Adding real interactivity to e-books

On Techdirt, Mike Masnick discusses a post by J.A. Konrath proposing turning each e-book into its own social network. The idea is to give an e-book a form of “interactivity” that is more interactive than the audiovisual bells and whistles most publishers seem to associate with interactivity these days.

Konrath’s post discusses the possibility of friends inviting other friends to buy a particular book, and then meet together in interactive on-line “book clubs” to talk about it as they read it. It also talks about ways authors can interact with their readers through it, through such means as Skype discussions or adding new content.

I watch TV for a bit, until a screen comes up saying it is chat time. I sync my ereader with my TV and watch Konrath’s talking head as he fields a Skype chat. Several people express that they wanted a longer ending. Konrath says he’s working on one, as well as three new chapters which will be inserted into Whiskey Sour at the end of the week.

I will say that this is certainly a more real form of “interactivity” than being able to play a movie or listen to a sound file. But I wonder if there’s an element of “if you build it, they will come” about this. How many people would actually use this sort of system if it existed?

I will grant that there are large and thriving fan communities around some books (and, for that matter, TV shows, movies, etc.) but they seem to already have their own platforms. Would enough of them want to use something like this once the new wore off of it?

5 Comments on Adding real interactivity to e-books

  1. Interesting concept. When I see these enhanced/interactive discussions, my mind goes to a bad place ‘when will the line between book and game blur away?’ I love a good read and the ability to dive into the story an put aside distractions while I follow author’s path. I fear that having interactivity will bind me to a book for hours (like angry birds does now).
    I like this book club idea because it feels like I can enjoy the book as a read rather than an event.
    As with everything in technology, hang on it’s going to be an interesting ride.

  2. I have a lot of books I love. Not sure that I’m that interested in talking to their other fans, though. Ideas like this seem more about promoting our books, which adds value to the author but doesn’t really add much to the reader. I’m really more about the reading experience than in chatting. As for telling an author I want a longer ending (or a shorter one), are we looking for editorial advice on our next book, or are we going to re-edit the already sold one, possibly rendering moot all of the reviews we’ve gotten because we changed the parts the early reviewers loved.

    Rob Preece
    Publisher

  3. This is the concept that Book Glutton is already pursuing.

  4. I came here to say “when will the line between book and game blur away?” but I see Perry beat me to it. Actually, I came here to say that this sort of collaboration approaches, if not crosses over, the line between “book” and “LARP.”

    I have to say, I don’t actually want this sort of thing, either as an author or as a reader, but I readily admit that there are those who will. Given the market, and given the ability, the thing will happen.

    Fortunately, though, there will always be a market for straight fiction, even though the form of delivery will change over and over again, as it already has in the past. We went from fireside story-telling to books on paper to ereaders, and along the way, we’ve seen the spawning of stage plays, movies, and television. (Should I add LARPs here? Is that a form of fiction? Oops — mind the oil on that slope, there.) Note, though, that all of these forms of fiction still coexist, and I’m quite certain that straight story telling, straight fiction, the story written once and read forever, will survive.

  5. That’s a better idea that the videos publishers seem to think will enhance the reading experience, but it is still not for me.

    I view reading as a solo enterprise, one where I escape into the author’s world and view it alone. I’m not even a fan of book clubs.

    Just make sure there are still “un-enhanced” editions available for those readers who are like me. I want to author to decide the ending, not me. I don’t want to have to work that hard.

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