What’s the problem with enhanced ebooks?
From day one of ebooks, there has been the expectation that enhanced ebooks would develop quickly from more than just an electronic text version of a traditional book. Being an electronic data file, an ebook has the possibility to include images, video, audio, interactive maps and any number of other multimedia components that we all take for granted now when we access the Internet or use apps on our smartphones and tablets.
So why do ebooks still look exactly the same as they did when they first hit the market? Why are they still only black and white text, with the very rare photo added, often seemingly as an afterthought?
There are two reasons. The first is due to the number of different proprietary and open ebook formats, as well as the huge number of different devices, used to read an ebook. Not every format works on every device. In fact, many devices are locked into using only one proprietary ebook format, such as Kindle.
Apple has had their multimedia iAuthor ebook publishing software and publishing platform available for a long time now, but it is so restricted in both publishing possibilities, and use. Ebooks can only be published on Apple iTunes for use on an Apple device using the Apple iBooks app.
So if enhanced ebooks were ever to be published to be available on all ebook platforms, it would mean creating up to ten or more different versions, which is simply not practical.
The second reason is more subjective. Readers plainly just don’t like or want enhanced ebooks. I read two articles recently about this dislike.
Metabook’s Enhanced E-Books Are An “All Out Assault” On The Senses, And Readers Don’t Want Them
Both make the point that when enhancements are added to an ebook, it is no longer really an ebook, but more like an app, or even an adventure game.
So yes, ebooks have had a lot of potential since their introduction to the reading market to become much more than simply black text on a white background. However, for one of the very rare occasions in modern technology, it seems that no one at all wants an upgraded version of the ebook. It looks like we’re stuck with ebook version 1.0 for a long time yet.
5 thoughts on “Why Enhanced Ebooks Are A Flop”
Quite early on while writing my non-fiction-mostly-fact history book I wanted to present it as a diary of one year made up of 366 entries (yes, it was a leap year) and have electronic links so that you could follow one particular storyline by skipping from day to next relevant day – if you wanted to. iBooksAuthor from Apple enabled me to do just that without having to build an app and gave a bunch of other neat functionality. I have tried to use the added bells to enhance the readability rather than act as tricky gimmicks eg fading a map from 1876 over the top of a present day map. By the time I had finished writing and compiling my book – it is about one year in history around the globe – and gathered together all the images, illustrations, paintings & moving maps that I wanted to use it was 2,000 pages long. More an encyclopedia of the year, 1876.
It is almost exactly one year since I self-published on iBookstore and I am still really proud of how beautiful it looks and how easy it is to read. BUT I mourn the fact that real readers cannot find it on the bookshelves of their local bookstore IRL (in real life) and get swept up by it. I am also trying to figure out how to make it an Amazon-friendly book which would be easier than getting it published as a paper book, but none of the different formats available allow the same functionalities across them all. I may try writing fiction where you don’t need newspaper clippings or navigation.
You have nailed the problem, Rob. If your work was available on multiple ebook formats and platforms it would help. But as I pointed out in my post, readers really seem stuck on ebooks being simply text. A tragedy really, but what can one do? It seems to me that the expression, ‘there’s an app for that’ is the killer. And the real killer is the cost of developing an app. While I imagine you took months and months to compile your book, the cost of turning your book into and app would involve development costs that would be absolutely astronomical. You’re right. Go with fiction and quick to write romantic vampire stories! lol
Loved your insights. Wish I could agree entirely on the prospect of acceptability of ebooks; it may be a tenuous conjecture that the purportedly tech-savvy Gen Y lacks the smartness for using SMARTPHONES and all!
Being the fool that I am, I read most all of my humble reads in epub formats using an app called MoonReader. It helps me highlight, underline, annotate everything necessary for A Recap and/or Reread. Do you honestly feel that our beloved and respected youths of posterity in the global village are as mindful toward decoding the MetaMeaning, if I am allowed to call it so, of life? I THINK NOT! In the myomantic sprint, with deepest respect to youth, ‘a ” life unexamined” is definitely worth its while in9 weights of gold: And I don’t blame them!!!!!
ThIs discussion of ‘enhanced ebooks is a bit like having a discussion of ‘enhanced radio’ that involves sending still pictures with the signal while ignoring the fact that television exists. Enhanced ebooks were a commercial success long before the Kindle existed. We called them computer programs. Nowadays we call them apps (web, mobile, etc.)
Enhanced ebooks, as currently conceived, are just really crappy software, By design. Why on earth would anyone want that?
You’re absolutely right about the myriad of platforms and formats being a key blocker. Otherwise, I think that interactive ebooks could enhance the reading experience, particularly for children. “What do you think the big bad wolf will do next: a), b), or c)? Perhaps I’m limiting my thinking here, being a rather practical person and think that a book is a book and a game is a game. Old school!
Earlier today I saw an item about fast thinking versus slow thinking, to do with social marketing (maybe you posted this?). The premise was that people who see something that impacts them quickly will share more quickly, versus having to slow down and think about what they’re reading. It felt like I was supposed to believe that fast thinking posts are more impactful and thus a better marketing strategy. My immediate thought was that the author felt that I should dumb down my marketing in order to attract the masses. On the other hand, I felt conflicted because my materials are not written for the dumb masses, and thus there is no point in using that strategy. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!
So, what the tie-in between the two comments above? If you take away the complexities of building interactive ebooks, I would hope that there would still be enough authors who are interested in developing the minds of children through reading, albeit with interactivity, rather than blindly dumbing down the content for the sake of cheap (or perhaps long-term expensive) entertainment. As for the adults, who knows…
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