Article examining why “enhanced content” in digital books works better with nonfiction than fiction. Miller nails it, for the most part, but I wonder if massive fantasy novels, ones like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series with its extensive world building and elaborate historical backgrounds, might benefit from enhanced content– fantasy readers are already used to puzzling over detailed maps and long lists of genealogical data.
Forget interactive fiction — the most innovative e-books make something strange and wondrous out of the facts
Prognostication about the future of the book is everywhere; making predictions about what books will be like tomorrow seems much more profitable (not to mention easier) than creating actual books today. Yet all these prophecies collide with a basic problem: The book, as it currently exists, is hard to improve upon. Cheap, highly portable and free of maddening formatting problems, the printed book has met most readers’ needs pretty well. Sure, in recent years, technology has transformed the distribution of texts — you can order any book online or tote around dozens of e-books in a lightweight reader — but the vast majority of these books remain essentially the same: linear strings of words, with the occasional image.
Still, the dream of interactive books lives on, despite a series of digital disappointments ranging from hypertext fiction to CD-ROMs to experimental Web novels to current ventures in social reading. Previously, I wrote about the inherent tensions between interactivity and narrative in enhanced fiction e-books. Indeed, there’s little evidence that images, videos, sound effects or clickable doohickeys add anything of value in the eyes of most readers of prose fiction. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, the enhanced e-book of Stephen King’s novel “11/22/63″ contained a 13-minute film by King himself, yet only 45,000 readers were willing to shell out the extra $2 to get it, compared to 300,000 who bought the unadorned e-book ($14.99) or the 1 million purchasers of the print edition ($35). King’s publisher expressed doubts that enhanced e-books were worth the extra trouble and expense.
Nonfiction, however, is another matter.