Enhanced Ebooks

I heard an item on Radio 4 a while ago about enhanced eBooks.  Andrew Motion described how a soundtrack had been created for his book Silver, the sequel to Treasure Island.  From what I could gather it was background/ambient noise that was added – so if a scene was set in an inn, there’d be the sounds of people talking and tankards chinking or whatever, or a chapter in a storm would have fitting weather noises.  I had contradictory responses (often the way with me – I blame the Libran brain architecture).  On the one hand it was an amazing idea technically and artistically to add that aural texture, and on the other why would I want anyone ‘interfering’ with my reading by inserting some interpretation between the word and my imagination?  A book demands so much of us as readers, we actively construct our view of the characters and action, the setting  and atmosphere, filling in the spaces that a good writer gives us.  (That’s why an adaptation of a book we love into film or TV often frustrates – because it can never be how we imagined it).  However Andrew Motion argued studies show that enhanced eBooks actually improve the engagement of the reader and that they remember and retain even more of  what they’ve read than someone reading a ‘normal’ book does.  It’s probably not fair to say more until I’ve tried it for myself.  But it makes me wonder what’s next.  Smells?  Texture?  Taste?

2 thoughts on “Enhanced Ebooks”

  1. Like most “new” things in the digital age, ebooks are simply a reincarnation or a new manifestation of an existing medium. The printed book is a flat one dimensional object that over time was enhanced with pictures, pop-up and interactive features (who as a child hasn’t “felt” the hairy caterpillar’s skin as one read about its gorging on a lettuce?), CDs etc. Similarly the ebook is a flat one dimensional object so it was inevitable that somebbody would “invent” a way to enhance the experience. I take your point about “interfering with the interpretation” but for many this is an added extra to their reading experience. I am neither for nor against. Who knows where enhancement will end; short piece in New Scientist a couple of weeks ago about an e-text-book that answered your questions, fascinating.

    1. Yes, you’re right although I think with physical books most of the interactive elements (apart from pictures which go right back) were developed for child readers and few adult books have been enhanced with bells and whistles and flaps and the like. Still be very interesting to see how it develops in ebooks and if people do take to it.

Comments are closed.