So I have a (not so secret) bias to admit. While I’m writing about ebooks and electronic publishing… I’m not actually that much of a fan.*
There are two main issues I have with the form as it stands:
One is about the tiresome ‘enhanced book’ that publishers seem to trot out every decade over the past thirty years or so. CDROMS and ‘expanded books,’ apps. Why?
That’s not to say that there aren’t some (technically) brilliant apps around, two of the current iBooks (cheap shot, and actually a little disingenious—book apps don’t work via the iBooks app itself!) Two book apps: The Death of Bunny Munroe by Nick Cave, with full soundtrack by the author—great if you’re a rock star! And The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by Moonbot Studios—yes, a book ‘authored’ by a film studio… I’ve no idea who wrote it. Who cares huh? Great and all, but what’s the point?
This sounds angry and nasty, but I really want to know why publishers are pushing for multimedia books instead of for text. James Bridle writes in The New Value of Text that it’s really the publisher’s lack of confidence in the text itself. In its own merit in a digital, multimedia world.
What bothers me about this is twofold: I’m a writer and author, I like text! Also, I’m not sure how publishers think that this is a profitable way out of the mess that they’re in. Trying to compete with other, rich media will only end up costing them more than plain text. And will not look as good as a film or TV show—not without actually costing them the same.
Just look at Vook, a publisher that was making enhanced, video books… and what are they doing now? Giving up on publishing, and sucking in other people’s works as they instead transform into a conversion ‘platform.’
Ok, once again, I’m sounding mean! But why?
Now lets not even get on to hypertext narratives. … well, ok, just briefly. I asked why are publishers focussing on gimmicks instead of what authors and publishers do best, the text? And hypertext seems to be a good answer to that, ‘they are.’ Unfortunately, I think this is just another fallacy. Hypertext fiction and narrative again denies the great aspect of writing, the indeterminacy of it all. Hypertext seeks to cover all the bases, whereas (disclaimer: to me) writing should be as open to the interpretation of pure language as possible.
But then there is just the simple, telling question: how does this help literature?
So instead of being negative, negative, NEGATIVE! I am researching how authors and publishers can use digital technologies to do what they do best. And more of it.
Keep reading, I’ll start trying to offer answers.
*Well I have just started reading on both my iPhone and iPad (Hell! I may not like ebooks, but I love shiny technology!)