eBooks and the mixing of media

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Earlier last month I read an interesting article where a Scottish author, Irvine Welsh, talks about the possibility of mixing media to make eBooks. He wants to include not just pictures, but video and links in his book as well. Some writers are already doing this. A friend of Welsh’s published an eBook that contains links to short films. This idea both overjoys and horrifies me.

I love the idea of adding another dimension to books that was previously unavailable. How incredible would it be to read an eBook that comes with it’s own background music? Pictures and video would allow a reader to further bury themselves in the story. Think of all the tie ins! Let’s use Narnia as an example. Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to click on the words “Turkish Delight” (the sweet that Edmund eats and betrays his family for) and be redirected to the author’s website where there is a recipe for it?

However, I can think of a few drawbacks. First of all I would hope this kind of format would not be wide spread. Why? I believe in imagination. While providing that extra media would make the book experience richer, it would also be like chewing someone’s food for them. Reading a book gives the author a chance to tell you a story, yes, but as the reader it’s your responsibility to flesh out the story in your mind. I don’t often like movies based on books because the characters don’t look at all similar to the way I pictured them.

Secondly, not all books need this. I see this idea as something similar to 4D movies. Not all movies need to be 4D because most movies aren’t made for it. The movies that are made for 4D shine brightly and make you think that the $20 ticket was actually worth it. I think that’s how mixed media books will be. It will be perfect for some, and not at all necessary for others.

But the biggest drawback I can think of is monetary. If books include videos, pictures, and links, what’s to keep sponsors from swooping in? Of course this gives the author more chance for merchandising, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. (If Harry Potter eBooks contained links to Harry Potter costumes and trinkets you can bet your sweet pages I would happily buy stuff.) I’m thinking more mainstream, like corporations buying their way into books. Suddenly main characters will be sipping Pepsi or going to Starbucks for half the book. The hero’s mother only uses Tide to clean his clothes, and his girlfriend drives a Toyota which is pictured in almost all the media. I don’t think it will ever get that bad–after all it’s not like that in movies or TV and they have plenty product placements, but I suspect it will make books appeal to the corporate world in ways they previously did not.

What do you think, Champions?

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