If there is one thing we Instascribers would give up our day jobs for, it would be to read. All of us have memories of a childhood filled with Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss and Richard Scarry. And now that we are older and more mature, we still love reading!
These books allowed us to see the world in all its glory. So, if someone can come along and make books even better you would think that the InstaScribers would be all for it!
We know what an e-book is. You read it with your Kindle or Kobo. It is the same as a print book, only it is not on paper.
But what is an enhanced e-book?
One answer is that no one really knows. Jokes apart, the basic consensus is that enhanced e-books will contain “video, interactive features, [AND/]or other multimedia content.” This definition radically redefines what a book is.
How will they be used?
Enhanced e-books are still a relatively new concept. As we just saw, what they are is still being discussed. In the same way, how they will be used is also still being explored.
One way to use them would be spice up a story like “The Three Little Pigs”, Rapunzel or some other such story that has been effectively entertaining children for ages. You can add the squealing of the pigs, obviously in a way that do no harm to real pigs, or frighten the children. Or, you can add the wolf’s huffing and puffing sequence.
Another great idea that Dominique Raccah, Publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks has when it comes to enhancing e-books is for kids to allow for a certain amount of customization with their Put me in the Story app. The name kind of says it all.
The rationale behind enhancing children’s books is primarily to promote engagement with the story. And parents have been doing this forever with their growling, huffing and puffing and different voices.
A danger that will always be inherently part of enhanced e-books is, taking it too far. (Zen Scribe reminder: Take anything too far, and it will break!) Perhaps you feel that we are being alarmist. But research shows that the enhancements more often than not distract readers. These turn a book more into a game or a video than into an enhanced book. Children who read the print version of a book could remember more details from the story than their enhanced counter-parts. Enhanced e-books don’t enhance literacy either.
We expose our children to books so that they can learn to love the art of reading. Books open worlds. Or in the words of George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies……The man who never reads lives only one.”
Why risk your child’s imagination for a few bells and whistles?
At this point, enhanced e-books for children should perhaps be treated like a sugar laden treat. Once in a while is fine, but if you make it a staple, you are setting your child up for future “health” problems.
How are enhanced e-books being used in the ‘adult world?’
One example we found is that of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in the USA. They say: “This interactive technology brings our documents to life on iPads, iPhones, Androids, and most Web browsers. Enhanced eBooks [sic] make it easy to search and scroll through documents, highlight specific content, bookmark pages or sections, and enlarge image views.”
Here we can immediately see a wonderful possibility. The NFPA is not about reading for pleasure, or enhancing reading skills. They want people to have the wisdom to practically apply what they know. Videos, animations and the evergreen gifs can really help learners make the transition from knowing to understanding the practical implications of that knowledge. (How to accurately bandage a sprained ankle, for example.)
We can also enumerate possible uses for enhanced e-books in the field of education, in the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Again there will be focus on engagement and providing clarity.
Finally, if enhanced e-books could replace those lengthy PDF reports corporate executives have to consume day in and day out and make the information easy to digest, we feel enhance e-book creators would have hit the jackpot.
We are not too optimistic about widespread use of enhanced e-books in the world of fiction. An experiment here and there might be talked about. But too much of assistance in reading fiction is likely to take away the pleasure of reading altogether.
To use a powerful analogy, nuclear power is a good thing. Nuclear bombs, which are but a way of using nuclear power, are not. The value of the enhanced e-book will depend on how they are used.
Too much enhancement and then The Three Little pigs turns into a movie. And movies do not encourage reading. To quote that king of authors, prince of child psychology, master of the creative use of words, Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Enhanced e-books, like movies, will just take you where someone else went.
In the adult world, enhanced e-books could make knowledge-oriented reading more efficient. And that is where we should focus our enhanced e-books energies on, instead of trying to turn reading into something else.
We are still figuring out how to use, sell, distribute, etc. normal e-books. Just have a look at the whole DRM debate, if you don’t believe us. Perhaps enhanced prudence and patience is what is needed right now more than enhanced e-books.