Hybrid Books to Meet Digital Demands

It turns out that paper books have a unique trick up their sleeves to compete with engrossing book apps. According to indie publisher Melville House, who are now printing Hybrid Books, this is “an innovative publishing program that gives print books the features of enhanced eBooks.”1

Through a neat little feature dubbed “illuminations,” readers can scan bar codes in their books using their smart phones and connect with supplement media related to the book (features that come automatically with the ebook editions). It’s quite an ingenious solution, where the only failure is to meet the convenience of an ebook pre-loaded with these additional features.

“For example, The Illumination for the Hybrid Book version of Anton Chekhov’s The Duel contains an essay on dueling by Thomas Paine, poems by Lord Byron, philosophy by Nietzsche, an anti-dueling church sermon, an argument in favor of dueling by a U.S. Senator, and the rules to the game of vint—a game that plays a role in the plot,” said Dennis Johnson, the publisher of Melville House, in a statement. “In the Illumination for Giacomo Casanova’s The Duel you’ll find a comic essay by Mark Twain on French dueling and an account of a famous duel fought from hot air balloons. And there’s so much more—maps, cartoons, recipes, photographs, paintings—to enhance the reader’s experience.1

This is an interesting example of what differentiates Multimedia and Transmedia, which I have been asked about before. Now these definitions are not set in stone, but illuminations are a prime example of transmedia–a form of joint narrative that expands the audience’s experience across multiple platforms. With illuminations, we have the physical book and the digital content that is accessed through the smart phone, whereas the ebook is a single platform with multimedia (illustrations, video, games) all built in.

The prime difference between the two is that one is localized to one device while the other requires a bit of exploration. Each method has its benefits and shortcomings, but ultimately they both enhance the experience for the reader, pulling dynamic content from anywhere to aid in the telling of stories.

Links: 1 http://www.observer.com

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