Booking Through Thursday: Interactive?

With the advent (and growing popularity) of eBooks, I’m seeing more and more articles about how much “better” they can be, because they have the option to be interactive … videos, music, glossaries … all sorts of little extra goodies to help “enhance” your reading experience, rather like listening to the Director’s commentary on a DVD of your favorite movie.

How do you feel about that possibility? Does it excite you in a cutting-edge kind of way? Or does it chill you to the bone because that’s not what reading is ABOUT?

To be totally honest, I don’t think listening to a commentary track enhances a film. When you say enhance, I think about things like improving video quality and the like, which improves the overall experience of watching that story unfold—commentaries are a behind-the-scenes thing. You’d never watch a film for the first time with the director’s commentary track on!

In any case, I like extras. I really enjoy the bonus material in the 2006 edition of Good Omens, which consisted of a foreword, pieces written by each author on the other author, and discussion of the creation of the book. I love stuff like that, and as long as it doesn’t get into the main text (although I would certainly accept something equivalent to a Director’s Cut!), I’m completely fine with it.

In fact, Laura Miller recently wrote about this very subject for Salon, focusing on the use of digital books for poetry—towards the end, she imagines a version of “The Canterbury Tales” where the audio track is in Middle English but the text on the page is a modern English translation. I think that’s well worth exploring.

4 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Interactive?

  1. Brown University has a MFA in creative writing which is concentrated in “literary hypermedia.” While I’m not opposed to e-books (although the only e-bookish thing I have is my iPhone) and extras (I LOVE author interviews in “real novels”) I do think that if you start incorporating videos and images and audio and other geegaws within the text it starts to go into a new, previously unexplored territory since traditional lit so heavily emphasizes written words. Hence, “literary hypermedia.”

  2. I really enjoy good commentaries on movies, but finding a really good commentary is hard to do any more. People talk about extras and enhancements, especially in the emergence of ebooks. Many writers who publish ebooks, in their effort to get published online, skip over some of the steps writers traditionally. About a month ago, I listened to an episode of Writing Excuses where Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells spoke with their editor. Their editor revealed that most writers publishing ebooks exclusively skip over the editorial stage entirely, making their writing much weaker and, in some cases, unreadable.

    In short, it doesn’t matter how many bells, whistles, and extras a book includes. If it’s written like crap, it’s still crap.

  3. I agree, I can think of maybe 3 movies where I have watched the extra stuff on the DVD and I only did because I really liked the movie. However, I think just having the option to have enhancements is good with books and movies, as long as you can disable them if you want. Chances are, someone will be interested in them.

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