Those who build eBooks are faced with an interesting puzzle. Why build eBooks to look just like their print counterparts when they can do so much more?
Ebooks can include audio (see my earlier post on SMIL files) or video, interactive features that move or change when touched, and hopefully soon be able to include new sophisticated fonts like those found on Use the Whole Font which use ligatures, scrolling options and are beautiful to boot. I’d also love to see Parallax scrolling techniques used in eBooks like those used on CSS Piffle:
So why aren’t we doing this? Why not build these eBooks extraordinaire and sell them now? Well, books like these are actually for sale. Companies like Inkling and Aerbook, for example, produce beautiful fixed format ebooks with all the fixings. You may not have realized this though if you don’t read books from web platforms or iBooks as other eReaders simply cannot support this level of complexity yet.
This leads to another issue, iBooks is a woefully small piece of a publishers market with Amazon’s Kindles having a staggering lead. Publishers want their books to reach the largest audience and many in-house digital departments are very small or at the very least fledgling (read: brand new) they simply do not have the time or resources to make multiple editions of an EPUB on the company dime. There is also the added pressure of digitizing the backlist on top of the 4-6 frontlist titles a week that each eBook developer may be handling. Finally another, less acknowledged, reason is that we don’t want to take away from the consumers reading experience. We want you to enjoy the story your reading without feeling distracted from all kinds of gizmos and gadgets, making a truly enhanced eBook as opposed to a distraction is a fine line.
Still as many eBook developers may tell you, we haven’t abandoned our hopes of a more complex eBook. I just worked on incorporating some audio and video into some books and Chronicle is trying to find new ways to include enhanced content for as many eReaders as possible. More and more publishers are using new publishing tools to give them more options and soon digital departments may expand in size and budget and you may get to see more eBook “special editions”. This is especially true in Children’s books which a pushing the envelope on what is widely accepted as a traditional eBook. You will see these changes, we want the eBook to be a different (still good, but unique) experience than the print book and we’re working on it.
Coming soon in Tech Talk: Cookbooks as a Serial Model- Trials and Triumphs
Want to read this in French? The lovely blog Blopette’s world has translated it!