iPad Fueling Enhanced E-Book Revolution

When Penguin announced this week it was releasing an enhanced e-book version of Ken Follett’s hugely popular novel “Pillars of the Earth,” it wasn’t too surprising the publishing house chose the iPad as its launch platform. Since the release of Apple’s tablet device, more and more authors see a way to liberate themselves beyond text-based storytelling, allowing them to offer readers (or viewers, or listeners) enhancements to their books and, in some cases, create entirely multimedia new offerings.

Why is the iPad becoming ground-zero for enhanced e-book innovation? I explore this in a a GigaOM Pro article called iPad Pushes Big Authors into Enhanced E-Books (sub req’d), but the answer is pretty simple: Most of the enhanced e-books coming out today are written as apps, and the pairing of Apple’s dominant app platform with the the media-consumption friendliness of the iPad is a natural choice for authors looking to create a multimedia-laden e-book.

But why write e-books as apps and not just, say, an iBook eBook or Kindle eBook? The main reason for this app-centric approach to enhanced e-books today is the early stage of the market. While iBooks and Kindle both recently upgraded their e-book platforms to allow authors and publishers to integrate audio and video, these upgrades have only just happened; any enhanced e-book projects up to this point (and likely for the next six months) are going to gravitate toward those outlets that enable the rich-media experiences they desire.

And even then, a multimedia enhanced iBook and Kindle would not be based on any enhanced e-book standard, but instead simply be different versions of proprietary platforms. Sure, they are potentially dominant platforms, but that doesn’t mean authors and publishers won’t eventually want a standard for an enhanced e-book, since creating media for different proprietary platforms means more work and, with that, more cost. Eliminating platform-specific development costs will become a big focus as more enhanced e-book come to market; unified standards would go along way in helping in this regard.

Standards or not, many e-books in the future will undoubtedly have audio, video or both at the most basic incorporation of “extras” (think DVD extras). Or they’ll go the direction of Ryu Murakami’s latest effort, an entirely new mixed-media offering that targets multiple senses from conception.

As this happens, there is no doubt that the consumer’s own perception of what an e-book is will continue to evolve. The creation of a compelling audio- and video-enhanced e-book could significantly widen the audience for books beyond those who read today, which could also create a whole new digital book industry, much like has been seen in the digital video and music industries. No doubt as this happens, the iPad will continue to be a key platform.

Read the full post here.

Image Source: Apple/iTunes

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