An announcement first. The winner of the writing prompt contest will be announced later today. We apologize for the delay, but several of our judges are fighting deadlines right now and are running behind. So, check back later this afternoon or this evening to see who won.
As I sit here this morning, staring at the computer screen and trying to figure out what to write, a lot of things pop into my head. I could do a follow-up to the on-going debate about Greg Mortenson and Three Cups of Tea. Or there is the Borders bankruptcy and their "need" for another $50 million in financing even as they give their executives bonuses. Or there's the latest insanity -- the witch hunt in Pennsylvania where a group of parents are trying to force a teacher to choose between teaching their little darlings high school English or continue writing erotica (see here and here).
All of those are good topics. They just don't call to me this morning. So, with your indulgence, I want to expound on something Sarah commented on in her last post.
One of the questions she addressed was if e-books are "merely paper books transformed to electrons". It would have been easy to answer "yes" and go on from there. Instead, Sarah brought up the so-called "enhanced" e-books we see advertised in the iBookstore and, to a lesser degree, at Barnes & Noble. For those not aware of what these "enhanced" e-books are, they are e-books with active hyperlinks, video, author interviews, etc., included with the book. Think of it as the director's cut of a DVD. You get the book plus all these extras.
I'll admit, I'm torn about the enhanced e-books. Part of it is as Sarah said. Someone clicking a hyperlink and navigating away from the book may not return. If they don't return, they don't finish the book. If they don't finish the book, they don't buy my next book. See the problem?
The enhancements such as hyperlinks and embedded video might work for non-fiction works, especially text books. I know having that sort of reference at the touch of a finger in college would have been wonderful. However, I don't want it for my fiction. Either the writer has crafted a story strong enough to pull me in or they haven't. Adding music and video and links will only distract me. I shouldn't have to hear the theme from Jaws to know the main character is in danger. The words on the screen should be enough. Remember, the words paint the picture.
Mind you, this is coming from the girl who loves tech toys. Maybe that's why that particular question struck me. I've spent a good part of this past week looking at tablets -- no, not the iPad or the new Galaxy Tab. As much as I'd love to have either one, they are outside of my price range. So I've been doing my research. Part of that was to look at the Nook Color. Here's a tablet most folks will think of as an e-book reader first and that led me to think about enhanced e-books.
My question is if these enhanced e-books will last or if they are just a flash in the pan. My gut feeling is that they will last, in some form, for textbooks and reference books. But I don't think we'll see them long term for fiction. This is simply because the latest figures I've seen about people who actually read using their iPad are dismal. I'll bet if a comprehensive study was done, that would be the trend for all tablets. People see them more as computing devices and not as reading devices. But it is actually more fundamental than that. Enhanced e-books cost more than regular e-books and we all know about the controversy surrounding e-book pricing. Will readers willingly pay more for a book with an author interview and active hyperlinks than they will for "just" the book? Will enough readers do so?
Who knows? All I can say is that it will be interesting to see where things go from here. Fingers crossed it's "interesting" in a fun way and not in the proverbial "may you live in interesting times" way.