elements into text, then eBooks will become video games.
Video games, but developed by book publishers. So… worse.
On the other hand, they could also become picture books again. When I was in elementary school, once you could read all-text books, it was something of a triumph. To regress back to a stage of books with lots of pictures might feel weird, too.
The promising premise of enhancement
There’s a core belief behind these innovations: books aren’t good enough.
In the wake of a multimedia deluge, when any kind of content is made available to us if we can just manage to move a fingertip (or maybe even bat an eyelash), publishers are panicking.
So we get ‘enhanced eBooks.’
The question now is… what else will we get?