Another day, another innovation in the field of digital publishing. New York based tech startup Orson & Co. has announced a plan to totally overhaul the concept of the “enhanced eBook” — just don’t call it that to their face. According to a recent piece on DigitalBookWorld.com, Orson & Co believes that a truly immersive eBook experience, one that takes full advantage of the medium’s potential, isn’t being delivered to readers and they’re out to change this.
Orson & Co.’s new product, eLumes (a pun on “illuminate,” if I’m not totally off the mark) is essentially publishing iOS apps that mimic eBooks. According to the same report from DigitalBookWorld, the first such project by the company, (an eLume version of Orson & Co. co-founder Richard Mason’s The History of a Pleasure Seeker) “has several enhancements, including original images, original audio files, author videos, original essays diving into the historical context of the novel, and archival images… [as well as] A read-along feature narrated by Dan Stevens, star of the hit BBC drama Downton Abbey.” Mason maintains that the format “makes a new kind of storytelling possible.”
I’m not totally sold on the bells and whistles eLumes seem to promise, but the folks at Orson & Co. acknowledge that previous attempts at an immersive, multimedia eBook have fallen a little flat — they seem gimmicky, or too unlike, well, a good old fashioned book. What Mason seems to be arguing is that these apps can take real advantage of this new technology and deliver an interesting new experience. And that, I will admit, intrigues me.
These days I tend to read with a smartphone or laptop close at hand, Googling unfamiliar words, Wikipediaing historical events or concepts as they appear. These technologies help expand what I read. They help me experience an exploded version of a book, in a sense, one where I can examine all the parts. While this may be a far cry from a book with embedded video or a novella with a soundtrack, it’s not totally removed. I’m curious what a multimedia eBook could offer, especially if it’s pursued with the integrity Mason seems keen on delivering. What do you think: Flashy distraction or added depth?