In among all the palaver about how e-reading is changing book distribution, we often forget that it’s also changing the other part of the business and art of books – the reading experience
Comixology, Device 6 and navigating books
I recently raved about the unusual reading experience of the story/game DEVICE 6. One of the joys of that experience was the way in which the reader navigated the text. Sometimes you had a choice of two ways to read, scrolling in different directions. Text layouts reflected the story environment. Visual puzzles and audio elements were interspersed through the surreal short story. All this was possible because of the different formats that e-reading allows.
But this is also being used in more low-key and more widely read formats. I recently acquired a Kindle Fire and the Comixology app, letting me indulge in my neglected comics habit.* Comixology changes the comic reading experience. You can view one page at a time, enjoying the art of the layout as in a print comic, though without the intrusive adverts. But you can also view the comic one panel at a time. This means that elements later in the page come as more of a surprise, but that you miss out on the tricks of layout that truly great comic writers and artists use. The pacing and tension of the reading experience is subtly changed, and as creators adapt to this new format so will the medium.
Joanna Penn and intertextuality
Look at me, pulling out the ten dollar words. But intertextuality – the relationship between texts – is transforming and being transformed by e-reading as books start to adopt the tricks of the internet.
I recently read Joanna Penn’s Author 2.0 Blueprint, which is essentially a beginner’s guide to self-publishing.** Joanna includes a lot of links in her book, letting you read more on particular topics without slowing down the main points. It’s a smart approach, one we see all the time on websites but could not do in paper books. With e-readers we can.
And this is changing the way that we validate knowledge through references. It used to be that a factual book would provide a footnote referencing the source of information, but now you can provide direct links to that source if it is web-based, for readers to go and check the information themselves. How long before this is used to connect between books as well, giving readers a more inter-connected reading experience and marketers a way to sell you even more books? Could this be the future of academic journals?***
Mo Options Mo Awesome
The Notorious BIG provided a powerful metaphor for the dangers that come with a growth in our wealth of creative options.**** But the flip side of this is that these options let us do ever more interesting and creative things. They let us connect ideas together in new ways, experience stories in new formats. That’s great. The old forms aren’t dying – they’ll still be there if we want them. But new forms are rising up to join and in many cases surpass them.
What are your thoughts on this? Are you enjoying the experience of e-reading? Have you seen it used in interesting ways? Share your experiences below.
* Turns out that freelance work from home does have a downside – not working within walking distance of a comic shop.
** Joanna actually covers the full range of publishing options, but the emphasis is on the tools, techniques and challenges of self-publishing. I’ll be returning to this another day I’m sure.
*** It should be, but for smart people academics can be very slow to change.
**** Or maybe he just wanted to show off. So hard to tell with champagne-swilling jewellery-covered superstars.