Monday, August 03, 2009

What Else Could Ebooks Be? (a.k.a. Emily Witters On)

Ebooks are just books, right? It's just a format.
But sometimes I wonder why ebooks do not take greater advantage of their freedom from the costs of conventional printing.
Ebooks could be experimentally formatted, illustrated, animated. They could have soundtracks, photographs, backgrounds, handwritten letters and whispering voices. Because with an ebook all of these things could potentially be done without increasing the cost of reproduction of delivery.
And then I suppose I remember, books don't need gimmicks. They don't even benefit from them. The written word may travel swifter now and over longer distances with greater resilience.
But a book is still at its best when it is just a book. A package full of words, strung together, to tell a story.


L.E. Bryce said...

When Ursula K. LeGuin published Always Coming Home, the hardcover came with recordings of "native" songs, music, etc. that were interspersed between the narrative. Had it been an ebook, all that could have been part of the text.

I always have to wait for paperback editions to get my maps into my books.

Emma Wayne Porter said...

Tragically, while the market is beginning to boom for ebooks, display technology is still in the 8-track stages. Most ebook formats are xml based, but most ereader devices only support a tiny fraction of the language's capabilities, let alone features that are j-script based. So digital publishers could code all kinds of supplementary bells and whistles into the books, but most ereader devices couldn't display them.

So few devices could display the toys that right now, it's just not cost effective for digital publishers to format a book 30 different ways in the slim chance a reader would be able to take advantage of all that hard work.

When the technology catches up to the medium's potential (and the tower of eBabel crumbles), end users will start seeing more innovation. Until's hoping.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to see more graphics in ebooks. From maps to pictures to art work. The publisher that can innovate in this manner is sure to be well rewarded.

K. Z. Snow said...

Considering how cover-challenged so many e-pubs are, I doubt graphics within the text are coming any time soon. ;-)