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Forget e-books; are you ready for virtual books?

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Updated. As an avid e-book reader and lover of gadgets, I love the concept of this “virtual” book. Siglio Press is offering 250 signed and numbered copies of a limited edition print book that requires a webcam and computing device to actually be read. Why? The print pages — a back-and-forth series of letters between two lovers — only have glyph-like symbols on the page. The book contents appear in virtual reality images on screen when the book is held in front of the webcam.

Here’s how it works:

Is this project the most practical way to read a $24.95 limited edition book? Nope, but it may be the coolest one I’ve seen since Esquire‘s augmented reality magazine cover in 2009.

9 Responses to “Forget e-books; are you ready for virtual books?”

  1. Richard Hartzell

    Let’s look at this from a practical standpoint. The book is basically a bunch of QR codes, and my feeling about QR codes is that they’re an extremely annoying way to market stuff to people because they require me not only to have a reader preinstalled on my mobile phone but to pull it out, turn it on, scan the code, click the link, use my mobile browser etc. etc. etc. There’s surely an app you’ve got to install before you can “read” this book, so in the end the question is why wouldn’t you create this book as a web site destination and cut out the go-to-the-bookstore-and-buy-the-book part? If your answer is that this part’s needed to take care of paying for the experience, consider how likely it is that someone who happens to be browsing in a bookstore and is unfamiliar with the concept will happen on this book and be persuaded to purchase it — it’s a classic example of buying a pig in a poke. And if you learned about it online — which is far more likely — it would be far simpler to click a link to visit the book … except now you’d be asked to pay $24.95 up front or after a reading a sample. Not bloody likely! (Cut the price in half because the publisher’s no longer paying to print and distribute the physical book and it still costs 3X more than anyone would willingly pay to “experience” it online.)

    The whole thing strikes me as nothing more than a proof-of-concept. And now that they’ve proved the concept, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest these books will be about as successful as multimedia CD-ROMs were 20 years ago.

  2. Sort of an interesting idea…but it doesn’t look fun to use. It’s like the Photo Booth app with the roller coaster backgrounds / under water, etc. You’re not really experiencing those things, you’re just watching yourself pretending to experience it. If they shifted the interaction to be something the user could experience as part of holding the book, it would function a lot better.

  3. Jeff Breaux

    The need for a webcam and a computer makes the tech seem pointless. Very cool visually, but it almost looks like it would be harder to read. More impressive maybe if the computer were connected to a projector. Or in reveres, have a Tablet/Mobile app that could interface with the book.

      • A print book is an art object–or it can be, if done well. This is interesting. The tech junkie in me got a kick out of watching the vid. No way I’m interested in reading a book in that fashion, however–even tho’, as a book designer, I want to support all books, especially ones in print. Yep, this is too gimmicky.