Two New Experiments In Book Publishing For Teens

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New initiatives from Open Road Integrated Media and Wattpad hope to draw teen readers in with webisodes, music videos, “triggered events” and other digital goodies. The strategy for Open Road’s project: Everything is new. The strategy for Wattpad’s project: We’re taking something old and making it new and free.

Gift, by Andrea Buchanan, is Open Road’s first front-list YA title. It’s a paranormal ghost story designed for reading on the tablet; Buchanan, who is also the author of the bestselling Daring Book for Girls, described the book as “the kind of supernatural story that is enjoyable as a traditional novel and yet brimming with potential for the deepening experience that enhanced content allows–content that exists to support a book and further the experience of reading it.”

Open Road describes Gift as part of a “special new category of book.” The company outlined the enhanced content and triggered events that will be available as the reader reads:

Music: Audio tracks and music videos written and performed “by” one of the main characters are embedded within the story, with additional videos and music available as added content, creating a soundtrack to the book

Art: A graphic novel created “by” one of the characters is revealed as the reader reaches certain chapters of Gift, with a complete, extended version available when a reader reaches the end of the story

Triggered Events: Sound events and visual effects are triggered at key points throughout the book

Additional Content: A journal written “by” one of the characters is featured at the end of the book, allowing readers to go deeper into the character’s experience

Gift goes on sale in February for $14.95. Its full set of enhanced features and “triggered events” are available only through iOS, with the text, graphic journal, and links to the music available on all platforms.

Next up is Aisling’s Diary, which is being published in installments via community writing and reading site Wattpad. Wattpad is promoting the series as new, but the print version of Aisling’s Diary was actually published by Penguin UK in 2008, with the corresponding episodes appearing on Irish public TV station Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTE). In other words, what’s new here is the fact that, three years later, all the content is being made available for free, outside Ireland, and being syndicated online for the first time, on Wattpad. Users will also be able to watch the episodes on their mobile phones.

Three years is a long time for teenagers–a long time online in general–and watching the first episode of “Aisling’s Diary,” everything from the fashion to the cars looks a bit outdated (and Irish–the video reminded me a little of catching an episode of Coupling on the BBC: It is like Friends but it doesn’t quite translate for an American audience.) So what’s really new here is the fact that a book that was previously available only to buy in print is now being made available in free segments online.

Assuming that beActive Media, the production company in charge of Aisling’s Diary, has other properties it would like to promote (and make money from) in the U.S., giving this first property away for free isn’t a bad tactic; it’s akin to a publishing company putting an early book in a series on sale in order to hook readers on the later books in the series. It remains to be seen whether three-year-old Irish TV clips can draw in teens here, but for a price of $0, they might be willing to give it a try.

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