There is one question that is being asked of librarians everywhere these days. Actually, the main question we get — as it has always been — is “where is the bathroom?” But a new question has emerged over the last couple years: “what do you think of eBooks?”
Professionally, my answer is quite simple: I think reading is good. Read a book. Or an eBook. Or listen to a book. Whatever. It’s good for you.
Personally, the answer is also quite simple: I like eBooks, love the instant availability of so many titles, will likely always prefer paper books but am eagerly waiting to see what the digital book of the future will look like. Not long ago, none other than Al Gore, Oscar-winner and inventor of the Internet, introduced an iDevice app for his book Our Choice. I haven’t had a chance to look at it, but I have heard that it really is a huge step towards a revolutionary product. Unfortunately, the makers of the Our Choice app, Push Pop Press, have closed their publishing division and gone to work for Facebook. It won’t be long, of course, before someone else comes along to do something mind-blowing with the digital book, but in the meantime there’s an article in the New York Times today about books released with soundtracks. The company behind the innovation, Booktrack, has published their first editions, and they seem pretty cool.
There’s still a lot to be done before a truly innovative eBook (or at least another one, now that Push Pop has closed) is available. Still, there are a couple great book apps that deserve mention. The first great innovation I came across in an eBook came from this guy:
Nick Cave‘s second novel, The Death of Bunny Munro, is available in paper form, of course, but there’s also an amazing app, made by Enhanced Editions. With the purchase of the app, you get not only the eBook, but also an audiobook, read by Cave, with a mixed-in soundtrack by Cave and Warren Ellis. In addition, there are a number of videos of Cave reading chapters of the book.
Another app series that I am intrigued by is Shakespeare in Bits. I decided last year to spend some time with Shakespeare, who I hadn’t read since high school, and I came across these apps. So far, only Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth are available, but more titles are due. The apps, while quite simple, are great. Words that are uncommon today can be tapped to reveal a modern translation. Bits of information, including history, context and language explanations, are available for many sections. Each section (the scenes are broken down into smaller, more digestible bits) has an explanation at the bottom, and there are even videos of each one. They may be made with simple animation, but the parts are performed by real actors, and they can be quite helpful.
The true eBook revolution is likely yet to come, but these initial forays are exciting. It’s a brave new world for readers, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.